Assault charges have various degrees of seriousness in Wellington, ranging from simple threats, inappropriate sexual advances to threats of serious bodily injuries, along with the imminent threat of being able to commit the actual assault. Words alone, without the apparent ability to carry out the threat or act of harm, are not usually considered criminal acts. Assaults reach into both misdemeanor and felony categories in Florida criminal law. If you are facing assault charges of any degree, speak with a Wellington assault lawyer as soon as possible. Contact a qualified criminal attorney to begin planning your defense.
Defining Common Assault Offenses
Florida follows many other states in defining what is and is not an assault. Proving a criminal assault charge requires the prosecution to satisfy the two legal components that comprise an assault. The act must first be intentional and wrongful. These require using threatening words or acts that causes the threatened person to be fearful of impending violence. Words alone that a person does not accompany with a threatening act, such as raising a fist or reaching for a weapon, do not qualify as assault.
A threat and the accompanying act must have caused concern in a person that violence or bodily contact would happen imminently. Someone facing these charges should speak with a Wellington assault lawyer about how to proceed.
What Are Battery Offenses?
The phrase assault and battery is common in the public vernacular, but in the legal sense they are two connected but unique concepts. Battery is the physical and intentional contact involved in an assault. In order to prove a battery, the State Attorney needs to prove that the contact did occur, that the contact was an intentional act, and that it was unwanted. It can be critical for the accused to get a better understanding of the charges against them by speaking with a Wellington assault lawyer.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony Assaults and Battery
The three degrees of seriousness for assault and battery recognized by Wellington and Florida law are simple, aggravated, and felony. A simple assault is an attempt to cause harm, successful or not. Aggravated assault, with enhanced punishment, rests on several factors such as:
- The seriousness of the injury
- Whether they used a deadly weapon
- If the person they allegedly assailed was a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical practitioner
- Whether the person’s intention was to cause harm
The state may also charge a felony crime if someone has a record of battery.
Available Defenses for Assault Charges
A Wellington assault lawyer knows that these cases can be complex because of the various degrees of potential circumstances and the seriousness of the injuries. Self-defense is the most commonly used defense, but for it to apply, the alleged victim must experience a threat of force and a reasonable fear of injury or death. They also must not have provoked the assailant in any way or have had an opportunity to escape. Related defenses can be structured around protecting others or personal property.
Wellington’s Sentencing Structure for Assault and Battery
Simple assaults are second-degree misdemeanor crimes punishable by 60 days in county jail, six months of probation and a $500 fine. Aggravated assault and felony battery are third-degree felonies that could carry a five-year prison sentence, a $5,000 fine and five years of probation. Second-degree felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
What is the Pretrial Procedure?
The State Attorney’s office files an Information (charging document) outlining the basic elements of its case and schedules a pretrial conference. The Defense may bring motions to suppress certain evidence argued to be illegally obtained or for other reasons, as well as motions establishing the parameters of the Trial. They may also routinely question and investigate the accusing witness.
Deciding to Accept a Plea Bargain
In many criminal cases, the prosecutor will offer to change the original offense to a lesser crime that carries a shorter sentence. Plea bargains help to reduce the Court’s caseload and avoid the time and expense of trials, but the decision on whether to take one is entirely up to the individual charged. If you are facing an assault charge, you do not need to face it alone. A Wellington assault lawyer will help protect your rights and obtain the best possible result for you.