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Comparing Florida’s Simple and Aggravated Assault Laws

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While the term “assault” is often accompanied by the word “battery,” it is actually a distinct crime under Florida law. There is a lot of confusion surrounding assault offenses because of the fact that you do not need to actually come into physical contact with the victim to be arrested. Another aspect of assault that can be complex is that there are two versions of the crime: Simple and aggravated. The required level of proof and penalties for a conviction are very different, so it is important to retain a skilled criminal defense lawyer to represent you in court. It may also be helpful to review a summary of simple and aggravated assault.

Simple Assault and Penalties

A prosecutor must establish three elements, beyond a reasonable doubt, in order to get a conviction for simple assault:

  1. You intentionally, unlawfully threatened to engage in violence against the victim, either by words or physical conduct;
  2. When making the threat, you had the present ability to carry out the criminal act; and,
  3. Your words or actions created a well-founded fear in the mind of the victim, such that he or she believed the violence was about to occur.

If convicted of simple assault, you face charges for a second-degree misdemeanor. A judge could sentence you to a 60-day jail term or six months probation, along with a maximum fine of $500. However, a defendant with a criminal record could be subject to harsher penalties.

Aggravated Assault and Potential Sentencing

The same three elements of simple assault also apply to the aggravated form of the offense. The only difference is the addition of another component: The prosecuting attorney must prove that you made the assault through use of a deadly weapon, or that you had a plan and intent to commit a felony. In addition to a firearm, many types of objects could qualify as “deadly” weapons. A knife, baseball bat, hammer, saw, or other item that could be used to cause bodily harm may elevate the crime for simple to aggravated assault.

Aggravated assault is a third-degree felony in Florida. If convicted, you could face a prison sentence up to five years, along with a maximum $5,000 fine. You may also be required to pay restitution to the victim. Plus, there will be a violent felony conviction on your criminal record, which will show up in the event of a background check. Therefore:

  • You could lose your job or a professional license;
  • You may not be eligible for student loans or educational opportunities;
  • Your rights as a parent may be affected, such as child custody or visitation; and,
  • Many other areas of your life may be affected.

Call Now to Speak with a Knowledgeable Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

For more information on the differences between simple and aggravated assault under Florida law, please contact Fort Lauderdale attorney Kevin J. Kulik to schedule a consultation. As with any type of criminal charges, there may be defenses available or opportunities to reduce the charges. We can review the circumstances of your case and determine the best strategy to obtain a favorable outcome in your case.

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