Assault, also called Simple Assault or Misdemeanor Assault, is when one person intentionally and unlawfully threatens another person in a way that creates fear in that other person that physical harm or violence is about to happen. This is different than Aggravated Assault, which is far more serious. Physical contact is not necessary to be charged with Assault.Definition of Assault in Florida
The crime of Assault, as defined by § 784.011, Florida Statutes, involves the threat of violence, by either word or act, and the ability to carry through on the threat. It also requires that the person being threatened fears there is a very real chance the violence will happen. Threatening gestures that any reasonable person might find threatening can constitute an Assault.
The State’s attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime of Assault by establishing that all three of the following elements of the crime occurred:
Penalties for Assault in Florida
(1) The defendant intentionally and unlawfully threatened, by word or act, to do violence to another.
This means the State of Florida must prove that the defendant intended to threaten the alleged victim, not that they intended to harm the victim. While nobody can read minds, intent can be inferred by evidence surrounding the crime.
(2) The defendant had the apparent ability to carry out the threat of harm at the time the threat was made.
This means the State of Florida must prove that whatever act was threatened appeared to be able to be carried out, instantly. One example where the State might not be able to do this might be where someone threatens an act, but never gets within reasonable distance or remains separated by something which would make it near impossible.
(3) The defendant’s words or actions created a well-founded fear in the other person of an imminent act of violence.
This means that the State of Florida must prove not only that the victim was in fear that an act of violence was about to take place, but that the fear was well-founded. Well-founded, as used here, basically requires that fear to have been reasonable in light of the circumstances.
Assault is a second degree misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment not exceeding 60 days and a fine that shall not exceed $500, as provided in § 775.082 and § 775.083, Florida Statutes.Defenses To Assault In Florida
Assault is a violent crime and a serious criminal offense. Under Florida law, the defense for an assault depends on the specific circumstances. Defenses may include:
- Self Defense or Defense of Other(s)
- Stand Your Ground
- False accusation / misidentification
- There was no apparent ability to carry out the alleged threat
- Circumstances would have prevented carrying out the alleged threat, for example distance or barriers
- The defendant’s actions were purely accidental with no criminal intent
- The alleged threat was to commit a violent act some time in the future or contingent on something else happening first (conditional threat)
- Swinging a fist in anger without making contact while verbally threatening another person
- Moving menacingly toward your intended victim
- Cornering your intended victim while continuing to threaten them with harm
- Intentionally spitting at another person
- Throwing an object at a person causing others nearby to be fearful of being hurt
If you have been charged with the crime of Assault in Broward, Palm Beach, or Miami-Dade County, you need to speak with a criminal defense attorney right away to ensure your rights are protected. The Law Office of Sean Clayton, P.A., can help you better understand your situation and your options. Contact us today for your free consultation.