Reading the term “verbal assault” may conjure up images of someone yelling something at another person. However, this criminal charge involves more than that. It can encompass things such as libel, defamation, or even extortion.
In Florida, verbal assault is a second-degree felony. You may be facing this charge if you are alleged to have made threats of injury to another person, extortion, threatening to make someone do something against their will, threatening to take money from someone, or making a threat to a school.
Verbal Assault in Florida
Verbal assault may seem confusing, though the laws are quite clear. For example, if you tell a subordinate at your office to step up their productivity or they’ll be sorry, this is not considered verbal assault.
The same is true if you told someone you were going to kill them. However, if you said that while you were holding a weapon, you could be charged with verbal assault.
What if you show up to a fine dining restaurant without the proper attire and the restaurant turns you away? If you get angry and tell them you’re going to blow up the building, they may panic and call the police. This could lead to verbal assault charges, though it would be hard for a prosecutor to prove that you had the knowledge or means to actually make a detonation device, let alone go through with your threat.
Another example of verbal assault charges is when you use private information to take advantage of a situation. You may have seen your boss cheating on his wife and told him that you’ll rat him out if he doesn’t give you money. It’s classic extortion, a felony charge.
So, while verbal threats do involve threatening words, they also involve intent to harm that person or their family.
Is Verbal Assault the Same as Verbal Abuse?
Verbal assault and verbal abuse are often used interchangeably, but they mean different things. The key difference lies in the existence of a relationship. Verbal abuse tends to involve shaming or the degradation of another person. It is not considered assault though unless there is a real threat with some form of action.
When you are facing a verbal assault charge, the prosecution will try to prove that you intended to follow through with it or that the person being threatened reasonably believed you. Additionally, they will also need to prove that you could follow through with the threats you allegedly made.
It’s difficult for prosecutors to prove verbal assault. If there are recorded conversations, written documents, or even social media messages or posts, it could show you had intent. An experienced defense attorney can work to show that any alleged threats were not serious or realistic and help clear your name.