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When a person is accused of an act of violence against another person, they can be arrested and charged with Battery. Depending on the details of the case, Florida prosecutors can charge a defendant with simple Battery or Aggravated Battery.
Our society takes criminal acts of violence, such as Battery, very seriously. If you are convicted of a Battery charge in Florida, you could face severe penalties. In addition, you will be labeled a violent felon, which could have lifelong repercussions, including difficulty finding a job and trouble renting a home.
The penalties for Battery charges can drastically increase if there is evidence of aggravating factors. This can include who the Battery incident was against, if any weapons were used, or if the violent offense resulted in serious injuries. If you have been arrested for a Battery offense, hiring a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney could result in your charges being reduced or even dismissed.
A common misconception is that Battery and Assault are the same charges. A Misdemeanor Assault in Florida is the threat of violence against a person when there is an apparent ability to carry out that threat. The person engaging in the assault must appear to the victim to be able to commit such a threat to them, and the victim must fear an incoming danger from the accused; however, no actual violence or harm is necessary to press charges of misdemeanor assault.
A Battery charge, however, requires that violence has occurred. Under Florida Statutes § 784.03 Battery occurs when a person:
Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or
Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.
Therefore, although Assault is a threat of violence, Battery is actual violence. A simple Battery charge is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. In Florida, a first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, if you have had a prior conviction of any level of Battery, the charge is then upgraded to a third-degree felony. A felony of the third degree is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Proof of Intent
When a person is charged with simple Battery, it is the responsibility of the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted in a way that constituted a Battery offense. One of the main factors that must be proven in a simple Battery case is the existence of intent.
Intent is defined as the mental objective behind an action. In a criminal case, intent is typically shown through circumstantial evidence such as the acts or knowledge of the accused person.
A person cannot accuse someone of simple Battery for accidental touching, or touching which is incidental to an act that was not meant to make contact with the alleged victim.
In a simple Battery trial, the jury is required to review all the surrounding facts and evidence to determine whether the defendant intentionally hit, struck, or touched the victim in a way that the victim did not want to be hit, struck, or touched.
Mutual Combat and Consent
Another factor to consider in a simple Battery case is the existence of consent. After the victim reports the violent crime, the State must prove that the physical interaction happened against the victim’s will.
To determine the issue of consent, the victim may be required to give a testimony about the incident, in which they would claim that consent was not given for the physical altercation to take place.
One possible defense to use in a simple Battery case is the “mutual combat” defense. This implies that both the defendant and the alleged victim consented to take part in the physical altercation. In other words, both people are at fault for the Battery incident.
For example, two guys are at a bar and start shouting at one another. The two of them start shoving each other, which results in one of the men punching the other. Since the alleged victim proceeded to push the defendant and both engaged and enticed the violence, it is then understood that they consented to be touched as the altercation’s consequence.
Please note, that consent is an objective standard. Meaning that a defendant that subjectively thought that an altercation had started still needs to show that most people would have felt similarly if they had been in that situation.
Also, a party that continues to escalate the situation when the other party stops may not be able to claim this defense. For example, if the parties start shoving each other and one of them tries to de-escalate, the consent could have been seen as withdrawn.
Important Details to Consider with Battery
Let’s say you get into an argument with someone and instead of hitting them directly, you throw an object at their head. Now you’re being charged with Battery. It might seem like a stretch to some, but Florida law indicates that even indirect contact with someone that was acted intentionally can result in criminal charges.
The following are several key elements to consider with simple Battery charges in Florida:
Physical interaction does not have to result in an injury – As long as the victim claims the defendant intentionally touched them without their permission, they can file a report for Battery. The existence of an injury is irrelevant in a simple Battery case.
The use of an object connecting with the victim’s body can result in a Battery charge – Florida Statute Section 784.03 states, “there need not be an actual touching of the victim’s person in order for a Battery to occur, but only a touching of something intimately connected with the victim’s body.” In other words, a person can be charged with simple Battery for hitting or throwing at the victim any of the following possible objects:
Any other object which was either held or attached to the defendant used to intentionally touch the victim.
Indirect contact can also be considered a Battery offense – Any object which is thrown or projected by the defendant can constitute a Battery, even if the contact made is considered indirect contact. It does not matter what the item was, its size, or the fact that an indirect contact was made. As long as the contact is against the will of the victim, it is sufficient for a simple Battery charge.
Additionally, the charges for Battery can increase if the crime was committed against a law enforcement officer, correctional officers, probation officers, accident investigation officers, parking enforcement specialists, and others included in Florida Statutes § 784.07.
Aggravated Battery is a more serious form of a Battery charge. Florida Statutes § 784.045 defines Aggravated Battery as a physical altercation in which there was great bodily harm, permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or the victim was pregnant and the accused knew or should have known of her condition.
A crime is most often considered aggravated if a deadly weapon was used. This also is the case for Aggravated Battery. A deadly weapon under Florida law is any weapon used in a manner likely to produce great bodily harm or death.
The weapon does not have to have come in contact with the victim—so long as the defendant threatened to use a weapon that could likely cause great bodily harm or death they can be charged with Aggravated Battery. Aggravated Battery is a second-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
You can be charged with Aggravated Battery even if your hands did not touch the other person. Aggravated Battery charges can even arise in cases where the accused person intentionally drove into another occupied vehicle.
If the defendant displayed or discharged a firearm during the alleged Battery incident, they may receive enhanced penalties. Under Florida’s 10-20-Life Law, a convicted offense involving a firearm may result in the following mandatory minimum sentences:
Possession of Firearm During the Incident – Even if the defendant did not use the firearm, having a weapon in their possession during a physical altercation resulting in a Battery charge can result in a minimum 10-year term of imprisonment.
Possession of Semi-Automatic Firearm or Machine Gun – Semiautomatic firearms and machine guns are seen as having a higher potential for danger. If the defendant had either of these weapons in their possession at the time of the physical altercation, the Aggravated Battery charge can result in a minimum 15-year term of imprisonment.
Discharge of a Firearm During the Incident – If the defendant shot a firearm during the physical altercation, the Aggravated Battery charge can result in a minimum 20-year term of imprisonment. The firearm does not have to be discharged at the victim—just firing the weapon can result in enhanced penalties.
Discharge of a Firearm which caused Great Bodily Injury or Death – If the defendant shot the firearm during the physical altercation and it resulted in the victim being severely injured or killed, the Aggravated Battery charge can result in a minimum 25-year term of imprisonment.
Being Labeled as a Violent Felony Offender
Any conviction for Battery or Aggravated Battery carries the stigma of being labeled a violent and dangerous criminal. Potential employers may be uncomfortable hiring someone they fear. Landlords may not want to rent to someone who could potentially frighten other tenants. Even your friends and loved ones may look at you in a different light.
If these types of social stigma weren’t enough, there are legal repercussions to being found guilty of Aggravated Battery. This is because certain violent crimes could have you labeled as a Violent Felony Offender. These crimes include Aggravated Battery, Aggravated Battery, Murder, Kidnapping, and Arson, among other charges.
Having this label can prevent a judge from releasing you on bond for a later crime and requires that a hearing be held before dismissing a violation of probation or community control. If the judge finds that the Violent Felony Offender committed any violation other than failing to pay costs, fines, or restitution, then the court is required to hold a hearing to decide if the Violent Felony Offender is a danger to their community before they can impose a sentence.
A violent felony offender of special concern, as defined in this section;
A person who is on felony probation or community control for any offense committed on or after the effective date of this act and who is arrested for a qualifying offense as defined in this section; or
A person who is on felony probation or community control and has previously been found by a court to be a habitual violent felony offender as defined in section 084(1)(b), a three-time violent felony offender as defined in section 775.084(1)(c), or a sexual predator under section 775.21, and who is arrested for committing a qualifying offense as defined in this section on or after the effective date of this act.
This is why it is extremely important to seek legal help from a skilled defense attorney if you or someone you know has been charged with Battery in the state of Florida.
In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove all elements of their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means they must convince the members of the jury that the only thing that could have happened is what they describe, other than a far-fetched or nearly impossible scenario. This must be done for every element of the crime, from the state of mind down to the actual events.
While this sounds and is difficult, Tallahassee prosecutors can and frequently do it. Having a criminal defense lawyer can help build your defense by looking for every weakness in the prosecutor’s case and bringing them to light. Your attorney may be able to have your charges dropped or possibly reduced to a weapons charge.
In some cases, an attorney may be able to prove you were acting in self-defense. Other times an attorney may be able to prove you were protecting others or property from harm. It can be complicated, but a defense may be applicable depending on the specific facts of your case. By looking at the circumstances surrounding the incident and figuring out who initiated the aggression, a skilled attorney may be able to raise an appropriate defense based on your specific circumstances. Other factors to consider include whether the other party reacted appropriately to the situation, understanding what the conflict centered around, and if the defendant’s rights have been violated during the investigation.
The 4th District in Huber v. State stated reaffirmed how voluntary intoxication is a defense to the specific intent crime of Aggravated Battery. While voluntary intoxication is not a complete defense, it specifically negates the necessary mental state of specific intent. This is sometimes brought up during homicides where the prosecution needs to show premeditation. To learn more about Criminal Intent, visit our blog here.
The Florida Supreme Court stated in Reaves v. State that in order to assert the defense of involuntary intoxication, the defendant is required to present evidence of intoxication during the offense. Corroborating, objective evidence is needed to show that the defendant was unable to form the requisite specific intent. The Court further explained how (1) detailed confessions, (2) the defendant’s clear recollection of the facts, (3) deliberate behaviors, or (4) evidence showing the defendant was not intoxicated when the offense was committed can all go to negating a voluntary intoxication defense at trial.
To determine which possible defenses are applicable to your case, we highly advise contacting a skilled defense attorney in your area.
Attorney for Battery Charges in Tallahassee, FL
Violent crime charges have serious consequences. However, an arrest does not always mean that you will be convicted. It is important to have an understanding of the charges you face and knowing you do not have to tackle them alone. If you are charged with Battery or Aggravated Battery, contact a skilled criminal lawyer in Tallahassee.
The experienced Tallahassee criminal defense lawyers at Pumphrey Law will zealously fight for your rights. We will look for holes in the prosecution’s argument and every misstep the police may have made in gathering evidence and arresting you. Our attorneys will use any relevant evidence to seek to get your charges reduced or dismissed.
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.