When an individual is accused of acting out in a violent manner towards another person, they could be arrested and charged with battery. If the incident involved more severe elements, the person may be charged with aggravated battery.
The state of Florida prosecutes violent crimes harshly. If you or someone you love is convicted of a battery crime, there are harsh penalties including paying high-cost fines, being sentenced to imprisonment, probation, or both. In addition, being labeled as a violent offender can lead to lifelong challenges with finding a career or a place to live.
Evidence of aggravating factors can drastically increase the penalties for a battery offense. This includes whom the battery offense was targeted against, the existence of any weapons or firearms, or if the violent incident resulted in serious damages or injuries. If you have been accused of a battery offense, working with a knowledgeable South Florida criminal defense attorney can help work towards getting your charges reduced or dismissed.
Definition of Battery
In the state of Florida, a person can be charged with either simple or aggravated battery. Florida Statute Section 784.03 defines the offense of simple battery when a person:
- Intentionally touches or strikes another person against their will; or
- Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.
Simple battery is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor. A first-degree misdemeanor in Florida carries penalties of up $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, and/or probation. If the alleged offender has a prior conviction, then the charges may be upgraded to a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony in Florida carries penalties of up to $5,000 in fines, up to five years in prison and/or probation.
Some may confuse a misdemeanor assault with a simple battery charge, however the two are different. A person may be charged with a misdemeanor assault if they have been accused of threatening violence against another person. In order to prove that a misdemeanor assault has occurred, the person who instigated the incident must have caused the victim fear in which they believed the threat could have been carried out by the offender in an imminent manner. In other words, there is no violence required for charges of misdemeanor assault. On the other hand, a battery charge implies that contact has occurred.
Importance of Intent
After a person has been charged with simple battery, the State has the responsibility to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted in a way which is considered a battery offense. One of the factors that must be proven is the intent, which is defined as the objective behind an action.
Intent can be proven with circumstantial evidence like testimony from the victim or the actions of the defendant. The existence of intent in a simple battery case means that the defendant meant to touch or strike the victim. The alleged victim cannot report someone for simple battery if the defendant accidentally touched them. They also cannot claim simple battery has occurred if the touching of said victim was incidental to a separate act which was never intended to make contact with the victim.
The State must be able to prove that the defendant intentionally touched or struck the victim with an analysis of all the surrounding evidence.
Consent and Mutual Combat
When it comes to consent and mutual combat, we shall provide the following example scenario:
- Tom and Jim are both out at a bar on a Friday night. While crossing paths at the bar, the two bump into each other. After exchanging not-so-kind words to one another, both men engage in shoving each other. Eventually, Tom punches Jim in the face, which results in a broken nose. Jim tries to report the incident to police, who tell him that it doesn’t sound like an instance of battery.
In the scenario above, both men “squared off” in some fashion to one another. Florida law recognizes this spoken or unspoken agreement of violence as a valid defense to a battery charge. “Mutual combat” is the instance in which two people are both engaged in a physical altercation.
The aspect of “consent” in a battery offense is satisfied due to both men giving their implied consent to be hit or physically touched. This does not, however, exempt either from receiving other possible criminal charges such as the possibility of disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication, or affray..
In other words, both parties are at fault for the physical incident.
Factors to Consider with a Battery Charge
Under Florida law, an indirect contact with another person can serve as grounds for a battery charge. In addition, the following is a list of possible factors to consider in a simple battery case in Florida:
- A battery offense does not require an injury – In a simple battery case, the existence of injury is irrelevant. As long as the State can prove the defendant intentionally touched the victim without their consent, they can be convicted of simple battery.
- A battery offense can include an indirect contact made by the defendant – If the defendant indirectly touched or hit the victim, it is grounds for a battery charge. Regardless of how or what hit the victim, indirect contact is grounds for a battery charge.
- A battery offense can include the use of an object – Under Florida Statute Section 784.03, “there need not be an actual touching of the victim’s person in order for battery to occur, but only a touching of something intimately connected with the victim’s body.” That means the defendant can be charged with simple battery for using an object to intentionally hit or strike the victim. Any of the following objects being thrown at or used to hit a victim can result in battery charges:
- Cell phone
- Any other item which is either held or attached to the defendant as a means to intentionally hit or touch the victim.
A person who is accused of a battery offense which was in furtherance of a riot or aggravated riot under Florida Statute Section 870.01 can be charged with a third-degree felony in Florida. In addition, the penalties for a battery charge are enhanced if the offense was committed against a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, probation officer, or any other authoritative figure included in Florida Statute Section 784.07.
The more serious form of a battery charge is aggravated battery. Florida Statute Section 784.045 defines the offense of aggravated battery as a person who has committed battery and in doing so:
- Caused great bodily harm, permanent disability, permanent disfigurement;
- The victim was pregnant and the offender had knowledge of the pregnancy; or
- Uses a deadly weapon in the commission of the battery offense.
A person can be charged with aggravated battery even without touching the victim—for example, the defendant intentionally drove a vehicle into another occupied vehicle. One of the most common reasons for a person to be charged with aggravated battery is for the use of a deadly weapon.
An individual who commits an aggravated battery can be charged with a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony in Florida carries penalties of up to $10,000 in fines, up to 15 years in prison, or both.
The state of Florida has created enhanced penalties for individuals who have displayed or discharged a firearm during a battery incident. The Florida 10-20-Life Law explains that a person convicted of an offense involving a firearm could result in mandatory minimum sentences. The following is a list of circumstances involving firearms and their mandatory minimum sentences:
- Possession of a Firearm During Battery Incident: A defendant accused of battery who had a firearm in their possession at the time of the incident can result in a minimum term of 10 years in prison. This is regardless of whether the firearm was used or not during the altercation.
- Possession of a Semi-Automatic Firearm or Machine Gun: A defendant accused of battery who had a semi-automatic firearm or machine gun in their possession at the time of the incident can result in a minimum term of 15 years in prison. This is due to the higher potential of danger from these types of firearms.
- Discharge of a Firearm During Battery Incident: A defendant accused of battery who shot or discharged a firearm at the time of the incident can result in a minimum term of 20 years in prison. The defendant does not have to shoot the firearm at the victim—even an accidental discharge of the firearm can result in the enhanced penalties.
- Discharge of a Firearm resulting in Great Bodily Harm or Death: A defendant accused of battery who discharged a firearm which resulted in great bodily harm or the death of the victim can result in a minimum term of 25 years up to life in prison.
In addition to the legal penalties for both simple and aggravated battery, a conviction for a battery case carries the stigma of being considered a violent criminal. The weight of being a convicted violent offender can create difficulties in finding a job, a place to live, or maintaining relationships with loved ones.
Working with a skilled Palm Beach defense lawyer. is the best way to fight allegations of a simple battery or aggravated battery charge.
Defenses to a Battery Charge
A person who has been arrested for a battery offense may already feel defeated. However, there are possible defenses that can be used to defend either a simple or aggravated battery offense. The following is a list of possible defenses to battery charges in Florida:
- The defendant was acting in self-defense;
- The defendant was acting to protect other individuals from harm;
- The defendant’s rights were violated during the investigation;
- The victim had consented by means of mutual combat;
- The defendant lacked intent to touch or hit the victim;
- The defendant was justified under the Stand Your Ground Law; and/or
- The object or instrument used during the incident is not considered a “deadly weapon” within the meaning of the Statute.
During a criminal case, the prosecutor is responsible for proving all elements of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. That means they bear the burden of convincing the jury that the defendant was responsible for the alleged battery offense.
The facts of each case may differ, including the possible defenses to each battery charge. This is why it is imperative to reach out to a skilled Palm Beach County defense attorney in your area.
Finding a Violent Crime Defense Attorney in South Florida
Both simple battery and aggravated battery can carry severe consequences if convicted. The State of Florida punishes those convicted of violent crimes with expensive penalties, lengthy prison sentences, and/or mandatory classes. In addition to the criminal repercussions, the social stigma of being convicted of a violent crime can be a heavy weight to bear.
The defense attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law have years of experience representing clients accused of criminal offenses in Palm Beach, Broward and Martin Counties. Our team will devote time and effort into strategizing a strong defense for your case. Contact our team today at (561) 600-0950 for a free consultation regarding your case.