In the state of Florida, battery is defined as an intentional and actual striking and touching of another person under statute 784.03. This action is done against another’s will and considered non-consensual. It is also an act of intentionally causing bodily harm to someone. Simple battery is charged as a misdemeanor.
If charged with battery in Florida, you want an experienced criminal attorney on your side to avoid harsh consequences a conviction of this charge would carry.
Required Elements in a Battery Charge
In a simple battery charge, intent has to be proven. Before you can be convicted under Florida law for committing battery, it has to be established by the prosecution that you intended to strike the other person, and this person knew you were going to touch or hit them. If you were to accidentally touch another or a touch results where you had not intended to make contact, it is insufficient cause to establish battery.
Assault and battery are often used together; however, they are two different crimes. The charge of assault means you’ve threatened to harm another, and this person was in imminent fear that you were going to cause them harm. Assault does not involve any form of contact with the other person, and the prosecution must prove you ‘intended’ to threaten the victim. The intended threat must have occurred through intimidating actions, threatening gestures, or threatening words. The prosecution must also be able to prove you had the ability to carry out the threat which is why the victim had a reasonable fear.
Battery is a crime of making physical contact with another against their will. The prosecution must prove you purposely struck or touched the victim in order to convict you of this charge. It must also be proven the victim did not give you consent to make physical contact with them. Florida law contains several types of battery you could be charged with:
- Simple assault is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor. If convicted of this charge means you could be facing up to sixty days of jail time and fine not to exceed $500.
- Aggravated assault would be a third-degree felony. If convicted of this charge, you face up to five years in prison and fine not to exceed $5,000.
- Simple battery is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. The prosecution can ask for a sentence of up to one year if convicted with a fine not to exceed $1,000.
- Felony battery is a third-degree felony charge, and if convicted, you face up to five years in prison with a fine not to exceed $5,000.
- Aggravated battery is a second-degree felony charge with a possible prison sentence of up fifteen years if convicted with a fine not to exceed $10,000.
The prosecution is granted permission under Florida law to ask for increased punishment if a defendant has prior felony convictions on their criminal records, or if the defendant can be considered a career criminal. These increased punishments will be added to Florida’s maximum penalties established for each form of assault or battery.
Defense Against Battery Charges
Depending on your circumstances and the facts in your case, there are several defenses available against a battery charge. These cases range from the extremely complex to the very straight-forward. Assuming there are the basic elements of an assault or battery to your charge there a number of ways your attorney can defend you.
Self-defense is one of the most common defenses when a person is charged with assault or battery. In order for your attorney to prove self-defense, you must show:
- You were genuinely fearful of an unlawful force or threat made against you.
- There was an honestly perceived threat of harm made against you. It must be established there was a reasonable basis for your fear.
- You made no provocation for the threat against you and intended no harm to the victim.
- You had no reasonable manner in which to escape harm against you during the situation.
An example of self-defense against battery charges
You are out in public and another person confronts you by shouting threats and then lunging towards you in what looks like an action that could cause you serious harm. Because you are reasonably frightened this person means to hurt you, you strike out and hit the person and then exit the area while the person is responding to your strike. Your attorney can reasonably show you acted in self-defense as you were rightfully afraid of personal harm to yourself.
In the same scenario above, you begin shouting back at the person who is yelling at you, and the two of you strike each other, it would be challenging to show self-defense. Because you took part in escalating the situation which provoked a fight, self-defense would not be a good counter-measure against your battery charges.
Using self-defense as a means of dismissing your battery charge has a number of limitations. Even if it is proven you were acting in a manner to defend yourself against harm that does not mean you are entirely ‘off-the-hook’ legally. Depending on the amount of force you used in striking the person you report as threatening, you could still be found guilty of battery if physically you were no match to the victim. Even if all the elements are present which outline a self-defense plea, depending on your age, weight, size, and other physical characteristics, you could still be found guilty of battery if your opponent was not matched to you.
Self-defense of another is a similar defense against battery charges. The difference is you were not protecting yourself, but rather another person you felt to be in great danger. You must prove reasonable grounds for your fear in order to use this as a defense. The same limitations as ‘self-defense’ apply to self-defense of another.
Defending your property in a battery charge can be valid if you can prove the assailant was illegally taking a personal possession away from you. Each state has separate laws regarding the defense of protecting personal property in battery cases.
- Florida law allows for the defense of property as a valid justification of using non-deadly force. If you are protecting your vehicle, home, land, or other personal property, Florida recognizes your right to defend said property. However, you are not allowed to use deadly force when protecting property interests by themselves.
- If you are in your home or vehicle, Section 776.013 Florida Statutes says the law will assume you had a reasonable fear of bodily harm or death if the assailant unlawfully remained or entered or attempted to remove you against your will. You are within legal rights to defend yourself if this person used force to enter your vehicle or home illegally and you reasonably believed you were in danger.
This form of defense against a battery charge will allow for you to exert reasonable force to defend your property if you can prove:
- The assailant was trespassing or wrongfully interfering with your personal property or real estate property.
- The property is legally in your name, the name of your immediate family, or is a property you have been legally assigned to take care of.
- You reasonably believed the use of force was the only solution to terminate the other person’s actions and stop their wrongful behavior.
Consent is another defense against a battery charge. This defense is effective when a person has consented voluntarily to an act, then claims your actions constituted battery. You and your attorney will have to find evidence of the ‘consent’ in this case. Eyewitnesses to the event would be a great benefit in your defense.
Your defense will also have to show you did not exceed the permission granted by the victim which became harmful actions on your part. Consent is a difficult defense when charged with battery as the courts tend to scrutinize consent in these charges very closely. Your attorney will have to prove your actions did not ‘intend’ to harm the victim and did not violate public policy.
What is Considered Reasonable Force in a Battery Charge?
In the state of Florida, under section 776.12, it states a person is justified in using self-defense against a battery charge if they used reasonable force. The term reasonable force refers to how much force is used and is necessary to protect yourself or your property. You can use reasonable force to defend yourself against a violent attack. If it is determined you’ve used excessive force while protecting yourself, it can no longer be used as a means of defense in your battery case.
Florida Simple Battery Charges
Florida Statute 784.03 states that simple battery is considered a misdemeanor. This charge applies when you touch or strike another person without their consent or against their will. It also covers the intentional harm to another’s body. Battery can be charged if you have simply grabbed another’s arm, or have thrown an object at them which resulted in striking them. There does not have to be an injury; the fact that you’ve stuck, touched, or hit them with an object constitutes simple battery.
- Penalties for the crime of battery fall as a first-degree misdemeanor and are less serious than a felony conviction. The penalties include one year of jail time, up to one year of probation and up to $1,000 in fines. The judge presiding over your case can impose any combination of these penalties if you are convicted. Prosecutors in Florida take the charge of battery very seriously and are especially harsh during their attempt to convict you. Having a criminal defense attorney working with you will help you get through this complicated legal situation with a more favorable outcome.
Under Florida law, you can only be convicted if the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that each element of battery occurred in your actions. Your charges will proceed as a simple battery if there are no other factors present in your case. Factors that could change your charges include if there was a weapon involved in your actions or if the injuries inflicted are deemed as serious. If these factors are present, the prosecution can then bring felony charges against you.
Defending simple battery will depend on the specifics of your case. Some of the common defense strategies used include lack of intent, self-defense, interactive game/fight combat, lack of evidence, or consent. Any of these circumstances could be relevant to your case. Check with your attorney to establish a strong defense to these charges and work on a reduced charge or dismissal.
Domestic Battery by Strangulation
Florida Statute 784.041 relates to Domestic Battery by Strangulation which occurs when you intentionally and knowingly hinder or obstruct another's breathing or circulation of blood. This act would have to be performed on an immediate family member and is completed by putting pressure on their neck or throat, or blocking their mouth or nose in a manner that creates a risk to their well-being or causes them great bodily harm.
This type of battery charge is taken very seriously in Florida and is prosecuted very aggressively. You will need an experienced criminal defense attorney working with you if charged with Domestic Battery by Strangulation. The courts will assign a specially trained prosecutor to handle your case, and you will want a strong defense team working to get you a fair and positive outcome against these charges.
Domestic battery by strangulation often ends with false accusations as a result of a spiteful partner, and by having an experienced attorney, you can avoid a mandatory jail sentence, permanent criminal record, mandatory counseling, and possible deportation. This crime is a third-degree felony and could put you behind bars for up to five years with five years of probation once you are out. You can also be fined an amount not to exceed $5,000.
Domestic battery by strangulation is a level six offense in the state of Florida. The Florida criminal punishment code is a scoring system the judge can use to determine minimum allowable sentences for all felony crimes. What this means in relation to a sentence is the point value of your crime is added using the CPC Scoresheet, and if the total sentencing points come up to 44 or more, you will face a mandatory prison sentence. If your score is less than 44 points, you could be eligible for community control or probation.
Defense against these charges will require a more subtle approach as there are often very personal and deep issues involved, but they can include:
- Mental health problems
- Divorce proceedings
- Substance, drug, or alcohol abuse
- Disputes over child custody
- Family members that are in a serious conflict
Battery charges are extremely serious and need a strong defense, or you could be facing forfeiture of your rights to ever own a gun, not allowed to carry a concealed weapon permit, required to attend a 29-week batterer intervention program and your record will never be eligible for expungement or being sealed. These charges are collateral consequences applied to the statutory penalties attached to a conviction.
Domestic Violence Battery
Domestic Violence Battery defined under Florida Statute 741.28 constitutes the striking or touching a member of your family, a member of your household, or a domestic partner without their consent or against their will.
This charge is taken very seriously in the state of Florida and the prosecution will be specially trained to change your charges into a conviction. Even though there is a high rate of these cases becoming dismissed due to false accusations, do not attempt to resolve a domestic battery charge without the help of a criminal attorney. Without proper representation, you could be facing a conviction resulting in:
- Your criminal record never being expunged or sealed
- Mandatory counseling
- Possible deportation
- Mandatory jail time
These consequences are on top of the penalties you will face if convicted. Domestic violence battery is a first-degree misdemeanor and could result in up to one year in jail, one year of probation and a fine up to $1,000. There are also collateral consequences attached to a conviction of domestic battery which could include:
- If an injury occurred during your charge, you could face a minimum mandatory five days in jail
- Loss of your right to own a gun
- Loss of or never being able to have a concealed weapon permit
- Attendance at a 29-week batterers intervention program which is mandatory
Defending a domestic battery charge can be difficult as there are a lot of emotions involved in these cases. Many of the defenses available include child custody issues, substance, drug or alcohol abuse, divorce proceedings, mental health, and members of the family being spiteful.
Felony Battery under Florida Statute 784.041(1)
Felony battery in the state of Florida is defined under statute 784.041(1) as willfully or intentionally striking or touching another person without their consent or against their will. The action will have caused permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or other great bodily harm. Misdemeanor battery and aggravated battery differ in regards to the degree of harm inflicted on the victim.
No injury is needed to be charged with a misdemeanor battery; however, with the felony battery, there needs to be a significant injury to the victim. If convicted of felony battery, you will face up to five years in prison followed by probation and a fine of up to $5,000. This charge is also assigned as a level six offense in Florida’s criminal punishment code.
If facing these charges, you need a criminal defense attorney to plead your defense of insufficient intent, self-defense, consent, or lack of knowledge related to the victim's condition. In defense of felony battery, you and your attorney can argue the contact was consensual, an apparent act of self-defense was necessary or other consent examples.
Aggravated Battery Charges in Florida
Florida Statute 784.045(1) defines the charge of aggravated battery as a willful and intentional battery with a deadly weapon and intent to cause bodily harm. This statute also covers battery against a pregnant woman.
The crime of aggravated battery if convicted is a second-degree felony. If convicted, you will face up to fifteen years in prison, followed by fifteen years of probation and a fine of up to $10,000. Aggravated battery in the state of Florida is considered a level 7 offense. This means the judge presiding over your case is required to sentence an offender to a minimum of twenty-one months in prison, but can also impose the fifteen-year statutory maximum sentence for prison time.
You and your attorney can work on your defense with one of these possibilities. Specific defense to a charge of aggravated battery includes lack of knowledge of pregnancy, self-defense, consent, and insufficient intent.
One main element on the charge of aggravated battery is to prove your contact was non-consensual. A legal defense could also be used if two people engage in a fight and the party you were engaged with gets hurt more seriously than they expected, and files charges against you. Because they consented to enter this fight with you, they cannot charge you with battery as the contact was consensual.
Another defense that may apply to your charges is insufficient intent. A charge of battery is determined by the circumstances surrounding your touch or contact with the alleged victim. For example, if you were assisting an older adult, even though they told you they do not want your help, your act of touching them to help them cannot be considered battery.
When an unintentional act causes an injury such as someone throwing a tantrum, and they throw an object which hits another, or their arms and legs come into contact with another causing them harm, it cannot be considered battery. The act was not an intention to cause harm and therefore cannot be charged as a crime that is defined as having the ‘intent’ to hurt another.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
When facing charges of battery in Florida, you need legal representation. Arnold Law is here for you with years of experience in defending those charged with battery in the Florida court system. We understand the complex laws attached to these charges and know how to work through them. Call our criminal lawyer at 904-264-3627 and let us help you protect your future.