Being arrested and charged with a crime can be a frightening experience. If you have been arrested and charged with the criminal offense of aggravated assault in Florida you may have a number of defenses that could prevent a conviction. Before you start worrying about possible defenses though, you need to understand exactly what an aggravated assault charge is in Florida.
In the State of Florida, “assault” is defined as:
“an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.” Florida Statutes 784.011
Assault is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida and is punishable by not more than 60 days in jail and a fine of not more than $500. It is important to understand that in Florida, it is not necessary to come into physical contact with the alleged victim to be convicted of assault. As the statute indicates, a threat to do violence can be the grounds for an assault charge and conviction.
According to Florida Statutes 784.021, simple assault becomes an aggravated assault when the assault is committed:
- With a deadly weapon without intent to kill; or
- With an intent to commit a felony
An aggravated assault in Florida is a third-degree felony and carries with it a potential sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. In addition, because aggravated assault is a felony it can also result in a habitual offender designation which carries with it an additional sentence.
Unfortunately, it is often not difficult to find a reason to elevate a simple assault to an aggravated assault. The “intent to commit a felony” element is fairly broad. One of the most common scenarios in which an individual is charged with aggravated assault is in a bar fight or other physical confrontation. Often, an individual is actually just defending himself or herself and ends up being charged with a third-degree felony for aggravated assault. This is precisely why you need to contact an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as you are charged with aggravated assault. The sooner you start on your defense the better. Waiting often results in witnesses being unavailable and critical evidence to support your defense disappearing.