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Tampa Criminal Attorney > Blog > Assault Battery > What is Considered Aggravated Assault in Florida?

What is Considered Aggravated Assault in Florida?


Every state defines enhanced assault, or aggravated assault, differently. Florida’s version of aggravated assault is found in Section 784.021 of the Florida Statutes. The punishment for aggravated assault is basically the same in all states. Ordinary assault, or simple assault, is usually a misdemeanor. Aggravated assault is always a felony. In Florida, a Section 784.021 infraction is a third-degree felony that’s punishable by a maximum five years in prison and/or $5,000 fine.

Aggravated assault is one of the most common felony charges in Florida, mostly because prosecutors are very aggressive. If the facts could possibly support enhanced assault, the state almost always files Section 784.021 violation charges. This over-aggressive nature often gives a Tampa assault & battery lawyer a chance to successfully resolve these matters, usually via a charge reduction plea bargain. More on that below.

Basic Elements

As mentioned, all states define aggravated assault differently. This distinction also applies to the basic elements of assault. Florida, unlike most other states, retains the common law distinction between assault and battery.

So, you don’t have to hit someone to commit a basic or enhanced assault in the Sunshine State. Instead, the defendant must make an intentional and illegal verbal or physical threat to use force.

In this context, intentional basically means non-accidental. Accidental conduct could be a defense in ordinary assault matters. Sometimes, people really do fall down the stairs.

Lack of intent could also be a defense in aggravated assault matters. This offense is a specific intent offense. The defendant must intend the conduct and the result. If Bill threatens Ted who then falls down the stairs, Bill might not be guilty of aggravated assault.

Additionally, the state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant had the apparent capacity to make good on the threat and the alleged victim reasonably feared for his/her safety.

Incidentally, the alleged victim is only a witness in an assault or other criminal case. Witnesses don’t have the power to “drop” or “press” charges. These decisions are up to the state, and ultimately the judge.


The state could upgrade ordinary assault charges to aggravated assault charges if the defendant, while committing the assault, did one of the two following things:

  • Used a Deadly Weapon: Under Florida law, almost any object could be a deadly weapon. We mentioned baseball bats above. Such a “deadly weapon” usually implies premeditation. Other deadly weapons include frying pans, kitchen pots, steak knives, and hair curler wands.
  • With Intent to Commit a Felony: Sometimes, prosecutors apply the enhancement when the defendant is fleeing the scene of a felony, such as a robbery or burglary, and pushes someone out of the way. A Tampa criminal defense lawyer can almost always beat these cases in court. In this situation, the defendant had already committed a felony. The assault occurred after the fact.

If the basic or enhancement evidence is weak, prosecutors usually agree to charge reduction plea bargain proposals. In exchange for a plea of guilty, and perhaps a stiffer-than-normal sentence, the state reduces aggravated assault to simple assault. The direct and collateral consequences of a misdemeanor aren’t nearly as bad as the direct and collateral consequences of a felony.

 Connect With a Detail-Oriented Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.



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