If you have been arrested for aggravated assault in Pinellas County, you may have already realized that the charges are serious. Law enforcement and the Office of the State Attorney are very aggressive in charging and prosecuting these cases.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), there were 25,739 arrests in Florida for aggravated assault in 2018. Men were arrested in 76% of all of the aggravated assault cases statewide. In the Sixth Circuit, which comprises Pinellas and Pasco Counties, there were 1,688 arrests.
My criminal defense practice is devoted solely to Pinellas County cases. I have handled countless aggravated assault cases in my career. I choose to practice law solely in Pinellas County because I believe it gives me and my clients an advantage. For example, I will know the prosecutor and the judge on every case. I know generally what to expect and what my clients will be asked to do to remedy the situation. I also know the defenses that can be employed for aggravated assault charges. Therefore, staying in one county allows me to specialize. In fact, I recommend to every criminal defendant to hire a lawyer who is located in the county where the charges originated.
This article is dedicated to providing information to those who are either under investigation or have been arrested for aggravated assault in Pinellas County.
What is Aggravated Assault?
Aggravated assault is crime found in Florida Statute § 784.021. Under the statute, it must be proven that a defendant (1) threatened someone by words or actions, (2) at the time the threat was made, the defendant appeared to have the ability to carry out the threat, (3) the threat caused fear in the victim, and (4) was made with a deadly weapon or intent to commit a felony. (from a practical standpoint, aggravated assault charges are almost always based on threat from someone holding a deadly weapon).
What Is Considered to Be a Deadly Weapon for Aggravated Assault?
Unfortunately, deadly weapon is a broad term. Of course, a firearm or knife is a deadly weapon and is the most common basis of the charge. But, it can also be a car, a beer bottle, a baseball bat, or any other object that can be used to cause injuries that could kill. I have seen law enforcement liberally apply the definition of a deadly weapon in order to arrest people for this serious crime.
What Are the Penalties for an Aggravated Assault Charge in Pinellas?
Aggravated assault is a third degree felony. That means that the maximum penalties are up to $5,000 fine, up to 5 years of prison, up to 5 years of probation, and possibly restitution.
It should be noted that aggravated assault with a firearm used to carry a 3 year minimum mandatory prison sentence up until July 1, 2016. But, at that time, the minimum mandatory prison requirement was removed in Florida Statute § 775.087. But, simply because the prison requirement was removed, it does not prevent the State or the Judge from issuing a prison sentence. I included this update simply as an example about how serious the crime of aggravated assault with a firearm is taken.
What Are the Defenses to an Aggravated Assault Charge?
There are many defenses to aggravated assault charges because people don’t normally just threaten others for no reason. There is usually some shared blame on behalf of the victim. This is especially true in road rage cases when both parties are engaged in the altercation. In addition, the charge does not cause any injuries in the victim (except potentially mental or emotional), so restitution is rarely applicable. The following are some defenses that can be employed in the case:
As a preliminary matter, the State must be able to prove that a defendant actually carried a deadly weapon. When it is a he said/she said situation, this can be difficult. When the weapon cannot be found, that is even more of a challenge to be able to prove. So, the first step in any defense is to evaluate whether there is actually a prima facie case of aggravated assault.
If the weapon and the threat can be proven by the existence of an independent witness or video, then the next step is to employ defenses. A common defense is self-defense. You may also be able to argue that you were justifiably defending another person, defending property, or perhaps even Stand Your Ground.
How Does the Court System Work in Pinellas County?
An arrest for aggravated assault is not a formal charge. It is simply an arrest based on probable cause. After the arrest, the case will be referred to the State Attorney for investigation. During the investigation, the prosecutor will meet with the arresting officer, the victim and review all of the police reports and evidence in the case. It is during this stage that I will normally speak to the prosecutor about the possibility of dismissing the charges or reducing the charges. As a criminal defense attorney, I will usually have my clients enroll in some form of voluntary anger management and present mitigating evidence about my client’s background. The better a defendant’s criminal record, the better our chances at catching a break. At the conclusion of the investigation, the State Attorney will decide what, if any, charges to file. If a charge is filed, it is done in a formal charging document called an Information. This document requires a defendant to go to court to answer for the charges.
Contact a Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorney
In my career I have had very good success in defending Pinellas County aggravated assault charges. While they are serious and potentially carry harsh penalties, there are normally defenses that an experienced criminal defense attorney can use to your advantage. I believe that only representing defendants in Pinellas County gives my clients an advantage because the prosecutors and judges can trust the information that I give them to be accurate. My clients do not go into court unprepared. If you or a loved one is under investigation or has been arrested for aggravated assault please contact me for a free consultation.