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What is Considered a Deadly Weapon Under Florida Law?

What is Considered a Deadly Weapon Under Florida Law?

In Florida, a deadly weapon is defined as any instrument that can cause great bodily harm or death when used in a threatening manner. Understanding what constitutes a deadly weapon is important, as the use of a deadly weapon can lead to more serious criminal charges. This article will provide an overview of deadly weapon laws in Florida, examples of what is considered a deadly weapon, penalties for crimes involving deadly weapons, and potential defenses.

Definition of Deadly Weapon

Florida Statute 790.001(13) defines a deadly weapon as “any instrument which will likely cause death or great bodily harm when used in the ordinary and usual manner contemplated by its design and construction.” This includes firearms like guns, knives, blunt objects like bats or pipes, and any other item that can inflict lethal injury when used to attack someone.

The key aspects of the definition are:

  • The item is capable of causing death or great bodily injury. Great bodily injury means serious and permanent disfigurement or impairment.
  • The item is used in the manner it was designed or built to be used. For example, a baseball bat can be a deadly weapon when swung at someone, but not when used in a game.
  • There is an intention to use the item as a weapon, even if no injury occurs. Threatening someone with a knife can still be aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

So anything that can plausibly cause serious injury or death when used aggressively against a person can potentially be a deadly weapon under Florida law.

Examples of Deadly Weapons

Some common items that are considered deadly weapons in Florida include:

  • Firearms – Handguns, rifles, shotguns, etc. Any gun, loaded or unloaded, is a deadly weapon when used unlawfully.
  • Knives – Pocket knives, switchblades, hunting knives, and other blades over 3 inches long. Box cutters and razor blades can also be deadly weapons.
  • Blunt objects – Baseball bats, tire irons, golf clubs, pool cues, rocks, bricks, bottles, pipes, sticks, etc.
  • Motor vehicles – When intentionally used to strike a person or run them over.
  • Toxic substances – Acids, poisons, gases like tear gas used unlawfully.
  • Any item that can choke someone – Ropes, chains, scarves.
  • Flammable liquids – Gasoline, lighter fluid, etc. when used to injure.
  • Broken glass, scissors, pens, pencils, keys – When used to stab or slash someone.

So even everyday items can be considered deadly weapons if they are used or threatened to be used in a way likely to cause serious injury or death. The object itself does not have to be inherently dangerous, but must become dangerous based on how it is wielded.

Aggravated Assault vs Aggravated Battery

In Florida, using a deadly weapon during an assault or battery elevates the crime to a more serious felony offense.

  • Aggravated assault is threatening to use force or violence against someone when using a deadly weapon. Simply brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner qualifies.
  • Aggravated battery is actually causing injury to someone using a deadly weapon. There must be physical contact resulting in harm.

So aggravated assault does not require injury, just the appearance of threat. But aggravated battery means the weapon connected and caused damage. Both charges are felonies.

Penalties for Crimes Involving Deadly Weapons

Using a deadly weapon in a crime typically leads to harsher punishments under Florida law. Even simple possession of certain concealed weapons is illegal.

  • Carrying a concealed knife over 4 inches without a permit is a first degree misdemeanor.
  • Carrying a concealed firearm without a permit is a third degree felony.
  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a third degree felony with up to 5 years in prison.
  • Aggravated battery with a deadly weapon is a second degree felony with up to 15 years in prison
  • Armed burglary and armed robbery with a deadly weapon are first degree felonies with up to life in prison.

Mandatory minimum sentences also apply to many crimes involving deadly weapons. For example, aggravated assault with a firearm has a 3 year minimum prison sentence.

The use of a deadly weapon shows criminal intent and willingness to inflict harm. So sentences tend to be tougher as a result.

Defenses Against Deadly Weapon Charges

If you are facing charges involving an alleged deadly weapon, some possible defenses include:

  • Self-defense – Using reasonable force to protect yourself or others against harm. The weapon must be used proportionally to the threat faced.
  • No intent to harm – For example, you may have picked up a weapon in self-defense but never actually threatened to use it. Or it was an accident rather than intentional battery.
  • Not a deadly weapon – Argue that the item used does not meet the legal definition of a deadly weapon. For example, a butter knife may not be capable of lethal injury.
  • Misidentification – You were not the person who used the alleged weapon. Eyewitness mistakes do happen.
  • Intoxication – Too intoxicated to form the intent necessary for an assault or battery crime.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the evidence in your case and decide the best defense strategy. They may be able to negotiate reduced charges or get charges dismissed if the deadly weapon allegations seem unsupported.


Florida takes a broad view of what can be considered a deadly weapon in criminal cases. Many everyday items can qualify if used in a threatening manner capable of inflicting serious injury. Crimes involving deadly weapons lead to mandatory minimum sentences and longer prison terms under Florida law. But an skilled attorney may be able to challenge the weapon allegations or raise an affirmative defense to avoid a conviction. Understanding what constitutes a deadly weapon is important for anyone charged with related offenses.


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