Assault and battery are two separate crimes that often go hand in hand in Florida prosecutions and are widely confused with one another by those who are unfamiliar with the intricacies of the state’s criminal law. It is important to remember that these are two different crimes which require separate elements of proof in order for the person charged to be convicted. There are also various levels of each crime. In JP v. State, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals explains that the crime of aggravated assault requires a showing of assault with a deadly weapon.
JP, a juvenile, was charged with two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly pointing a BB gun and throwing rocks at another individual. The count related to the BB gun was later dropped. Meanwhile, according to the Third District, testimony at trial indicated that he was not actually throwing, but instead “flicking” quarter-sized rocks at the victim. JP was found delinquent in the remaining aggravated assault count following trial.
The Third District reversed the decision on appeal, however, finding that the evidence was not sufficient to uphold an aggravated assault charge. “To prove aggravated assault, the State had to show that J.P. committed an assault ‘with a deadly weapon without intent to kill,’” the court explained. Under Section 784.021, Florida Statutes (2012), a “deadly weapon” is one that will or is likely to cause death or great bodily harm when used normally or otherwise.
“The items at issue here, quarter-sized rocks, are not ordinarily likely to cause death or great bodily harm, the court concluded. “And based on the evidence adduced below, the rocks were not used in a way likely to cause great bodily harm and in fact caused no harm,” it added.
Nevertheless, the court found that there was enough evidence to show that J.P. committed assault. Under Florida law, assault is an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to another person, which causes apprehension of imminent bodily harm. In reaching this decision, the court cited the Second District’s 2008 decision in D.B.B. v. State. In that case, the appeals court held that while a defendant who threw a bicycle at another person was not likely to cause great bodily harm, he was guilty of assault. Similarly, the Third District ruled in Rogan v. State in 1967 that the defendant didn’t commit aggravated assault by throwing a flower pot through a window, but the evidence was sufficient to support an assault conviction.
This case is yet another reminder that prosecutors must prove each and every element of a crime in order to secure a conviction. If you have been charged with a crime in Florida, contact the South Florida criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine. We have significant experience representing clients in a wide variety of criminal cases, from DUI and drug possession to weapons and assault charges. From our offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we represent clients throughout the region, including in Hialeah, Boca Raton and Pompano Beach.
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