What must the prosecutor prove in an Assault case?
According to Florida Statute § 784.011, to prove the crime of Assault, the prosecutor must prove the following three things:

  1. The Defendant intentionally threatened, either by word or act, to do violence to the victim;
  2. At the time the Defendant appeared to have the ability to carry out the threat;
  3. The act of the Defendant created in the mind of the victim a well-founded fear that the violence was about to take place.

What are the maximum penalties in an Assault case?
In Florida, an Assault is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of:
A jail sentence of 60 days
A $500.00 fine
6 months of probation

Possible Defenses to an Assault Charge:

  1. The Florida Stand Your Ground Law

Under the Florida Stand Your Ground Law a person is justified in threatening to use force against another if the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend him or herself against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.  A person may also threaten to use force to protect property.

  1. Self Defenseto an Assault Charge

Even when a judge rulesthat the Florida Stand Your Ground Law does not apply in a case, a person accused of Assault can still claim he or she acted in Self-Defense.

If a jury, or in the case of a bench trial, the judge, were to find that there was a reasonable doubt as to whether or not a person was justified in using an Assault to protect himself or herself, then the jury or judge should find the person not guilty.

  1. Conditional Threats

In the case of Butler v. State, 632 So.2d 684 (Fla. 5th DCA 1994),a Florida court held that a conditional threat to do injury at some unspecified future time based upon a possible eventuality does not constitute an Assault.

For example, imagine that Person A approached Person B in a parking lot and stated the following to Person B:  “If I ever see you around here again, I’ll break your nose.”

In this case, Person A’s threat is a conditional threat to do injury at some time in the future.  Therefore, there is no Assault.

  1. No Fear of Imminent Harm

In the case of H.W. v. State, 79 So.3d 143 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2012), a student threatened a school administrator that something would happen to her “that day”.  The Court found that this threat was not sufficient for an Assault, because the threat of violence was not imminent.

Another example would be if Person A approached Person B in a parking lot and stated the following to Person B:  “I’ll break your nose tomorrow night.” There is no Assault as the threat of violence is not imminent.

  1. No Ability to Carry Out the Threat

In the case of L.R. v. State, 698 So.2d 915 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997), a juvenile threatened a victim with a knife.  However at the time of the threat, the juvenile and the victim were ten feet apart, and another person stood between the juvenile and the alleged victim.   The Court held that there was insufficient evidence that the alleged victim was fearful of imminent harm from the juvenile.

In the case of L.C. v. State, 799 So.2d 330 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001)the alleged victim, testified that she was in her apartment when she heard a loud knock. She ran to the living room, looked out the locked sliding glass door and observed a juvenile and several other people. The juvenile told the alleged victim:  “come out the door . . . I’m going to beat your ass”, but the juvenile never tried to enter the apartment.  The Court held that because the alleged victim was inside a locked apartment, the juvenile did not have, or appear to have, the ability to carry out the threat and therefore there was no Assault.

Another example would be if a police officer arrested, handcuffed, and placed an arrestee in the back of a patrol vehicle.  If the arrestee told the officer that he was going to punch him in the face, there would be no Assault because the arrestee would not have the immediate ability to carry out the threat.

  1. The Witnesses are Lying

Witnesses and alleged victims often lie to law enforcement about the facts of a case.  For example, Attorney Hardy handled an aggravated assault case in which the alleged victim claimed that Attorney Hardy’s client was the aggressor.  However, Attorney Hardy conducted an investigation and discovered that a witness had called 911 during the incident.  Attorney Hardy obtained a copy of the 911.  On the 911 recording, the voice of the alleged victim could be heard repeatedly threatening Attorney Hardy’s client and demanding Attorney Hardy’s client come and fight him.   Attorney Hardy presented this evidence to the State Attorney’s Office and they dropped the case.

Are you looking for the best Assault lawyer in Tampa Florida? Contact Attorney David C. Hardy.

Tampa Attorney David C. Hardy is a former prosecutor that now represents persons accused of assault.  He is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. As a prosecutor and defense attorney, he has extensive experience handling all types of assault cases.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for assault in Hillsborough County Florida, Pinellas County Florida, or Pasco County Florida, Attorney David C. Hardy has the knowledge, skills, and experience to guide you through this process and obtain the best possible results.