When it comes to violent crimes in Florida, the details matter. Take the criminal offense of assault, which is an “intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another.” Simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor under Florida law. But if the assault is committed “[w]ith a deadly weapon without intent to kill,” then it is considered aggravated assault, a third-degree felony.
No Exclusive List of “Deadly” Weapons
The aggravated assault law–Section 784.021 of the Florida Statutes–does not actually specify what constitutes a “deadly weapon.” Florida’s model jury instructions for aggravated assault state that something is a deadly weapon “if it is used or threatened to be used in a way likely to produce death or great bodily harm.”
Obviously a firearm of any kind would qualify, as would many knives. But there are other objects, many of which are not designed as weapons, that can be “used in a way likely to produce death or great bodily harm.” This can include anything from a wooden stick to a car.
Even a beer bottle may be a deadly weapon. In a 2003 case, a Florida appeals court affirmed an aggravated assault conviction based on the defendant hitting his friend “in the head with a beer bottle which caused her to lose consciousness,” and produced a visible lump on her head. The defendant argued, unsuccessfully, that the bottle was not a deadly weapon because it was not broken. But the appeals court said the physical state of the bottle was not important. Rather, the jury needed to decide whether the instrument in question was “likely to cause great bodily harm because of the way it is used during the crime.”
Battery & Aggravated Battery
Assault and battery are often lumped together although they are distinct crimes. Simple battery–a first-degree misdemeanor–is when someone “[a]ctually and intentionally strikes touches or strikes another person” against their will, or otherwise “[i]ntentionally causes bodily harm” to them. Similar to aggravated assault, aggravated battery includes battery committed with a “deadly weapon.” Aggravated battery is a second-degree felony in Florida, which carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.
Have You Been Charged With a Violent Crime in Orlando?
Given the significantly harsher penalties for “aggravated” assault or battery, it is important to make sure the prosecution proves all elements of its case. Put another way, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant actually had a deadly weapon at the time of the alleged offense. If the police never recover the alleged weapon, or witnesses cannot reliably describe it, that may be enough to create reasonable doubt for a jury.
A qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney will help ensure that you are treated fairly by the courts. At Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, we have prior experience as prosecutors in Orange and Osceola counties, and we will put that knowledge to work for you. Call us today at 407-377-0150 if you have been charged with a crime and would need to speak with a lawyer right away.