In the state of Florida, assault with a deadly weapon is a serious charge with steep penalties. The law, however, isn’t completely straightforward. There are several variances and stipulations that you should be aware of in case you or someone you love ever faces charges.
Below, we are going to explain the law in detail.
Defining “Assault with a Deadly Weapon” in Florida
According to the 2017 Florida Statutes, assault with a deadly weapon falls under “aggravated assault.” An aggravated assault is an assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, or with intent to commit a felony.
Physical damage or injury does not need to occur for the charge to be filed, only the intent to cause fear of an immediate attack. The intentional actions, words, or threats constitute the assault. In other words, if you point a shotgun at someone with the intent of scaring them, you could face charges of aggravated assault.
Assault with a deadly weapon involves the use of an object or substance with inherent danger or threat of death. As such, a firearm, knife, or caustic substance like acid or poison is considered a deadly weapon. If an object is not inherently dangerous but used in a manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm, it may also be considered a deadly weapon. For example, a chair may be considered a deadly weapon if it is intentionally thrown at an individual’s head.
Aggravated assault is an automatic third degree felony. However, it can be raised to a second degree felony (or even a first degree felony) if the offense occurred against a member of Florida’s special victims classes while engaged in performing their duties. Special victims include the following:
- breath test operator while testing individuals for driving while intoxicated
- code inspector
- emergency medical care provider
- employee at a detention or commitment facility for sexually violent offenders
- law enforcement officer
- licensed security officer
- parking enforcement officer
- public transport employee
The following are also special victims and need not have been engaged in performing any duties during the offense:
- individual over the age of 65 years
- investigator or employee of Children and Family Services Department
- school employee or elected official
- sports official while participating in a sporting event or immediately afterward
- visitor or detainee in a correctional facility or jail
If the aggravated assault occurred against any of the following individuals, and the offense was committed due to the person’s employment status or while they were performing their duties, probation will not be allowed, nor will a sentence be eligible for deferral or suspension:
- corrections officer
- law enforcement officer
- state’s attorney
Consequences That Come with an Assault for a Deadly Weapon Conviction in Florida
Penalties for a third degree felony for aggravated assault in Florida include:
- up to five years in prison
- a fine up to $5,000
- probation up to five years, and
Penalties for a second degree felony for aggravated assault against a special victim in Florida include:
- up to 15 years in prison with a minimum of three years if the offense is against a law enforcement officer
- a fine up to $10,000
- probation up to 15 years, and
Penalties for a first degree felony for aggravated assault against a special victim in Florida include:
- up to 30 years in prison with a minimum of five years if the offense is against a law enforcement officer
- a fine up to $10,000
- probation up to 30 years, and
Penalties may be enhanced if someone has prior convictions, particularly convictions for assault or other crimes of violence. For example, an individual with prior assault convictions may face first degree felony penalties for an aggravated assault against a special victim.
Probation time may be imposed instead of jail time for the entire sentence or after the defendant spends a period in jail. An example would be two years in prison and five years on probation.
In Florida, those convicted of aggravated assault are required to pay restitution. Any expenses resulting from the crime such as medical bills must be reimbursed by the defendant. The court requires restitution in all cases unless very unusual circumstances exist.
How to Fight Back against Your Florida Charges
If you are facing charges of assault with a deadly weapon in Florida, an experienced assault attorney can help you. They can research your case and find any possible defenses. Your attorney may be able to get you a plea deal or lighter sentence.
It is crucial to contact a good defense lawyer as soon as possible after you are charged. A felony conviction causes a loss of many rights and may have negative effects on your life for many years. It also sets you up for harsher punishments in the future. A knowledgeable lawyer can help protect your rights and your reputation. Don’t hesitate to call for a free initial evaluation.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.