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Assault and Aggravated Assault in Florida

Under Florida Statute § 784.011, the offense of “assault” requires that the prosecutor proves the following elements beyond all reasonable doubt:

  1. Defendant unlawfully and intentionally threatened by act or word to do violence to the alleged victim;
  2. At that moment, the defendant appeared to have the ability to carry out the threat; and
  3. The actions of the defendant created in the mind of the alleged victim a well-founded fear that the violence was about to take place.

Simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. The crime can be charged as a felony for “aggravated assault” when the crime was committed with a deadly weapon such as a knife or firearm.

The most serious form of aggravated assault occurs when a firearm is discharged during the course of an incident which is a first-degree felony that comes with a mandatory prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Although people often use the terms assault and battery interchangeably, crimes for assault are slightly less serious than crimes for battery. Under Florida law, a battery involves an actual touch or strike while an assault only involves the threat of this type of contact.

Attorney for Assault Charges in Tampa, FL

If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor assault or a felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the charges against you and the best way to aggressively fight those charges.

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm are experienced in aggressively fighting to protect clients charged with crimes of violence throughout the Tampa Bay area including misdemeanor assault and felony assault charges.

Our main office is in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County, FL. We also have a second office in New Port Richey in Pasco County, FL, which is located directly across from the courthouse at the West Pasco Judicial Center.

The criminal justice attorneys at Sammis Law Firm fight misdemeanor and felony cases for assault throughout Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County, St. Petersburg and Clearwater in Pinellas County, New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County, and Brooksville in Hernando County.

Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss your case with an attorney either over the phone or in the office.


Legal Defenses to Assault Charges

Legal defenses to assault charges include consent. The term “consent” means that the other person in the case was not a “victim” but consented to the contact. The most obvious case of defense would involve competitive contact sports.

The second defense is “self-defense” or “defense of others.”

Self-defense allows a person to use a reasonable amount of force against another person in order to stop an attack. Self-defense requires a showing of an immediate threat. In some cases, Florida’s stand your ground statute might be applicable if the assault occurred because you were acting in self-defense.

Other legal defenses for assault charges might involve defending another person or defending your property.


When Does an Assault Qualify as Domestic Violence?

The definition of domestic violence includes the offenses of assault or aggravated assault when the alleged victim and the person accused of the crime of “domestically” related. As a general matter, a trial court may issue a domestic violence injunction when the petitioner establishes that he or she is either a “victim of domestic violence as defined in section 741.28 or has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence.” § 741.30(1)(a), Fla. Stat.

In fact, Section 741.28(2) specifically defines domestic violence as “any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.”

When considering whether a petitioner has reasonable cause to fear becoming the victim of imminent domestic violence, “the trial court must consider the current allegations, the parties’ behavior within the relationship, and the history of the relationship as a whole.” Giallanza v. Giallanza, 787 So.2d 162, 164 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001) (quoting Gustafson v. Mauck, 743 So.2d 614, 616 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999) ).


Felony Charges for Aggravated Assault

In 2017, there were 26,624 arrests for aggravated assault in Florida. Out of those arrests for aggravated assault, 1,956 were juveniles and 24,668 were adults.

Under Florida Statute Section § 784.021, the offense of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon does not necessarily require that the prosecutor prove that the defendant had an intent to kill but the prosecutor is required to prove all elements of assault along with the following:

  1. The assault was made with a deadly weapon, which is a weapon that is threatened to be used in a manner likely to cause great bodily harm or death; and
  2. The assault was made with a fully-formed, conscious intent to commit the crime upon the alleged victim.

Under Section 784.021, Florida Statutes, an aggravated assault can also involve an intent to commit a felony. A felony charge for aggravated assault is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Prior to June 30, 2016, the 10-20-Life statute, Section 775.087, Florida Statutes, included aggravated assault as an enumerated offense requiring a three-year minimum mandatory sentence. After the statute was amended in 2016, it no longer included the crime of “aggravated assault” as an enumerated offense that required the three-year min man.


Aggravated Assault with a Motor Vehicle

Although many aggravated assault cases involve a firearm or knife, other types of items can be considered a deadly weapon, including a motor vehicle. In fact, it might even be possible to commit “aggravated assault with a motor vehicle” without driving the vehicle.

For instance, Texas’ highest court for criminal cases listed several different ways in which aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by use of a motor vehicle could occur including:

  • locking the victim in a hot car;
  • slamming the victim’s head against the car frame;
  • rigging the car’s gas tank to explode;
  • placing the car in neutral and allowing it to run into the victim or a building;
  • suffocating the victim in the trunk; or
  • running the car in an enclosed area to cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Rice v. State, 333 S.W.3d 140, 145 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011).


Consequences of a Conviction for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Under subsection 775.084(1)(b)1., Florida Statutes, a person can be sentenced to an extended term of imprisonment as a habitual violent felony offender if they have previously been convicted of a felony or an attempt or conspiracy to commit aggravated assault or other qualifying offenses.


Additional Resources

Aggravated Assault UCR Definition – Visit the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website to find the Florida Uniform Crime Reports Program (UCR) definition of aggravated assault which includes attempted murder but excludes simple assaults. Under the UCR definition, aggravated assault is assigned as an unlawful attack by one person upon another where either the offender displays a weapon or the victim suffers obvious severe or aggravated bodily injury involving loss of consciousness, severe laceration, possible internal injury, loss of teeth, or apparent broken bones.


Finding a Lawyer for Assault Crimes in Hillsborough County, FL

If you have been arrested for assault or aggravated assault call our office to discuss your case with a Tampa attorney for assault cases. We represent clients charged with misdemeanor assault and felony aggravated assault with a firearm in the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk County, Pasco County, Hernando County and Polk County, FL.

Our main offices are in downtown Tampa, FL. We recently opened a second office in New Port Richey in Pasco County, FL. Let us put our experience to work for you.

Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss your case.


This article was last updated by Jason D. Sammis on Friday, December 11, 2018.

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