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Aggravated Assault

Violent crime lawyer in Tallahassee

In Florida, aggravated assault is a serious criminal charge that carries several legal consequences. Aggravated assault is a more severe version of an assault charge and is considered a violent crime that involves the threat of bodily harm or the use of a deadly weapon. Getting arrested for aggravated assault can lead to felony charges, which may include paying expensive fines, being sentenced to incarceration, or both. The penalties for an aggravated assault charge will vary depending on the severity of the crime, the degree of injury suffered by the victim, and the defendant’s criminal history.

If you or someone you know is facing charges of aggravated assault in Florida, it is essential to seek out a defense attorney in your area. A skilled attorney can assist with helping you understand the charges against you, develop a solid defense strategy, and protect your rights throughout the legal process. This page will provide information about aggravated assault charges in Florida, including the legal definition, penalties, and possible defenses.

Tallahassee Aggravated Assault Lawyer

It’s important that you understand your rights after getting charged with a criminal offense. Just because you were arrested does not mean that you will be convicted of the crime. Contact the experienced Tallahassee criminal defense lawyers at Pumphrey Law to discuss your charges and potential defenses.

The prosecutors with the State Attorney’s Office typically make a filing decision within the first 21 days after an arrest. Hiring legal representation early in the process gives your attorney a chance to present mitigating evidence and attempt to convince the prosecutor to file no charges or at least lesser charges, such as a misdemeanor simple assault charge, carrying a concealed weapon or improper exhibition of a firearm.

This can all occur based on the specific facts of your case and the available evidence that the prosecutor has and whether they believe they will be able to prove the charge against you in a court of law.

The attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm represent clients charged with aggravated assault in Tallahassee and the entire Big Bend region including Monticello in Jefferson County, Quincy in Gadsden County, Crawfordville in Wakulla County and Bristol in Liberty County. Call (850) 681-7777 to schedule a free consultation.

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Florida Aggravated Assault Information Center

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Defining Aggravated Assault

Under Florida law, assault is an illegal and intentional threat through words or action to commit violence on another person, accompanied by the apparent ability to follow through, which causes a reasonable fear of such violence in the victim. A simple assault charge does not require any physical contact. Threatening to violently harm another person is enough to be charged with assault, which can vary from a misdemeanor or felony offense. As long as the victim felt threatened because it was likely that the defendant could have carried out the threat, the prosecutor can bring this type of charge.

Aggravated assault is a more serious form of assault. Under Florida Statute Section 784.021, aggravated assault is the enhanced charge for an assault offense, which either involves the use of a deadly weapon or the intent to commit a felony offense.

Elements to Prove in an Aggravated Assault Case

To prosecute a defendant for an aggravated assault offense, the four factual elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant intentionally and unlawfully threatened violence towards the alleged victim, either by word or act;
  • The defendant appeared to have the ability to act out the violent act when the threat was made;
  • The defendant’s threat caused the victim reasonable fear; and
  • The defendant threatened the victim with a deadly weapon or with the conscious intent to commit a felony offense.

What is Considered a Deadly Weapon?

For an assault charge to be considered aggravated assault, the alleged offender must make the threat with a deadly weapon. A deadly weapon is not only considered a firearm. Florida law considers a deadly weapon to be any object or instrument which can be used as a weapon to cause great bodily harm. The following is a list of some deadly weapons which may result in an aggravated assault charge if found in the defendant’s possession:

  • Firearm
  • Knife
  • Hammer
  • Crowbar
  • Broken Beer Bottle
  • Rocks
  • Baseball bat
  • Vehicle

In this case, a deadly weapon is considered a firearm, weapon, or anything else that could cause severe bodily injury or death to the alleged victim. An example of a simple assault would be if a person threatens to hit or punch someone else, whereas an example of aggravated assault is if a person threatens to hit someone with a baseball bat.

An individual who threatens another person with a firearm may also be charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon

Lesser offenses for the crime could include discharging a firearm in public under Florida Statutes Section 790.15 and improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon or firearm under Florida Statutes Section 790.10. Both of which would be considered weapons charges.

Penalties for Aggravated Assault in Florida

Under Florida Statutes §784.021, an aggravated assault charge is considered a third-degree felony. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in Florida State Prison.

Other factors that may contribute to more enhanced penalties include the type of weapon used during the alleged offense. For example, a defendant who had a firearm in their possession during the aggravated assault incident may be charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. This offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison. If the firearm was used, discharged, or caused an injury to the victim, then the mandatory minimum sentence may be increased up to 25 years.

If the defendant is found to have committed this offense while participating in a riot, as defined in Section 870.01, they face punishment at one level higher. A riot is defined as a violent public disturbance that involves three people or more that are acting with the common intent to help one another in violent and disorderly conduct that ends up either (a) injuring another person; (b) damaging property; or (c) resulting in imminent danger of injury to another person or damage to property.

The penalties may also be more severe if the aggravated assault offense was committed or attempted to commit against what the State refers to as “special victims.”

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Increased Classifications for Assault

Aggravated assault against what Florida law considers “special victims” can raise the penalties to a second-degree felony. This increased penalty statute covers certain types of victims including any of the following while he or she is engaged in the performance of their professional duties:

  • Federal, state and local law enforcement officers;
  • Correctional officers;
  • Probation officers;
  • Accident investigation officers;
  • Parking enforcement specialist;
  • Traffic infraction enforcement officers;
  • Emergency health care providers;
  • Firefighters; and
  • Traffic security officers employed by the Board of Trustees of a Community College.

To convict someone of aggravated assault under this increased penalty, it must be proven the alleged offender knew the victim was an officer, security guard, firefighter, emergency care provider or other covered person and that the victim was engaged in the lawful performance of his or her duties.

There are additional “special victims” which can result in enhanced aggravated assault penalties. The following special victims do not have to be engaged in any professional duty at the time of the alleged offense:

  • Elderly person over 65;
  • Employee with the Florida Department of Children and Family Services;
  • Sporting official during or after a sporting event;
  • School employee;
  • Elected official;
  • Visitor or detainee in a jail or correctional facility.

A defendant who is charged with aggravated assault against special victims faces a second-degree felony. In Florida, the penalties for a second-degree felony in Florida are up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

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Defenses to Aggravated Assault

It’s important to remember that even if you have been arrested for an aggravated assault offense, it does not mean you are automatically guilty. Aggravated assault is an offense that can have a variety of possible defenses. This is due to the possible absence of physical injuries, and due to factual disputes over how the assault incident occurred. The following is a list of possible defenses to use in an aggravated assault case:

  • Self-Defense;
  • Justifiable Use of Force;
  • Necessity or Duress;
  • Stand Your Ground Defense;
  • False Allegations;
  • Lack of Intent;
  • Inability to Carry Out Threat of Violence;
  • Insufficient Evidence;
  • Instrument used in incident not considered a deadly weapon;
  • Victim’s fear was not justified; or
  • Defendant’s conduct did not constitute a threat.

It’s important to remember that each case will vary in its possible defenses. To discuss which possible defense is applicable to your case, contact a skilled defense attorney in your area.

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Finding an Attorney for Aggravated Assault in Tallahassee, FL

If you have been charged with aggravated assault, contact an attorney experienced in fighting violent crimes in Tallahassee and Leon County, FL. We offer free consultations where you can discuss the facts of your case with one of our attorneys. Aggravated assault can result in paying large fines, imprisonment, or both. You need an experienced defense attorney on your side. Don Pumphrey and his team understand the nuances of the legal world and will help you navigate while ensuring your rights are protected. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm to help fight your case at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.  


This article was last updated on April 14, 2023.

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