In Florida, it is illegal to intentionally injure someone or threaten them with violence. This type of violent crime is known as assault. When weapons get involved or someone has reason to fear for their life, an assault charge may be classified as an aggravated assault.
But what is the difference between assault and aggravated assault? How do the courts determine the severity of an assault? How can a threat be classified as a felony crime? Today, we will cover the answer to these questions and more.
Assault vs. Aggravated Assault
Assault is defined very simply in the Florida legal code: it is to commit violence or threaten to commit violence against another person, such that the other person fears for their safety. Assault is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Section 784.021 of the Florida Statutes defines aggravated assault as either:
- An assault with a deadly weapon but without the intent to kill
- An assault with an intent to commit a felony crime
Aggravated assault is also sometimes called “felony assault” because it is classified as a third-degree felony.
To put it into layman’s terms, both assault and aggravated assault involve hurting someone else or threatening to hurt someone. Aggravated assault is considered more serious because it involves a deadly weapon or causes severe injuries.
What Factors Turn Assault Into Aggravated Assault
During a case, the courts will consider several different “aggravating factors” when deciding how to classify a crime. Some of these factors include:
- Use of deadly weapons or tools. Deadly items like guns and knives are considered aggravating factors. Other items, like bricks, batons, or fists, may be considered deadly items in some circumstances, but not always.
- Severity of injuries or threatened injuries. A few scrapes may not be enough to classify an act as aggravated assault, but more serious injuries may. Furthermore, threatening someone’s life (even if that person never comes to harm) is serious enough to constitute a felony charge.
- Identity of the victim. Per Florida Statute 784.07, it is automatically considered aggravated assault if the victim is an emergency medical care provider, firefighter, law enforcement officer, or public transit employee.
- Intent. If someone hurts another person with the intent to cause severe bodily harm, then their crime may be considered aggravated even if the victim does not come away with severe injuries.
Example Scenario #1.
The scenario: Two roommates, Alan and Bob, are arguing about rent and things get heated. Alan shoves Bob in anger, causing Bob to fall and hit his head against the wall. Bob goes to the ER to receive a few stitches because of the fall. Alan claims he never meant to hurt his roommate, but Bob presses charges anyway.
How the courts may see it: Even if Alan is sorry about the injury and did not mean to cause harm with the shove, the courts may still see the shoving as a violent action and consider this case to be assault. If Bob’s injuries are severe enough, he may be able to press for aggravated assault.
Example Scenario #2.
The scenario: Cindy and Erin are having a physical altercation on a sidewalk when a bystander calls the police. When the police show up, both Cindy and Erin are severely injured from the fight and require extensive medical attention. Neither of them will admit to starting the fight and instead blame each other.
How the courts may see it: Because both parties were severely hurt and it is not clear who threw the first blow, both Cindy and Erin may be charged with aggravated assault.
Example Scenario #3.
The scenario: Frank is upset with Gene because of a personal dispute. During a verbal argument, Frank opens his jacket to flash a firearm at Gene but does not take the firearm out or openly threaten to shoot. Gene feels intimidated and fears for his life, believing he may be harmed by Frank.
How the courts may see it: Threatening someone with a deadly weapon—even if you never follow through with the threat—is considered aggravated assault. The State of Florida defines assault to include the threat to do violence combined with the ability to carry through with it. Showing a firearm fits both these requirements.
Legal Consequences of Assault
According to Florida Statute Section 784.011, assault is considered a second-degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 60 days in prison and fines of up to $500.
However, aggravated assault is considered a third-degree felony, which carries more serious consequences than a misdemeanor. Third-degree felonies may be punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, and a lengthy probation period.
If you are convicted of aggravated sexual assault, you will also be required to register with Florida’s sexual offender registry.
How a Lawyer Can Help With Assault Charges
Most assault cases are rarely so clear cut. There may be different interpretations of words and actions, conflicting eyewitness accounts, a lack of evidence, and a variety of factors that may influence a jury’s decision.
At Mike G Law, we help people who are being accused of assault, no matter the details of a case. Mike G is a criminal defense attorney who has decades of experience defending people’s rights in and out of court to get a fair outcome. We can also help you fully understand the legal processes you are about to face, as well as the full differences between assault and aggravated assault.
What To Do if You Have Been Charged With Assault (of Any Kind)
If you or a loved one are facing accusations of assault, you need a skilled defense lawyer on your side. Our team at Mike G Law will listen to your side of the story, help you build a strong defense, and stick with you until the very end of your case. Do not wait—contact us today for a free case evaluation. Let us be your legal ally during this time.