Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon
An aggravated assault can occur in a home, a place of business, or on the highway. Although confrontations between strangers are possible, most accusations involve people who know each other, including family members, co-workers, acquaintances, or neighbors.
The criminal offense of aggravated assault does not require that anyone is touched or physically injured. Instead, the crime is focused on the threat of violence by putting another person in fear. For aggravated assault crimes, a deadly weapon includes:
- firearms; or
- other items designed or adapted to inflict death or serious physical injury on another (such as a pocket knife or brass knuckles).
Other objects, such as a baseball bat, wrench, or frying pan, might be classified as deadly weapons, depending on how the item was used.
A person accused of aggravated assault might have acted in self-defense, defense of others, or defense of property. Under Florida law, special defenses exist if a person is attacked in their home, vehicle, or place of business.
The jail injury form on the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office website describes the offense as: “AGGRAVATED ASSAULT WITH DEADLY WEAPON (ASSA5005).”
Lawyers for Aggravated Assault with a Weapon in Tampa, FL
If you have been arrested for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon or Firearm in Tampa or Hillsborough County, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. The five attorneys at Sammis Law Firm help our clients aggressively fight firearm charges and other crimes of violence involving possession of a weapon.
Our main in downtown Tampa, FL, is just a few blocks from the courthouse. We also have offices in New Port Richey across from the West Pasco Judicial Center and in Clearwater across from the Criminal Justice Center (CJC) courthouse.
We fight aggravated assault cases throughout Hillsborough County, FL, and the surrounding Tampa Bay areas, including Pasco County (New Port Richey and Dade City), Pinellas County (Clearwater and St. Petersburg), Polk County (Bartow and Winter Haven), and Hernando County (Brooksville).
Contact us to discuss your case with an attorney today.
Elements of Aggravated Assault under F.S. 784.021
Our attorneys fight assault cases that involve the use of a deadly weapon. For prosecutors in Tampa, FL, with the State Attorney’s Office for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, the charge is filed as a felony for “Aggravated Assault” under F.S. 784.021.
For aggravated assault with a firearm, the following elements must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt at trial:
- The defendant unlawfully and intentionally threatened another person through an intentional act;
- At the time that the defendant made the threat, the defendant appeared to have the ability to carry out the threat;
- The act of the defendant caused the alleged victim to have a well-founded fear that violence was about to take place;
- The defendant used a firearm by pointing the firearm at the victim in a manner that threatened to use the weapon in a way likely to produce death or great bodily harm; and
- The defendant had a fully-formed, conscious intent to commit the aggravated assault with a firearm upon the alleged victim.
The prosecution is not necessarily required to prove that the defendant intended to kill anyone.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault in Florida
The crime of aggravated assault is charged as a third-degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Before July 2016, if the assault involved the actual possession of a firearm, then the offense also carried a three (3) year minimum mandatory prison sentence. However, that minimum mandatory provision has since been removed. Effective July 1, 2016, the Florida Legislature enacted legislation to eliminate the minimum mandatory prison sentence for aggravated assault with a firearm.
This new legislation eliminated the minimum mandatory sentences for aggravated assault in the 10-20-Life statute by deleting aggravated assault from the list of crimes to which 10-20-Life applies.
Part of the reason for the change was because of the disparate application of these two legal concepts. Those problems were highlighted in the following high-profile cases:
- the Marissa Alexander 10-20-Life case in Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit;
- the Ronald Thompson 10-20-Life case (also prosecuted in Jacksonville); and
- the George Zimmerman “Stand Your Ground” or justifiable use of force case in Sanford, FL.
See Heller, Use a Gun, and You’re Done: How 10-20-Life and “Stand Your Ground” Together Have a Disparate Impact on Florida Citizens, Vol. 43, 2014, Southwestern L.R., available at https://www.swlaw.edu/pdfs/lr/43_3levitt (last visited Feb. 2, 2017).
Because of this legislative change, any person convicted of only aggravated assault will no longer qualify for the 10-20-Life penalties. The new legislation in 2016 also repealed exceptions for sentencing in aggravated assault cases enacted in 2014.
Prior to the change in the law, the 2014 version of the statute allowed the sentencing court to deviate from the minimum mandatory sentences for crimes of aggravated assault if the court made certain statutory findings based upon mitigating evidence presented at sentencing.
As a result of the legislative changes in 2016, because a person convicted of aggravated assault will no longer qualify for 10-20-Life sentencing, the repealed language has no further application in cases of aggravated assault committed after the effective date of the new legislation.
Criminal charges for aggravated assault are common in Florida. For example, in 2017, 26,624 people were arrested in Florida for aggravated assault. Out of those arrests, 1,956 were juveniles, and 24,668 were adults.
Crimes for Displaying a Firearm
Under Florida law, a fine line exists between the lawful display of a firearm in self-defense and the crime of aggravated assault. For this reason, your criminal defense attorney might raise self-defense, defense or property, or defense of others.
As a matter of law, merely displaying a firearm without pointing it at another person constitutes non-deadly force instead of deadly force. For example, in Cunningham v. State, 159 So. 3d 275, 277 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015), the court recognized that “mere display of a gun is not deadly force as a matter of law.”
In these cases, the court will consider the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees “an individual right to keep and bear arms.” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 595 (2008). As the Supreme Court explained in Heller, the Second Amendment is focused on “the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.” Id. at 635.
In McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 791 (2010), the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the Heller decision “held that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess a handgun in the home for the purpose of self-defense.”
The rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment stand between the individual and any unjustified federal or state intrusion upon that right. In Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court explained that “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” described in the Second Amendment, was “a pre-existing right.” 554 U.S. at 592.
For those not legally disqualified from owning, possessing, and using firearms, people in Florida have an individual state constitutional right “to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves,” Art. I, § 8(a), Fla. Const.
Floridians also have the statutory right “to own, possess, and lawfully use” weapons, including firearms, at a person’s “home or place of business” without the restrictions against the open carrying of weapons or firearms imposed by section 790.053, Florida Statutes (2020), or the requirements of a concealed carry license imposed by section 790.06, Florida Statutes (2020).
As explained in § 790.25(3)(n), Fla. Stat. (2020), “[t]he provisions of ss. 790.053 and 790.06 do not apply in the following instances [inclusive of persons on their home property or place of business], and, despite such sections, it is lawful for [such persons] to own, possess, and lawfully use firearms and other weapons, ammunition, and supplies for lawful purposes [while on their home property or place of business as permitted by subsection (3)(n)][.].”
Stated another way, Florida provides a statutory right to openly carry a weapon or firearm while on one’s home property or place of business. If the person is not at their home or place of business, it is not unlawful in Florida to “briefly and openly display” a lawfully carried firearm “to the ordinary sight of another person,” so long as the firearm is not being “intentionally displayed in an angry or threatening manner” when the display of the firearm is “not in necessary self-defense.” § 790.053(1), Fla. Stat. (2020).
These statutory provisions recognize that in order for a firearm to be useful for self-defense, it must be readily available and loaded, which requires the firearm to be taken out of concealment or storage and openly displayed while being loaded and held.
Aggravated Assault under F.S. 784.021 – Visit the official website of the Florida legislature to find the statutory language that applies to the crime of aggravated assault under Florida Statute Section 784.021. Florida Statute 784.021 defines the crime of aggravated assault as an assault involving either:
- a deadly weapon without intent to kill; or
- with an intent to commit a felony.
Assault under Florida Statute 784.011 – The term “assault” is defined as “intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.”
The goal in many of these cases is getting the charges dropped completely, or at least reduced to a misdemeanor for either:
- a misdemeanor for improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon under Florida Statute 790.01; or
- a misdemeanor for discharging firearms in public under Florida Statutes 790.15.
Read more about aggravated assault crimes prosecuted in Pinellas County, FL.
Finding a Lawyer for Aggravated Assault in Tampa, FL
Any arrest for any offense involving a firearm is severe. If your case involves the use of force in self-defense or the defense of others, then call us to discuss your case.
Our six attorneys represent clients on Aggravated Assault charges and other violent crimes involving a gun, firearm, or weapon throughout Hillsborough County and the surrounding areas.
We also help clients fight to reduce the charge of aggravated assault to a less serious misdemeanor offense, such as discharging a firearm under Florida Statute 790.15 or improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon under Florida Statute 790.01.
During a confidential consultation, we can explain the charges pending against you and why the stand-your-ground self-defense or other defenses might also be applicable.
Call us to schedule an appointment at our Tampa or New Port Richey, FL offices. We fight these cases throughout Hillsborough County and Pasco County, including the surrounding areas in Hernando County, Pinellas County, and Polk County, FL.
Call (813) 250-0500.
This article was updated on Wednesday, August 16, 2023.