In Florida, causing physical harm or threatening someone with physical harm can result in assault and battery charges. While more minor incidents are generally classified as misdemeanors, more serious situations are classified as a felonies.
Aggravated assault in Florida is classified as a third-degree felony that could result in up to five years in prison or five years of probation, as well as a $5,000 fine. Under Fla. Stat. 784.021, aggravated assault must be proved and the law requires prosecutors to establish that:
- The accused made an unlawful threat of violence (word or action) toward the victim.
- The accused had the ability to carry out the threat.
- Victim had reasonable fear that imminent violence will occur as a result of the threat made by the accused.
- The assault involved a deadly weapon but no intent to kill or was committed with the intent to commit a felony.
The key difference between an assault, generally a second-degree misdemeanor, and aggravated assault is the last element listed above. The aggravated assault must have involved a deadly weapon, or the attacker must have had the intent to commit another felony.
Self-defense used to defend against aggravated assault charges
One key defense used by defense attorneys in aggravated assault cases is self-defense. Under Florida law, you are allowed to use reasonable force to defend yourself if you have a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm or death. Even deadly force may be permitted, as long as you have a reasonable belief that the force you are using is necessary to prevent imminent bodily harm or death.
However, there are some situations where self-defense will not be a solid defense argument. For example, self-defense is typically not an option if you were engaged in an unlawful activity when you were attacked.
A criminal defense attorney can help come up with an effective strategy to defend against aggravated assault charges.