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In Florida, What Does the State Have to Prove for Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer?

In Florida, an assault is an intentional verbal or physical threat to commit violence upon another person in such a way that it is apparent that the person making the threat has the ability to carry it out and the victim reasonably fears that the violence is imminent. An assault is a misdemeanor crime in Florida. However, it can become an aggravated assault, a serious felony, if a deadly weapon is used or the assault is made with the intent to commit a felony. When the victim is a police officer, or any number of other public employees, the crime and potential penalties become more serious.

An aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer charge often comes up in the police chase context. One question that arises is whether the defendant intended to threaten the police officer or was just trying to get away. If the former, then an aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer charge may be valid. If the defendant was just trying to escape and did not intend to threaten the police officer, the aggravated assault on a police officer charge may still be a viable charge.

In order for the state to prove an aggravated assault on a police officer charge, or any assault for that matter, the state does not have to prove that the defendant intended to commit violence against the victim. The state only has to prove that the defendant intentionally made the threat, either by words or actions, that was substantially certain to put the victim in fear of violence. Therefore, in the police chase context where the police cars are chasing the defendant or have him blocked off, if a defendant accelerates a car in the direction of a police officer, with no intent to strike the police officer but just to get away, the defendant may be charged with aggravated assault on a police officer if the police officer was in reasonable fear of being hit by the defendant’s car.