Much like a battery charge in Florida, a charge of assault doesn’t require serious physical injury. In fact, it doesn’t require you to make physical contact with a victim at all. If you’re convicted of simple assault, your criminal record could prevent you from earning a living or finding a place to live. This is why you need an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney who knows how to fight assault charges.
Simple Assault Charges Do Not Require an Injury for Conviction
Florida law considers threatening someone a violent offense, even if you never followed through on your promise to do someone harm. You could potentially be convicted of simple assault if your actions had three components:
- You made an intentional, unlawful threat by words or actions to do violence to another person
- You had an apparent ability to commit violence when you made the threat
- Your actions created a well-founded fear in the other person that violence was imminent
Potential Penalties for Simple Assault
While the sentence you receive will depend on the specifics of your case, Florida law sets maximum penalties for:
- Second-degree misdemeanors. Most cases of simple assault are charged as second-degree misdemeanors, which carry penalties of up to 60 days in jail and six months of probation with a maximum $500 fine.
- First-degree misdemeanors. The charge may be increased to a first-degree misdemeanor if the assault was committed as part of a riot or a threat was made against a firefighter, law enforcement officer, or emergency medical care provider. Penalties include up to one year in jail, one year of probation, and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Multiple counts of simple assault. Suppose your threat of harm included more than one victim, such as leaving a message on a relative’s voicemail threatening harm to everyone in their household. In that case, prosecutors could file multiple charges of simple assault.
- Third-degree felonies. A simple assault charge could easily be upgraded to an aggravated assault charge if you were carrying a deadly weapon when you made the threat. Aggravated assault charges are punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a fine of up to $5,000.
Possible Defenses to Misdemeanor Assault in Florida
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer will determine the best defense based on the details of the case. For example, the alleged victim’s story could be entirely false—or the threat was real but made by someone else. Your attorney could also refute your:
- Intent to cause harm. Assault requires an intent to harm the person to motivate your actions. Assault doesn’t apply to threats that are vague, conditional, not intended to be serious, or indicate the mere possibility of violence at an unspecified point in the future.
- Overt actions to cause harm. A significant factor in assault charges is whether the alleged victim had reason to fear that you would hurt them. If you made an idle threat—a comment to someone without any accompanying physical action—the alleged victim’s fear of harm might not be justified. You could also argue that you lacked the means or capacity to follow through on the threat, such as threatening to punch someone while your hands were tied.
- Ability to cause immediate harm. The element of “imminent” harm places a distance and time requirement on a charge of assault. For example, standing on a dock and shouting threats to someone sailing a boat would not reasonably cause fear of immediate harm. Similarly, threatening someone in another country over the phone may not be considered assault due to the time it would take to carry out the threat in person.
Speak to a Florida Assault Attorney as Soon as Possible!
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney provides comprehensive defense services and offers affordable payment plans to clients. Even if you decide not to retain us, it will cost you nothing to learn your options in your free consultation. Contact us online or call us today at 954-861-0384 for a free assessment of your case.