Definition of Simple Assault (Misdemeanor)
The definition of simple assault is contained in Section 784.011, Florida Statutes. Under the law, simple assault occurs when a person, by word or act, makes an intentional, unlawful threat to commit violence towards another person, and the person making the threat has the apparent ability to carry out the threat, and the person does some act which creates a well-founded fear in the other person that such violence is imminent.
Thus, to prove the crime of assault, the State must establish three elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) the accused intentionally and unlawfully threatened, by word or act, to do violence to the alleged victim; (2) at the time the threat was made, the accused appeared to have the ability to carry out the threat; and (3) the accused’s threat created in the mind of the alleged victim a well-founded fear that the violence was about to take place.
Penalties for Simple Assault (Misdemeanor)
Florida law classifies Simple Assault as a second degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 60 days in jail or 6 months probation, and a $500.00 fine. Aggravated Assault is classified as a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment. Where an assault is committed against multiple persons, such an incident will support multiple charges, regardless of whether the assaults occurred as part of a single criminal episode.
Requirement of Physical Injury / Contact
In Florida, physical contact or injury is not a required element of simple assault, regardless of whether the offense is charged as simple assault or aggravated assault. Thus, wielding a knife towards another person, is sufficient for an assault even if the defendant never makes contact with the alleged victim.
Requirement of Intent to Do Harm
To commit the crime of simple/misdemeanor assault in Florida, the accused must intend to do physical harm to the alleged victim. A willful and reckless disregard for the life or safety of others is insufficient. State v. Shorette, 404 So. 2d 816 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981). The intent of the defendant is a question for the jury, and may be inferred from the surrounding facts and circumstances of a case. The alleged victim, however, may not speculate in his or her testimony regarding the defendant’s subjective intentions.
Accused Is Prevented from Carrying Out Assault
In Florida, present-apparent ability to carry out the threat is a required element of simple assault. Thus, if the accused is confined in a closed space, or restrained by police officers, an assault does not occur. On the other hand, where a defendant pulls out a knife and turns toward the alleged victim without taking a step forward, a finding of present apparent ability is proper because, in that scenario, the defendant could have taken a step or thrown the knife at the alleged victim. See Willard v. State, 386 So. 2d 869 (Fla. 1st DCA 1980).
Defenses to Simple Assault
Simple Assault is one of the most defendable charges in all of Florida criminal law. Defenses abound due to the highly subjective nature of the offense, the absence of physical injuries, and factual disputes about how the incident occurred.
At Hussein & Webber, P.L., our Jacksonville criminal attorneys are committed to the aggressive defense of our clients when they face Florida charges of simple assault or misdemeanor assault. If you have been accused, you may have strong defenses to contest the charge or to mitigate possible penalties. Call us today for a free consultation.