What Constitutes Aggravated Assault in Florida?

TV shows and movies like to mention legal terms to spice up the dialog and add realism… But what do terms like “assault with a deadly weapon” or “aggravated assault” mean? According to Section 784.021, Florida Statutes, there are four elements to an Aggravated Assault:

  • The accused threatened an alleged victim, intentionally and illegally, with violence
  • The threat was credible – IE, the accused, appeared to be able to carry out the threatened violence
  • The threat gave the alleged victim a credible fear that they were about to be harmed, and lastly…
  • The accused carried out the assault with either a deadly weapon or the conscious intent to commit a felony.

In this article, we will go over these points in a bit more detail. The long and short is that Aggravated Assault is an additional crime on top of assault. It involves the use of a deadly weapon or clear intent.

What is Intent to Threaten?

First, an intent to illegally threaten violence must be present for an Aggravated Assault charge. The State does not need to prove an intent to carry out for this element. The State only needs to prove an intent to threaten and create fear. This intent is sufficient even if there is no contact or physical violence. For example, if you tell somebody that you are going to hurt them and intend to scare them, you have demonstrated intent to threaten them. This is true even if you don’t mean to hurt them, or if it was “just talk.”

What is Intent to Commit Felony?

This element can be present in a range of aggravated assault cases. These include robberies, burglary, rape, murder, and other felonies. When an aggravated assault case is brought to court, the State must demonstrate this intent to commit a felony. The Information (document of charges) must allege this intent. Direct and circumstantial evidence can both prove this charge. This includes statements, such as the threats mentioned earlier. Other conduct can also contribute to proof.

What is a Deadly Weapon?

In Florida, a “deadly weapon” is one that the accused uses or threatens to cause death or serious bodily harm. This definition can be quite broad. In Florida, there have been cases of unexpected items being considered deadly weapons. In Cloninger v. State, 846 So. 2d 1192 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003), the defendant allegedly struck the victim on the head with a beer bottle. This constituted assault with a deadly weapon. Driving a car towards police officers or making threats with a pocket knife can also qualify.

Defenses Against Aggravated Assault

This charge tends to have a variety of defenses due to the lack of physical damage and disputes over the facts of the case. Some defenses include self-defense, the Stand Your Ground defense, falsification by alleged victims, and a lack of provable intent. It may turn out that the alleged victim’s fears are not justified. Because of the severity of the charge and the serious penalties, your defense must be clear. We can’t emphasize the need for legal representation in these cases enough. It is essential. If you’ve been accused of Aggravated Assault, don’t feel your way through it alone. Contact us today, and we’ll begin building your defense.