Thousands of people across Florida face assault or battery charges every year, but not all of these charges lead to a conviction. If you have been accused of assault, it may seem easier to plead guilty to charges than fight for your rights in court. Unfortunately, a guilty plea could permanently prevent you from putting the incident behind you.
Charges of assault and battery carry long prison sentences, serious, substantial fines, and irreparable damage to your reputation. Worst of all, conviction creates a criminal record that will affect your career prospects, living situation, and even your personal relationships. With so much at stake, it's vital that you speak with Attorney George Reres as soon as possible. Contact us today to tell us more in your confidential consultation.
The Elements of Assault and Battery in Florida
Although assault and battery are sometimes used interchangeably, they are actually two separate offenses with vastly different meanings. They are often grouped together because an assault (threat) may be followed by battery (physical contact) in the same incident.
Assault is a consciously-made threat of violence on another person. In order to constitute assault, the offender must have an apparent ability to do harm, and have done something to create well-founded fear in another person that the threatened violence is imminent.
Battery is the intentional striking, slapping, hitting, touching, groping, or any other form of physical contact on another person against that person's will. Battery does not have to result in physical harm in order for a charge to be brought.
Potential Charges and Penalties for Assault and Battery in Florida
Punishments for assault and battery can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the offense. Penalties may also be increased or mitigated depending on your past criminal history and the number of offenses committed during the incident.
- Simple Assault. Assault that has no aggravating factors is generally referred to as simple assault. In most cases, it is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor and carries up to 60 days in jail, up to six months of probation, and fines up to $500.
- Aggravated Assault. Charges of aggravated assault may be brought when the defendant was carrying a deadly weapon or had intent to commit a felony. Aggravated assault is a third-degree felony that carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a $5,000 fine.
- Assault With a Deadly Weapon. Florida law requires judges to impose mandatory minimum sentences in convictions involving certain factors. For example, the use of a firearm or destructive device carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison. If the firearm used was a semi-automatic or machine gun, the minimum sentence jumps to 15 years in prison. If the firearm was discharged during the incident, the mandatory minimum sentence is 20 years in prison. Finally, if the discharge of a firearm caused death or great bodily harm, a conviction will result in a minimum prison sentence of 25 years with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
- Sexual Assault. Florida laws prohibit sexual assault both on persons in a domestic or dating relationship as well as acts committed by sexual predators. Sexual assault or battery charges often lead to restraining orders or domestic violence injunctions.
- Battery. Simple battery is a first-degree misdemeanor, and can result in up to one year in prison or up to one year of probation. The victim may also seek restitution from the offender if the attack resulted in injury.
- Aggravated Battery. If a battery charge involves serious bodily harm (including permanent disability or disfigurement), an attack on a pregnant woman, or the use of a weapon, it may be charged as aggravated battery. This is a second-degree felony, carrying up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Sexual Battery. Under Florida law, rape is classified as "sexual battery." A conviction could result in a wide range of penalties, including 15 to 30 years imprisonment and mandatory registration as a sex offender. If the victim is under the age of 12, penalties may be increased to life imprisonment or even the death penalty.
- Domestic Battery. A domestic battery offense involves an attack on the defendant's partner, spouse, parent, relative, children, or someone else with a close relationship to the attacker. Commonly called domestic violence, this offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
- Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer. Any attack on a police officer, fireman, or security guard is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
What Does the Prosecution Need to Prove to Convict Someone of Assault or Battery?
The prosecutor has the burden of proving all elements of the charges against you in order to get a conviction. In an assault case, this means presenting evidence that shows all of the following elements:
- You made an intentional threat or attempt to harm another person. Saying something like "I’m going to punch you,” isn’t assault by itself, but may constitute assault if accompanied by a threatening action (like the offender pulling his fist back).
- The other person had good reason to be apprehensive of your actions. The other person must have reason to believe that a threatened harmful act was actually going to occur.
- Your threat placed the other person in fear of imminent harm. The other person must have reason to believe that an attack from you was imminent. For example, if you issued a threat over the phone from miles away, you were unlikely to cause imminent harm.
Are There Any Valid Defenses to Assault or Battery Charges?
There are multiple possible defenses to assault and battery charges, and the right one for you will depend on the specifics of the incident. You may have been acting in self-defense, trying to prevent damage to your property, or attempting to protect others around you. Alternatively, you may have had no intention of doing harm, accidentally struck or touched someone else, or were deliberately provoked by the alleged victim. Once we know what happened, we can begin building a strong case on your behalf.
Don’t Try to Fight a Charge of Assault and Battery Alone
If you or someone you love has been charged with assault, battery, or both offenses, we can build a solid defense based on the facts of your case in your first phone call. Call us at (954) 523-3811 or fill out our contact form to get answers at no cost to you.