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Assault Definition, Penalties and Enhancements

Most people equate the word “assault” with a physical attack on another person. While they are on the right track, the legal definition of assault contemplates a threat of attack without actually making physical contact. Specifically, Assault is defined in Florida Statute section 784.011 as “an 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.” In other words, an assault is a viable threat communicated to another person either verbally or physically. It is not to be confused with Battery, which is the actual physical harm to another.

Simple Assault is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. However, as with most other crimes, the opportunity for enhancements exist based on aggravating circumstances. A person accused of threatening another with a deadly weapon or with the intent to commit a felony can be charged with Aggravated Assault, a third degree felony punishable by 5 years in prison and a $5000 fine. Similarly, assault charges can rise from misdemeanor to felony for threatening a law enforcement officer, medical personnel, or a person 65 years of age or older.

What Happens When You Are Charged With Assault

Whether you are accused of misdemeanor or felony assault, you must endure the criminal justice process. An assault case generally begins with an arrest (although some people are lucky enough to avoid handcuffs and only receive a Notice to Appear or Summons). After booking, you may be released on your own recognizance (R.O.R.) for simple assault; for aggravated assault charges, you will likely have to pay a bond or see a judge at First Appearance (a hearing held within 48 hours of arrest to determine probable cause and bond amount). Following initial bond issues, your case would normally be set for Arraignment (formal reading of the charges). In most cases, it makes sense to plead “not guilty” at Arraignment to have the opportunity to hire a lawyer, review the evidence against you, and prepare a defense. After arraignment, your case should go through a series of pre-trial hearings called case disposition, status check, and/or plea conference, during which you can decide to take depositions, file motions, and ultimately take a plea or set your case for trial.

For Aggravated Assault, you may have a hearing called “State to File.” This is because all felony cases undergo an independent review of the police officer’s charging decision. The prosecuting agency – The State Attorney’s Office – has Filing Assistant State Attorneys tasked with reviewing felony arrests and determining whether to “up file” (file higher charges), “down file” (file lower charges), “no file” (decline to file charges), or file the same charges. The State to File court hearing is meant to give the filing attorneys a deadline for making a filing decision. If a decision has not been made by the State to File date, the presiding Judge generally discharges the defendant’s bond – meaning the defendant is released O.R. and no longer has the bondsman hanging over his or her head.

The outcome of your Assault or Aggravated Assault charge will depend on the facts, the law, your prior record, and the consideration of mitigating and aggravating circumstances. For an aggravated assault charge, judicial discretion may be limited by the legislature’s sentencing guidelines. The Sentencing Guidelines are a point-based scoring system that determine mandatory minimum sentences for felonies. If you are subject to a mandatory minimum sentence based on your charge, your prior record and any other aggravating circumstance, you may have to make a motion to the court for “downward departure.” In this situation, it is more important than ever to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.

How Casanova Law Can Help

Casanova Law is a criminal defense law firm in Wellington, Florida experienced in handling Assault and Aggravated Assault cases. Attorney Lourdes Casanova is a former prosecutor for Palm Beach County who has litigated thousands of criminal cases. Attorney Casanova knows where and how to retrieve all evidence, how to negotiate with prosecutors and law enforcement, how to communicate with the court, and how to fight in trial. Our law firm provides our clients with accurate advice, moral support, and confidence. Our ultimate goal is dismissal, reduction of charges, or reduced sentencing.

Contact Casanova Law today for experienced, meaningful help with your Assault or Aggravated Assault charge.

(561) 236-5340


What are examples of assault?

Some examples of assault include:

  • Swinging your fist at someone
  • Swinging an object at a person
  • Spitting at someone
  • Getting close to a person while raising your arm in a striking motion
  • Approaching someone aggressively while making verbal threats

Is it assault to push someone?

The technical crime for pushing someone in Florida is Battery, not Assault. Assault involves the threat of violence, while Battery is the actual touching or striking of a person without the alleged victim’s consent.  

Can you verbally assault someone?

“Verbal assault” is not a crime in Florida. Verbal threats alone do not constitute a crime. However, verbal threats in combination with physical gestures or actions may rise to the level of an assault.  

What is considered assault in Florida?

Florida law defines assault as a credible threat that creates a well-founded fear of imminent violence.  

What is the sentence for assault in Florida?

Simple assault carries a maximum of sixty days jail and a five-hundred dollar fine. Aggravated assault carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a five-thousand dollar fine. Other charge enhancements based on the use of a firearm or special characteristics of the victim can expose the accused to even higher penalties.

What is the difference between assault and battery in Florida?

Assault is an intentional threat of imminent violence, coupled with the apparent ability to carry out that threat. Battery is the touching or striking of another without permission, or the infliction of bodily harm on another person. The charge of Simple Battery is more serious than Simple Assault because it involves actual physical contact rather than a mere threat. For this reason, Simple Battery is a First Degree Misdemeanor, whereas Assault is a Second Degree Misdemeanor.

What if a victim of assault doesn’t want to press charges?

After a victim reports an assault to law enforcement, the case is in the government’s hands. Law enforcement – and later the prosecution – will decide whether or not to proceed with charges. Although the victim’s input is considered, the police and the State Attorney’s Office have the ultimate discretion in filing and prosecuting cases. The fact that the victim doesn’t want to press charges does not necessarily mean the assault case will be dropped.

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