In 2013, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reported that there were more than 57,000 aggravated assaults in Florida. These crimes are third degree felonies that carry serious penalties if you are convicted. We all want to be protected from violent criminals, but we also want to protect ourselves from being convicted of violent crimes we didn’t commit. A Tampa aggravated assault lawyer can help you in the instance that this happens.
Finding that balance is always difficult, and it is especially difficult these days, when the very fact that there is so much crime can make some people in law enforcement and the justice system cut corners or rush to charge and convict without carrying out a proper investigation.
What Aggravated Assault Means
An aggravated assault in Tampa is, first of all, an assault. Under Florida law, that requires that there be a threat to commit violence against another person. The threat can consist of an act or mere words, so long as the threat is unlawful and accompanied by:
- The apparent ability to carry it out
- An act that puts the other person in “well-founded” fear of imminent violence
A simple assault is a second degree misdemeanor. For the assault to be “aggravated,” however, bumping the crime to a third degree felony, the assault has to be committed either:
- Using a deadly weapon but without intending to kill the victim, or
- As part of a felony
Stiff Penalties, Enhanced Based on Use of Deadly Weapons
Not all deadly weapons are equal when it comes to aggravated assault. The base penalty for the third degree felony is up to five years prison time, but that penalty can be increased for numerous reasons. Enhancements apply to deadly weapons that are firearms or any type of “destructive devices,” and still more enhancements if either of those types of deadly weapon is discharged during the crime.
Enhancements also apply if a firearm was involved that meets the definition of a machine gun or a semi-automatic weapon with a high-capacity, detachable magazine. Another enhancement applies if a firearm of those types was discharged during the crime. The most serious enhancement is if the discharge of these types of firearms results in serious injury or death, which raises the penalty to 25 years to life.
Defending the Aggravated Assault Charge
There are many different ways to defend an aggravated assault case. An experienced Tampa defense attorney can review the case—the basic facts, plus witness reports, police reports, and so on—and identify the factual and legal flaws in the state’s case in time to raise the defenses well before any trial.
Common defenses to aggravated assault charges include:
- The victim simply fabricated the entire story of a confrontation for any number of reasons;
- Although there was a confrontation, the victim is the one who did the threatening;
- Even if the victim was threatened, he had no “well-founded” fear of imminent harm (meaning there was no “assault” at all);
- Any weapon used was not a “deadly weapon;”
- There was never any intent to commit a felony;
- The weapon used, or the way it was used, does not justify the enhanced penalty that the prosecution wants.
Get Experienced Legal Help
It doesn’t take long for aggravated assault cases to get very complicated and extremely technical. Does a set of facts really fulfill the requirements of the aggravated assault statute? Are the authorities living up to their obligations to turn over evidence that tends to support your innocence? Are time limits being met? Why is a witness saying things to the prosecutor that you know to be untrue? An experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer is your best protection, and the sooner you obtain the services of one, the better you will be protected.
Tampa aggravated assault lawyer William Hanlon has accumulated 20 years of successful criminal defense work in the Tampa Bay area. He has been through enough aggravated assault cases to know what to look for, what not to overlook, and how to find and present the evidence that gives you the best opportunity to avoid conviction if possible, and to minimize the sentence if it’s not. Call the law office of Will Hanlon today to get your defense started.