Assault is a violent crime, and Florida law treats it as a serious offense. Yet the law isn’t always easy to understand. For instance, you don’t actually have to lay hands on anyone to be convicted of assault; simply making a threat is enough to get you charged. Below, we examine some of the important elements of Florida assault charges. The first step in defending yourself is understanding exactly what you’re up against.
Assault vs. Battery
Florida law draws a clear distinction between assault and battery. Assault refers to the threat of physical violence; battery refers to actual physical violence. Of course, these two terms are often linked. That’s because, in many cases, a person who threatens violence ultimately follows through on that threat.
However, you don’t have to have committed both assault and battery to be convicted of a crime. The threat alone can be enough. Assault, which Florida law addresses under statute 784.011, involves three components:
- An intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another
- An apparent ability to commit violence
- Committing an act that creates a well-founded fear in the other person that such violence is imminent
When all three components are present, you can be convicted on Florida assault charges, even if you never actually followed through on your threat. In fact, under Florida law, assault is considered a “violent” offense. If you’ve been accused of Florida assault charges, you need the services of a proven and experienced criminal lawyer.
Penalties for Simple Assault
According to our Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer, simple assault convictions are treated as second-degree misdemeanors and carry a sentence of up to 60 days in jail and/or fines of up to $500. Of course, the exact sentence you receive will depend on a number of factors having to do with the specifics of your case. Even if you receive no jail time or fines, an assault conviction can have serious repercussions. Criminal convictions of any kind can remain on your record forever, and in these days of electronic background checks, that can make it difficult to get a job or even find a place to live.
Aggravated Assault Is a Felony
If a prosecutor can show that you had a deadly weapon on your person when you made your threat, a simple assault charge can turn into an aggravated assault charge. A second-degree misdemeanor is serious enough, but an aggravated assault charge is a third-degree felony. That means it is punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and/or a $5,000 fine. In addition, an Florida assault charges are considered aggravated if it occurs with the intent to commit another felony.
Defenses Your Criminal Lawyer Will Consider
As with any crime, there are a number of legitimate defenses to Florida assault charges. Many of these have to do with the law itself and how it is worded. Again, assault involves three separate components, and to win a conviction, a prosecutor must prove all of the following:
- You made a threat.
- You had the ability to act on that threat.
- You took some action that convinced the alleged victim you were about to act on the threat.
A defense might take aim at any of these three:
- You might argue, for instance, that your threat was vague or was not intended to be serious, so it did not constitute an actual threat.
- You might argue that you didn’t actually have the means or capacity to follow through on the threat, that it was essentially a “hollow” threat.
- You might argue that you didn’t take any action that signaled you were about to follow through on your threat.
In addition, these crimes often come down to one person’s word against another. As our Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer is constantly reminding his clients, that means the charge is open to a number of other possible defense strategies:
- The accusation is entirely false.
- The accusation is the result of mistaken identity.
- The alleged victim provoked you.
- You made the threat as a means of self-defense.
Don't Face Florida Assault Charges On Your Own. Contact Our Fort Lauderdale Criminal Lawyer Today!
While there are a number of options open to you, only a qualified and experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer will know which one will work best for your particular circumstances. To find out more about how we can help you, call the Law Offices of Robert David Malove at 954-861-0384.