An assault is a realistic threat of doing violence to another person, even if it is not carried out. Florida law recognizes two different types of assault: simple assault, which is a misdemeanor, and aggravated assault, which is a felony. What makes an assault aggravated is the presence of one or more additional factors that raise the degree of the violence that could occur.

Simple assault is an intentional threat of harm together with some act that creates a reasonable fear in the victim that the harm is imminent. An example is clenching one’s fist or making other menacing movements.

Under Florida law, assault becomes aggravated in either of the following circumstances:

  • The assault is conducted with a deadly weapon without an intent to kill.
  • The assailant intends to commit a felony.

Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon occurs when an individual brandishes an implement capable of causing death, like a knife or a gun, as part of the threat of harm. The assailant does not need to have an intent to actually use the weapon. Rather, the weapon must be wielded in such a way that it creates in the victim a fear of harm. If an individual simply has a knife or a gun concealed on their person, this would not be sufficient for aggravated assault. However, displaying a toy gun or other imitation gun would meet the test if a victim could reasonably believe it was real.

Aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony occurs when an individual threatens harm as part of committing a felony crime. Any type or level of intimidation used to further the crime may suffice. For example, an intruder enters a home that he thinks is empty in order to commit a burglary, unexpectedly encounters the homeowner and threatens harm.

Simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor, which means that a defendant is subject to up to 60 days in jail, six months of probation and $500 in fines. Either form of aggravated assault is a third-degree felony, for which the assailant faces up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

There are defenses to charges of assault, such as when the individual claims to have been acting in self-defense or acting to protect personal property. Additionally, a defendant might argue that any threat that was uttered was not sufficient to create a reasonable fear or harm. For example, threats spoken in the course of an argument are often idle, with no intent to carry them out. If you are charged with assault, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you evaluate what defenses might be available in your particular case and situation.

The Law Offices of Tad A. Yates, P.C. in Orlando defends Florida residents against charges of simple and aggravated assault. If you have questions or need representation, please call us at 407-608-7777 or contact us online anytime.

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