Is Assault A Felony Criminal Offense In Florida?
In Florida, assault is broadly defined as the “intentional” and “unlawful” threat of violence against another person that creates a reasonable fear of imminent harm. The severity of an assault charge depends on the specific allegations. Simple assault is a misdemeanor offense in Florida. However, aggravated assault is a felony offense. Here, our Orlando assault and battery defense lawyer explains when an assault can be charged as a felony offense in Florida.
What is Assault (Florida Law)?
Assault is defined and charged under Florida Statutes § 784.011. The statute makes it a criminal act to intentionally threaten to do violence to another person without legal justification. To obtain a conviction in an assault case, prosecutors are required to prove the following three key elements:
- The defendant intentionally threatened physical harm;
- The victim was in reasonable fear of imminent harm; and
- The defendant made some type of overt act that makes the fear of harm both imminent and reasonable.
To be clear, there is no requirement of actual physical contact to justify an assault charge in Florida. However, prosecutors must prove that the defendant did something beyond their mere words—an overt act—that heightened the threat and the imminence of danger.
Criminal Law Tip (Assault versus Battery): While they are often confused, assault and battery are distinct criminal charges in Florida. Assault involves the actionable threat of physical violence. In contrast, the crime of battery requires actual physical force.
Misdemeanor Assault vs. Felony Assault
Assault can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense in Florida. Depending on the nature of the allegations, the crime will be:
- Simple Assault (Misdemeanor): At a baseline, assault is a misdemeanor offense called simple assault. It carries maximum penalties of 60 days in jail, six months on probation, and a $500 fine. In some cases, prosecutors will plead out simple assault cases and the defendant will be able to avoid any jail time. Whether a plea agreement is a sensible option in any given case depends on the circumstances. An Orlando defense lawyer can help.
- Aggravated Assault (Felony): Aggravated assault is a third degree felony offense in Florida. It is an enhanced charge that can be filed when all of the elements of simple assault are met and the crime was committed with a deadly weapon or with the intent to commit a felony. It is a serious felony offense that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Contact Our Orlando Assault & Battery Defense Attorney Today
At The Baez Law Firm, our Florida criminal defense lawyer has the skills and expertise to handle the full spectrum of assault and battery charges. If you or someone you know is facing a felony assault charge, we are more than ready to help. Contact us by phone or contact us online for a completely confidential initial appointment with a lawyer. We defend misdemeanor and felony assault and battery charges in Orlando, Orange County, and throughout Central Florida.