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How do prosecutors decide between filing simple and aggravated assault charges?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Most jurisdictions, including Florida, have two types of assault charges on the law books: Simple and aggravated. The circumstances surrounding your alleged offense will dictate how prosecutors will charge you.

Understanding the difference between the two charges is an important step in your defense process.

How do prosecutors decide how to charge a defendant?

The prosecution will weigh several factors when deciding whether to charge you with either a simple or an aggravated assault. They’ll first want to determine whether you used a weapon to commit your alleged offense. Your intentions (whether you only tried to scare the victim or actually meant to harm them) may also be part of the equation. 

So, too, could your alleged victim’s identity. Some people belong to protected “classes” of citizens that make assault of any kind an elevated offense. For example, assault on a first responder or a peace officer is almost always treated more harshly under the law than assault involving a private person. If your actions were motivated by the other party’s race, religion or gender, you could also be charged with a hate crime.

How severe the injuries were that your alleged victim suffered may also play a role in helping prosecutors determine whether to charge you with a simple or aggravated assault. The worse your victim’s injuries, the more likely you are to face aggravated assault charges.

What are the penalties for simple assault and aggravated assault?

In Florida, a first conviction for simple assault is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. That brings up to sixty days in jail and a $500 fine. By comparison, an aggravated assault is a third-degree felony that can carry up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Whatever the circumstances of your situation, an assault charge is serious. You need to speak with an experienced defense attorney before you speak to the police.