Certain circumstances will elevate a charge of simple assault to aggravated assault in Florida. In this blog, we will talk about what constitutes an aggravated assault in the state, such as the involvement of firearms or special victims, as well as how aggravated assault may be penalized.
Elements of an Aggravated Assault Charge
In Florida, an assault involves intentional threats, words, or actions that cause a person to feel afraid of impending violence. Aggravated assault is an assault that occurs with a deadly weapon or with the intent to commit a felony. Note that assault does not require an intent to injure, just the intent to cause an alleged victim fear of an immediate attack. For instance, pointing a handgun at another person to scare them is considered an act of aggravated assault, even if they did not make contact with the person.
An object or substance that is considered a deadly weapon under this statute is one that is inherently deadly or dangerous, such as a firearm, knife, bleach, or other dangerous poison. An object that is not inherently dangerous but that an offender uses or threatens to use in a manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm is also considered a deadly weapon. For example, if a boot is heavy and steel-toed and the person wearing the boots kicks or threatens to kick someone in anger, the action could be charged as an assault with a deadly weapon because the offender used the boots in a manner that could cause serious injury or even kill the victim.
A charge of simple assault can rise to aggravated assault or warrant enhanced penalties if the assault occurred against special individuals designated by the law. The following people qualify as a “special victim” if the assault occurs while they are engaged in the performance of their duties:
- law enforcement officer or firefighter;
- emergency medical care provider;
- breath test operator while engaged in testing persons under investigation for driving while intoxicated;
- public transport employee;
- parking enforcement officer;
- licensed security officer;
- employee at a detention or commitment facility for sexually violent offenders (if the defendant knew or had reason to know the alleged victim’s employment status); and
- code inspector (if the offender knew or had reason to know the alleged victim’s employment status).
The following victims are also considered special victims, though they do not need to have been engaged in the performance of any duties during the alleged assault:
- employee or investigator for the Children and Family Services Department (if the offender knew or had reason to know the alleged victim’s employment status);
- a person over the age of 65 (the offender need not be aware of the alleged victim’s age);
- sports official while participating in a sporting event or immediately after the event;
- school employee or elected official (if defendant knew or had reason to know of the alleged victim’s employee status); and
- visitor or detainee in a jail or correctional facility (if offender is a detainee of the jail or correctional facility).
Penalties and Sentencing
Aggravated assault is considered a third degree felony, though in certain circumstances it can be charged as a second or even first degree felony if the alleged victims are considered special victims by law. Second and first degree felonies are punished more severely than third degree felonies, and if someone possesses or uses a firearm during the commission of an aggravated assault, the offender is subject to enhanced penalties.
A person convicted of a third degree felony faces a combination of any of the following penalties:
- up to 5 years in prison;
- a fine of up to $5,000;
- probation for up to 5 years; and
A second degree felony in Florida calls for the following penalties:
- up to 15 years in prison, with a minimum of 3 years if the alleged assault is against a law enforcement officer;
- a fine of up to $10,000;
- probation for up to 15 years; and
The court can impose probation instead of jail time for the entire sentence or after the defendant has spent some time in jail. For instance, a judge in an aggravated assault case can sentence a defendant to 5 years in prison and 10 years on probation. Convicted offenders are also required in Florida to pay restitution, which reimburses the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling. Restitution orders are standard, and it is only in very special circumstances when the court may elect not to require restitution.
Aggravated assault against special victims is a second degree felony, though if the alleged victim of the aggravated assault is a law enforcement officer, corrections officer, state’s attorney, or a judge, and the crime is committed because of the person’s employment status or while the alleged victim is performing duties of employment, the court may not allow the offender to serve probation in lieu of prison or otherwise defer their sentence. Also, individuals with a prior criminal record, particularly previous convictions for assault or battery or other violent crimes, may face further enhancement for the sentences above.
Seek an Attorney to Represent Your Case
If you have been charged with aggravated assault in Florida, consult an attorney immediately for legal representation in your case. Depending on the circumstances of your alleged offense, such as whether a firearm was involved, a good lawyer can argue for mitigated charges, like negotiating your second degree felony down to a third degree charge. In any case, it will be best to speak with an experienced lawyer about your particular aggravated assault charge to determine your next course of legal action.
Let The Wiseman Law Firm help you. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with us today.