Definition of Aggravated Assault

In Florida, Aggravated Assault is an intentional and credible threat to commit violence against a person with either with a deadly weapon or with actions that show an intent to commit a felony.

  • See § 784.021, Fla. Stat. (aggravated assault);  § 784.011 (defining assault).

Stated another way, Aggravated Assault is an assault with an additional act consisting of the use of a deadly weapon or the intent to commit a felony.  Larkins v. State, 476 So. 2d 1383 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985).

Factual Elements

Aggravated Assault consists of four factual 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,
  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, and
  4. The assault was made either with a deadly weapon or with a fully formed conscious intent to commit a felony.
  • See Fla. Std. Jury Inst. 8.2 (Aggravated Assault).

Meaning of “Deadly Weapon”

For aggravated assault, a “deadly weapon” is a weapon that is used or threatened to be used in a way that is likely to produce death or great bodily harm.

The definition of ‘deadly weapon’ is broad, and includes:

  • a defendant waiving a pocket knife around while threatening to “poke” the alleged victim. J.M. v. State, 872 So. 2d 985 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004);
  • the use of a beer bottle to strike the alleged victim on the head. Cloninger v. State, 846 So. 2d 1192 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003);
  • driving a car towards police officers sitting in another vehicle, as if intending to make impact. Bryan v. State, 865 So. 2d 677 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004);
  • making threats with a knife outside a car towards a person sitting inside of a car with a closed window. King v. State, 12 So. 3d 1271 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009).

Intent to Threaten Violence

The first intent element required in an Aggravated Assault prosecution is the intent to threaten violence against the alleged victim.  Cambell v. State, 37 So. 3d 948, 950 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010).

For this element, the State need not prove that the defendant actually intended violence against the other person.  Id.  The intent to threaten violence is sufficient.  Id.

Intent to Commit Felony

Aggravated assault can also be committed where the threat shows an intent to commit a felonious act against the victim.  See Machin v. State, 162 So. 2d 547 (Fla. 3d DCA 1964) (robbery); Newsome v. State, 355 So. 2d 483 (Fla. 2d DCA 1978) (sexual battery); Caraker v. State, 84 So. 2d 50 (Fla. 1955) (murder).

Where an aggravated assault prosecution is brought on this basis, the State must distinctly allege within the charging document the intent with which the assault was made.  Black v. State, 173 So. 2d 166 (Fla. 2d DCA 1965).

The charge may thereafter be proven with direct or circumstantial evidence, such as a statement or other conduct indicating the felonious intent. Caraker v. State, 84 So. 2d 50 (Fla. 1955); Newsome v. State, 355 So. 2d 483 (Fla. 2d DCA 1978).


In Florida, Aggravated Assault is a third degree felony, with penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years probation, and a $5,000.00 fine.

The range of punishments can increase substantially, to include mandatory prison, where a firearm is discharged during the course of an incident.

Defenses to Aggravated Assault

Aggravated Assault can be a highly defendable charge.  Some of the more common defenses include:

Contact an Attorney

If you have been accused of Aggravated Assault in Jacksonville or the surrounding counties, contact Hussein & Webber, PL for a free consultation.