In Florida, simple assault (also referred to as misdemeanor assault) occurs when
a person, by word or act, makes an unlawful and intentional threat towards another
person in order to create a well founded fear of imminent violence or harm. 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. If you have been charged
with Simple Assault or Misdemeanor Assault in Florida, you may have defenses to fight
the charge or minimize potential penalties. Contact our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney
today for a free consultation.
Definition of Simple Assault (Misdemeanor)- Florida Law
As defined under Section 784.011, Florida Statutes, 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 simple assault, the State must prove three elements: (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
In Florida a simple assault is classified as a second degree misdemeanor, punishable
by up to 60 days jail. Aggravated Assault is 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.
Does Simple Assault Require Physical Injury or Physical Contact?
No. 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.
Is Intent to do Harm a Required to Support a Conviction for Simple Assault?
Yes. To commit the crime of simple/misdemeanor assault, 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
What if a Threat is Made, but the Accused Is Prevented from Carrying it Out?
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).
What are the Defensesto a Florida Simple Assault Charge
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.