Florida law makes it a serious felony crime to commit aggravated assault, which is a type of enhanced assault charge that involves:
- The use of a deadly weapon;
- Intent to commit a felony.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our experienced criminal defense lawyers know there are many ways to successfully defend these cases, but our exact strategy will vary depending on the circumstances.
Because aggravated assault is an offense for which a defendant can face up to five years in prison, these charges have to be taken very seriously. One problem we sometimes come across is defendants fail to recognize the severity of an aggravated assault charge because in many cases, there was no actual physical contact. It’s hard to imagine facing a five-year prison stint for actions that involved zero physical contact. Yet that’s the reality many of our clients are facing with this charge.
Here, we hope to help explain what exactly the offense is, in which situations it is most likely to be charged, the hurdles prosecutors must overcome to prove their case and how we can help our clients fight for a favorable outcome.What Is Aggravated Assault?
To answer this question, let’s first start by defining simple assault. Per F.S. 784.011, assault is a threat that is both unlawful and intentional. It can be made either with some act of violence or it can be simply communicated in words from one person to another.
Although assault requires no actual physical contact, it is indeed considered a type of “violent crime” under Florida law – with all the enhanced penalties that carries. Assuming you had no weapon and no felony intent, you would still be facing a second-degree misdemeanor, which carries a two-month jail sentence.
But let’s say you did allegedly have a weapon or intent to commit some type of felony. Suddenly, you’re facing a third-degree felony and up to five years’ prison. That’s aggravated assault under F.S. 784.021.
Aggravated assault is an assault, but with the additional action of involving a firearm (or some other deadly weapon) or felony intent.What Do Prosecutors Need to Prove?
The very first thing the state has to show in this case is the “intent to threaten violence.” That is, the defendant intended to threaten the victim with some type of violence.
Florida courts established way back in 1902 with the case of Knight v. State that the state doesn’t have to show the defendant actually wanted or tried to inflict violence on the alleged victim. There also doesn’t need to be any proof of physical contact or a wound on the victim. Instead, prosecutors can simply show there was the intent to threaten violence.
The next thing the state has to show is that there was either a deadly weapon or intent to commit a felony.
A deadly weapon most often is a firearm. However, it could also be a knife, a dangerous poison, a brick, a pocket knife – anything that defendant used or threatened to use in a manner that would be likely to cause great injury or death. For example, a steel-toed boot might not be considered an inherently dangerous item, but if someone threatens to kick another person in the face with it, that boot might be considered a “deadly weapon” for purposes of the aggravated assault statute.
Next we have the “intent to commit a felony” aspect of the charge. This could be proven in a number of ways. It could mean defendant engaged in or tried to engage in some other felony, such as robbery, burglary, rape or murder. However, it might also be asserted through circumstantial evidence. Something as simple as a comment to a friend or a posting on social media could be used as circumstantial evidence of felonious intent.Defending an Aggravated Assault Charge
This charge is often highly defensible because of the fact that there are no physical injuries. Plus in many cases, there are disputes as to how the alleged confrontation unfolded. Some of the defenses we may explore could include:
- Stand Your Ground.
- False allegations by alleged victim.
- Lack of evidence.
- Lack of any provable intent to threaten.
- Inability of defendant to carry out the alleged threat.
- Instrument in question doesn’t constitute a “deadly weapon” under the law.
- Insufficient evidence defendant intended to commit a felony.
- Weak evidence that defendant’s conduct was indeed threatening.
- Victim’s fear of threat was not justified.
Because the penalties for even a first-time offender facing aggravated assault are so severe, it’s imperative to contact an experienced legal team. We can help.
If you have been charged with a violent crime in South Florida, contact the Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (877) 277-3780.