Family Violence Offenses: Assault and Aggravated Assault

Florida Domestic Violence Attorney

Under Florida law, assault and aggravated assault against a family or household member qualifies as domestic violence. Although domestic violence technically falls within the purview of the family courts, in Florida, the favored method of enforcement in such cases is criminal prosecution. As a result, a charge of assault can have serious repercussions on all parties involved. If you or someone you know has been the victim of an assault by a family member, it is imperative that you contact an experienced family law attorney who can advise you on your rights and legal options.

Elements of Assault

In Florida, a person commits the offense of assault when he or she:

  • Makes an intentional, unlawful threat, either by word or by action, to do violence to a family or household member;
  • Has the apparent ability to do so; and
  • Commits an act which creates a well-founded fear in the other person that such violence is imminent.
Elements of Aggravated Assault

An aggravated assault is an assault with a deadly weapon but without the intent to kill or with the intent to commit a felony.

Family or Household Members

Florida’s laws protecting against domestic violence apply to family or household members. Family or household members include:

  • Current or former spouses;
  • Persons related by blood or marriage;
  • Persons currently or formerly residing together as a family, or who have resided together in the past as a family; or
  • Parents who have a child in common.

Except for parents with a child in common, the household members must be currently living together in the same dwelling unit, or must have done so in the past to be considered a family for the purposes of the statute.

Penalties

A person found guilty of assault on a family member has committed a second-degree misdemeanor, which could result in a sentence of up to 60 days in prison and payment of a $500 fine. Aggravated assaults are third-degree felonies and are punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

Due to the domestic nature of the crime, domestic assault defendants will also face the additional mandatory penalties of a minimum of five days in county jail and the imposition of a probationary term lasting one year and requiring attendance at a batterers’ intervention program. Judges also have the ability, when dealing with domestic violence crimes, to sentence a defendant to state prison.

If the victim of an assault had an injunction or restraining order in place against the defendant at the time the crime was committed, the state has the option of prosecuting the violation as a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by imprisonment up to one year.

If you are having a familial dispute, it is vital to seek the advice of an experienced attorney. Since domestic violence charges such as assault have serious consequences for all family members involved, it is important to understand the repercussions of certain actions, as well as any available legal options. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.