Standing your ground, self-defense, road rage, or protecting your home are all situations where you will be tempted to use a firearm. In doing so, you may encounter criminal charges in Florida, primarily aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Facing severe assault charges can impact your personal life and professional career. In this article, you’ll learn more about an aggravated assault with a firearm, the penalties, and the possible defenses to counter it.
What is Aggravated Assault with a Firearm?
Under Florida Statute § 784.021, aggravated assault is a severe form of assault involving either the intent to commit a felony or the use of a deadly weapon.
For this charge, the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- The accused unlawfully and intentionally threatened to commit violence against the alleged victim.
- The threat gave the alleged victim legitimate fear that violence was imminent.
- At the time of the threat, the accused seemed to be able to carry it out.
- The accused committed the assault with a deadly weapon or with genuine intent and conscious intention to perpetrate a felony crime.
What is Considered a ‘Deadly Weapon’?
To fully grasp and understand the criminal charge, you must first learn what is considered a deadly weapon in Florida. Unfortunately, what is deemed a deadly weapon in the state is open to interpretation.
Contrary to popular belief, a deadly weapon does not necessarily refer to an instrument or object that is used as a weapon for causing bodily harm, like a knife or gun. In some instances, everyday household items can also fall under this category.
Other standard or regular objects, such as rocks, golf clubs, baseball bats, broken bottles, and vehicles, are all considered deadly weapons if used in a certain way. Using a deadly weapon enhances the consequences and penalties you can face if convicted.
What Are the Penalties and Sentencing For Aggravated Assault With a Firearm?
Aggravated assault with a firearm is considered a third-degree felony in Florida. If convicted of this charge, you can face the following:
- Up to a $5,000 worth of fine
- Up to 5 years in prison
You might face harsher penalties if convicted of another aggravated assault charge within five years of completing your prior sentence. If convicted for the second time, you might face:
- Up to ten years in prison
Suppose the deadly weapon associated with the assault is a firearm or a destructive device, like a pumped bomb. In this case, you could face long mandatory minimum sentences under Florida Statute § 775.087:
- Mandatory minimum of three years of jail time for assault with any destructive device or gun.
- Mandatory minimum of 15 years of jail time for the assault involving any automatic weapon or high-capacity semi-automatic weapon.
- Mandatory minimum of 20 years of jail time if the defendant discharged the deadly weapon during the assault.
- Mandatory minimum of 25 years of jail time, and the possibility of a life sentence, if the victim suffers from great bodily harm or dies.
It is only possible to waive the mandatory minimum jail sentences if:
- The defendant did not do the action in the course of committing another criminal offense.
- The defendant is not a danger or threat to public safety.
- The totality of the circumstances or situation does not justify the imposition of the sentence.
- The defendant had good faith but mistakenly believed that the act was justifiable, such as self-defense.
You will also have a permanent record as a violent felon if convicted. This can negatively impact your future opportunities if someone were to run a criminal background check on you. Lastly, you are permanently banned by federal law from carrying or possessing guns anywhere in the country.
What Are the Defenses of Aggravated Assault With Firearms?
To add to the pretrial and trial defenses that can be used and raised during a criminal case, the typical defenses to the crime aggravated assault with a firearm include:
Self-defense is one of the best legal defenses against aggravated assault with a firearm. For instance, your actions may be justifiable in defense of yourself, your property, or others. This will be especially effective if the accuser is the primary aggressor in the situation.
It was not an assault when the defendant didn’t display any physical act that justified a belief that they would follow through with their threat. It’s merely an idle threat.
If, while being ‘threatened,’ the alleged victim was taunting or provoking the defendant or did not believe that they would follow through with their threat, then later made the claim of assault—out of pettiness. This case will be ruled unreasonable as the accuser did not feel genuinely threatened.
A statement that issues a threat to perform or commit a violent act at an undetermined time in the future does not constitute an assault. Though, it does include another crime like disorderly conduct.
False Allegations and Lack of Evidence
In some cases, people can get charged with aggravated assault due to false accusations, and in these instances, it is possible to impeach the alleged victim. Other times, there is a conflict or lack of evidence where the listed victim or witnesses may not be credible, and their statements contradict the evidence or testimony.
Other viable defenses to use against an aggravated assault with firearm charge are:
- Stand Your Ground Defense
- Justifiable use of force to defend others
- Duress or necessity
- Lack of probable intent to harm or threaten
- Inability to carry out the accused threat
- The instrument involved does not qualify or constitute a deadly weapon
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today
The State of Florida takes aggravated assault seriously. Given the severe penalties and sentencing for aggravated assault with a firearm conviction, you must ensure that you have an excellent legal defense by your side.
Depending on the information of your case, your charges can be dropped entirely with the right kind of defense. Alternatively, the charges can be reduced to a misdemeanor charge, like an improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon, discharging a firearm in public, or disorderly conduct. A skilled lawyer can help make that happen.
If you’re arrested for aggravated assault with a firearm, then you need qualified legal representation. Contact our attorneys at Hanlon Law Tampa today for a free consultation. We will help build the best strategy and defense for your case.
210 N Pierce St
Tampa, FL 33602