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How Can You Be Charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Florida?

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

September 16, 2022

In Florida, you could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon (or aggravated assault) if you threaten to harm someone and are armed with an instrument likely to cause great bodily injury or death. As with any crime, the prosecutor has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The elements the prosecutor must prove include:

  • Your mindset at the time of the offense
  • Your ability to follow through with the threat
  • You caused fear in the alleged victim
  • You possessed a deadly weapon at the time of the crime

A third-degree felony in Florida, assault with a deadly weapon carries severe penalties. Still, a charge doesn’t mean an automatic guilty verdict. You can seek to avoid a conviction or minimize penalties by raising applicable defenses.

At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., our Fort Lauderdale attorneys vigorously defend those accused of crimes. To schedule a consultation with a member of our team, please call (954) 840-8713 or submit an online contact form today.

What Must the Prosecutor Prove in an Assault with a Deadly Weapon Case?

Assault with a deadly weapon is referred to as aggravated assault. It occurs when someone threatens to harm another person with words or actions. Additionally, the alleged actor must have done something to increase the severity of the offense. In this case, the aggravating factor is being armed with a deadly weapon. (It’s also possible to be charged with aggravated assault in Florida by assaulting someone with the intent to commit a felony.)

To seek a conviction in your assault with a deadly weapon case, the prosecutor must prove that:

  • You intentionally and unlawfully threatened to hurt someone else,
  • When you made the threat, you had the present ability to fulfill it,
  • You were armed with a deadly weapon, and
  • The alleged victim had a credible fear that you were going to commit a violent act against them.

The prosecutor need not prove that you intended to take the other person’s life (that element would fall under the definition of attempted murder). Nor do they have to show that you made physical contact with or caused harm to the alleged victim. Merely pointing a deadly weapon at the other person is enough to fulfill the definition of aggravated assault.

What Is a Deadly Weapon?

One of the factors separating simple assault from aggravated assault is the presence of a deadly weapon at the time of the crime. Several instruments can fall under Florida’s definition of deadly weapons.

First are the types of objects designed and constructed to cause great bodily harm or death.

These include items such as:

  • Firearms or
  • Knives

Second are instruments that were developed for some purpose other than causing harm. However, they are used or intended to be used in a way where great bodily injury or death could result.

Such objects include, but are not limited to:

  • Hammers,
  • Baseball bats,
  • Glass bottles, or
  • Motor vehicles.

What Happens If You’re Convicted of Aggravated Assault?

Assault with a deadly weapon is a third-degree felony. A conviction carries the potential for incarceration and/or fines.

The possible term of imprisonment is a maximum of 5 years. The fine could be as much as $5,000.

How Can You Defend Against Charges?

As noted earlier, the prosecutor must prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain an aggravated assault conviction. By negating or showing weaknesses in their arguments, you could cast doubt in the minds of the judge or jury, which means they should not return a guilty verdict.

Possible defenses for assault with a deadly weapon include, but are not limited to:

  • Conditional threat: The prosecutor must prove an imminent threat existed against the other person. However, the defense could show that the threat was made if some act occurred in the future. For instance, the defendant might have said, “If you touch my car, I will hurt you.”
  • No reasonable fear: The alleged victim must have had a credible fear of being harmed. If they laughed at the threat or it’s shown that a reasonable person would not have thought the actor was going to do a violent act upon them, there might have been no actual fear.
  • Defense of self or others: The alleged actor might have threatened the other person to protect themselves or others against an imminent threat of harm.
  • False allegations: The alleged victim might have mistaken the actor for the actual perpetrator of the offense, or they might have made the accusations against the defendant as revenge for some perceived wrong.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Firm

Our Fort Lauderdale lawyers review the facts of each case we handle and explore available legal options to seek favorable outcomes for our clients. If you have been accused of aggravated assault, allow us to assess your case and determine a path forward.

Please contact Hager & Schwartz, P.A. at (954) 840-8713 today.