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What is Assault?

You swung a baseball bat at another person but did not hit them.  You waved your fist at another person but did not make contact with them.  You pointed a realistic toy gun at another person to threaten them.  What do all of these events have in common?  They are assaults under Florida law.

In Florida, the crime of assault has three elements:

  1. An intentional and unlawful threat — by word or act — to commit violence against another person
  2. The apparent ability to carry through with the threat at the time it was made and
  3. The threat created a genuine fear in the intended victim that the violence was imminent

An assault is basically a threat to commit a violent act, and it is often accompanied by battery.  Battery occurs when a person recklessly or purposefully causes another person bodily harm.  Usually, if battery is committed, assault is committed as well, but an assault can often be committed with out battery.

Assault is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida.  If you are convicted of assault, the judge may impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to sixty days in jail
  • Up to six months of probation
  • Up to $500 in fines

Further, Florida enhances the potential penalties for the crime of assault if the victim is an emergency medical care provider, firefighter, or law enforcement officer. If the victim is in one of these categories, the assault charge is a first-degree misdemeanor.

If you are charged with assault, you may have a valid defense to the charge.  There are three primary defenses to assault:

  • Conditional threat — A threat to commit a violent act at some unspecified point in the future that is conditional on some possible future event is a conditional threat and does not constitute assault.
  • Unreasonable fear — If the victim was taunting you or did not actually believe that you would follow through with the threat, then the victim was not in reasonable fear and no assault occurred.
  • Lack of apparent ability to actually carry out the threat— A person who is not in a position to actually carry out the threat of harm doesn’t commit assault.

If you are facing assault charges, an aggressive Jacksonville criminal defense attorney can help you beat the charges.