Although assault and battery are often related crimes and discussed together, the two are actually distinct offenses. Florida state laws define the two crimes separately.
Assault refers to a threat of harm that leads to the victim’s fear of imminent harm. The offense does not include physical contact between the perpetrator and the victim. First a prosecutor must show that the defendant intended to threaten the victim, cause the victim to feel fear, or carry out a violent act. A defendant may want try to show a lack of criminal intent claiming the act was an accident or a joke. The prosecutor must also show that the defendant demonstrated the threat through words, a gesture, or an intimidating act. The defendant must have shown an ability to carry out the threat and the victim must have feared imminent harm.
Florida statutes establish specific offenses for simple assault, aggravated assault, and felony assault. The severity of the offense and the potential punishment depends on the type of assault charged by the state prosecutor.
When the defendant makes physical contact with the victim, Florida state laws allow for prosecution of the act as a battery. To prove a battery case, the prosecutor must show that the defendant intentionally touched or struck the victim. The physical contact must have been against the victim’s will and done without the victim’s consent.
As with assault, Florida law establishes several types of battery. Simple battery only requires an intentional, unwanted physical contact between the defendant and the victim. If the defendant has a previous conviction for battery, state laws permit the prosecutor to charge the defendant with felony battery for a subsequent offense. To prove aggravated battery, the prosecutor must show that the defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury to the victim or that the defendant used a deadly weapon.
Defenses to Assault and Battery Charges
- Lack of intent
- Consent given for physical contact
- Defense of another person
- Defense against harm to property
- Penalties and Sentences
The consequences of an assault or battery conviction depend on the specific charge pursued by the Florida state prosecutor. Each offense includes a sentence requirement set by state law, as follows:
- Simple assault is a second degree misdemeanor, which can result in a sentence of imprisonment for up to sixty days and a fine that cannot exceed $500.
- Aggravated assault is a third degree felony, which can result in a sentence of imprisonment for up to five years and a fine in an amount up to $5,000.
- Simple battery is a first degree misdemeanor, for which the state can request a sentence of imprisonment lasting up to one year and a fine that cannot exceed $1,000.
- Felony battery is a third degree felony, which can lead to a sentence of imprisonment for up to five years and a fine in an amount up to $5,000.
- Aggravated battery is second degree felony, for which the defendant might receive a sentence of imprisonment lasting up to fifteen years and a fine in an amount up to $10,000.
Though Florida establishes maximum penalties and sentences for each type of assault and battery, state laws also permit a prosecutor to request increased sanctions for a defendant who has prior felony convictions or whom the court has found to be a career criminal
Florida Assault and Battery Statute
(1) An “assault” is an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.
(2) Whoever commits an assault shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
784.021 Aggravated assault.—
(1) An “aggravated assault” is an assault:
(a) With a deadly weapon without intent to kill; or
(b) With an intent to commit a felony.
(2) Whoever commits an aggravated assault shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
784.03 Battery; felony battery.—
(1)(a) The offense of battery occurs when a person:
1. Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or
2. Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.
(b) Except as provided in subsection (2), a person who commits battery commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(2) A person who has one prior conviction for battery, aggravated battery, or felony battery and who commits any second or subsequent battery commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. For purposes of this subsection, “conviction” means a determination of guilt that is the result of a plea or a trial, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld or a plea of nolo contendere is entered.
784.041 Felony battery; domestic battery by strangulation.—
(1) A person commits felony battery if he or she:
(a) Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; and
(b) Causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.
(2)(a) A person commits domestic battery by strangulation if the person knowingly and intentionally, against the will of another, impedes the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of a family or household member or of a person with whom he or she is in a dating relationship, so as to create a risk of or cause great bodily harm by applying pressure on the throat or neck of the other person or by blocking the nose or mouth of the other person. This paragraph does not apply to any act of medical diagnosis, treatment, or prescription which is authorized under the laws of this state.
(b) As used in this subsection, the term:
1. “Family or household member” has the same meaning as in s. 741.28.
2. “Dating relationship” means a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.
(3) A person who commits felony battery or domestic battery by strangulation commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
784.045 Aggravated battery.—
(1)(a) A person commits aggravated battery who, in committing battery:
1. Intentionally or knowingly causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement; or
2. Uses a deadly weapon.
(b) A person commits aggravated battery if the person who was the victim of the battery was pregnant at the time of the offense and the offender knew or should have known that the victim was pregnant.
(2) Whoever commits aggravated battery shall be guilty of a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
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