Fort Lauderdale Aggravated Assault Lawyer
Let Davitian Law's Broward County assault defense attorneys help you fight these serious charges in Florida state and federal court.
In many cases, aggravated assault cases are straightforward in that they involve one person unilaterally threatening violence against another while using a weapon. Floridians often associate assault with domestic or other situations that involve harassment. However, these types of charges often arise from arguments, physical fights and other conflicts in which one party may threaten to use a firearm due to a feeling of impending danger. In these cases, securing a conviction becomes a bit more complicated for prosecutors, and retaining the right Fort Lauderdale aggravated assault attorney to handle your defense becomes critical.
Aggravated assault, per Florida law
Sometimes referred to as “assault with a deadly weapon,” aggravated assault occurs when an intentional or unlawful threat to commit violence against another with a deadly weapon is made through word or action. The criminal charge is comprised of four elements:
- The accused made an intentional threat to do violence to the victim through word or action;
- The accused appeared to have the ability to carry out the threat at the time the threat was made;
- The threat created in the mind of the victim a well-founded fear that violence was about occur;
- The threat was made with a deadly weapon or with a conscious intent to commit a felony.
In proving the intentional threat of violence element, Florida courts have determined that the defendant’s intent to actually carry out an act of violence is irrelevant; it is sufficient for the state to establish the defendant simply intended his or her statement or action to be interpreted as a violent threat, regardless of follow-through.
Possible defenses in Broward County court
There are several defenses available to the defendant against these charges in Broward County and elsewhere in Florida. The most common defenses your Fort Laudedale aggravated assault defense lawyers could utilize include:
- justifiable use of force in defense of others;
- justifiable use of force in defense of property;
- Necessity or duress;
- Stand your ground defense;
- false allegations by alleged victims;
- lack of proven intent to threaten;
- inability to carry out the alleged threat;
- insufficient evidence as to the intent to commit a felony;
- defendant’s conduct does not constitute a threat;
- victim’s fears were unjustified.
Justifiable use of force
Under Florida law, a person is justified in using or threatening to use non-deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it’s necessary for self-defense against imminent danger. An individual may also use force to protect another person from an imminent threat of violence. Force may be threatened or used to defend one’s real property in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County against trespass and other tortus interference. There are three stages at which a person may or may not be determined to have acted in self-defense:
- Law enforcement may determine in the investigative stage that an individual was justified in his or her use of force and is, therefore, immune from prosecution and arrest.
- After hearing from witnesses and considering evidence in a pre-trial hearing, a judge may grant a ‘motion to dismiss’ based on immunity if law enforcement failed to determine that the defendant was justified in using force.
- At trial, an aggravated assault defense attorney may successfully argue the defendant used justifiable force if the jury has a reasonable doubt as to whether or not the defendant committed the crime as defined by state and federal laws.
Necessity or duress as a defense
In some cases, a defendant commits an act of aggravated assault under duress. Necessity or duress defenses most often come up in cases involving criminal organizations, and sometimes in abuse cases where someone commits assault or armed robbery out of fear – and at the direction – of a third party.
To establish claim of necessity or duress, your Broward County aggravated assault defense attorney must present evidence of the following:
- The defendant reasonably believed a danger or emergency, which he or she did not cause, existed;
- The danger or emergency threatened significant harm to the defendant or another person;
- The threatened harm was real, impending and imminent;
- The defendant had no reasonable means to avoid the danger aside from committing the criminal act;
- The criminal act was committed to avoid the emergency or danger;
- The harm the defendant sought to avoid was outweighed by the harm caused by the commission of the criminal act.
The law does not require the danger or emergency to be an actual situation. A defendant could meet the requirement if he or she reasonably believed the emergency or danger existed. An example would be an individual who commits aggravated assault at the direction of a criminal organization that threatens to harm a kidnapped family member.
Nevertheless, the perceived emergency or danger must appear to be real enough that a reasonably cautious person would have also perceived that the danger could only be avoided by committing the criminal act.
Sentencing for aggravated assault
Until 2016, aggravated assault carried a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison under the state’s 10/20/Life law. In July of 2016, aggravated assault was removed from the 10/20/Life statute. Still, those who are charged with assault stemming from an incident that occurred prior to July 2016 could be sentenced to the mandatory minimum if convicted. Those accused of assault crimes that occurred after the law changed are charged with a third-degree felony offense that is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment, 5 years of probation and a $5,000 fine.
When should you call a Fort Lauderdale defense attorney?
Aggravated assault charges have a history of disparate application in Florida. By nature, this particular criminal charge may arise from ambiguous circumstances in which the defendant is innocent.
Anyone accused of assault involving a gun or other weapon in Broward County should retain an experienced Ft Lauderdale aggravated assault attorney before speaking with police or investigators. In addition to assessing the case and presenting the individual with his or her legal options, a Florida criminal defense lawyer like Davitian Law, P.A. represents and speaks for the accused at every stage of the investigative and criminal trial, ensuring that their constitutional rights are protected.