A bill signed into law on February 24, 2016 will change Florida law in a significant way regarding the crime of aggravated assault with a firearm. As of July 1, 2016, aggravated assault with a firearm will NO LONGER CARRY A THREE YEAR MINIMUM MANDATORY PRISON SENTENCE.
The statute which specifies minimum mandatory prison sentences, Florida Statute 775.087, has only been modified regarding aggravated assaut with a firearm, leaving in place a series of other crimes where use of a firearm during the commission of a felony still triggers certain minimum mandatory prison sentences. In other words, you can still be sentenced to a minimum mandatory prison sentence if you use a firearm during certain felonies, but not if the charge is aggravated assault with a firearm.
Aggravated assault in Florida is a third degree felony punishable by up to a maximum of five years in state prison, a punishment which the July 2016 amendment does not change. So what exactly is an aggravated assault according to Florida law? It is defined by Florida Statute 784.021 as an assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, or with an intent to commit a felony. The key language which makes it a felony is used of a “deadly weapon.” Needless to say, the law in Florida is clear that a firearm is a deadly weapon.
The significance of the new amendment is that if you are charged with aggravated assault with a firearm after July 1, 2016, you are no longer facing a mandatory state prison sentence if convicted. That does not mean that you can’t be sentenced to Florida state prison, since it is still a serious felony charge. The sentence you will receive if convicted is determined by many different factors, including your previous criminal history, as well as the specific facts of the case. In Florida on felony charges, we use what is known as a “scoresheet”, which is a form which uses a points system to calculate what the appropriate sentence should be if convicted.
If you are charged with an aggravated assault with a firearm which occurred before July 1, 2016, the amendment to the statute does not benefit you. You are still facing a minimum mandatory prison sentence if convicted of the crime. Even if you continue your trial date beyond July 1, it does not matter, as the law only looks at the date of the crime, not the date of conviction.
The new law does not change your right to claim self defense, and Florida’s infamous Stand Your Grand law has been left intact by the amendment.
Over the past 28 years as a former prosecutor as well as being a defense attorney since 1996, I have dealt with an endless number of cases where a person has been charged with aggravated assault with a firearm. Probably the most common examples I have handled involve domestic violence cases where one of the parties threatens the other with a firearm. Another common scenario involves road rage cases where an occupant of one vehicle brandishes a firearm. I have also seen a large number of incidents between feuding neighbors where a firearm is displayed.
If you have any questions about aggravated assault with a firearm, how scoresheets are used in Florida felony cases, or you would like to discuss the facts of your particular case and its possible defenses, I offer a free no obligation consultation by calling me at (941) 954-5333.