Florida’s laws concerning assault and battery frequently come into play in criminal trials, and they are not as straightforward as they may seem. Though they are frequently charged together, assault and battery are distinct crimes with distinct definitions. Following is a few words on assault and battery in Florida.
In Florida, assault is defined as threatening harm to another that leads to that person’s fear of imminent harm, but it does not include physical contact between the defendant and the victim. In order to sustain a conviction of assault in Florida, the prosecutor must show several things:
- The defendant intended to threaten the victim, cause the victim to experience fear, or carry out a violent act,
- and that the defendant showed the threat by words, gestures, or an intimidating act,
- and the defendant had the ability to carry out that act,
- and the victim actually felt fear of imminent harm.
Meanwhile, the crime of battery consists of an intentional, unwanted physical contact of the victim by the defendant. The elements here are three:
- The defendant intentionally touched or struck the victim,
- and the contact must have been done against the victim’s will,
- and the act was done without the victim’s consent.
In Florida there are two classes of assault: simple assault and aggravated assault. Simple assault is the less serious of the two and does not involve weapons or another intent. Conviction on a simple assault charge is a second degree misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
However, if the assault involves a deadly weapon or with the intent to commit a felony, but the defendant did not intend to kill the victim, the charge is that of aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is a third degree felony and punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
The crime of battery in Florida comes in three flavors: simple battery, felony battery, and aggravated battery. Similar to assault, simple battery is the least serious of the three and is a first degree misdemeanor. The penalty for a conviction of simple battery in Florida is up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
If the defendant is shown to have used a deadly weapon in the course of the battery, or if the victim of the battery was pregnant and the defendant knew or should have know of the victim’s pregnancy, the battery becomes an aggravated battery. Aggravated battery is a second degree felony and may be punished with up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
In some cases, the defendant has a prior conviction of battery in Florida. If this is the case, the second and subsequent charges of battery become felony battery, which is a third degree felony. A conviction of felony battery is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Common defenses against charges of assault and battery in Florida are several. Consent always defeats a charge of assault or battery if the victim is shown to have given consent for the physical contact. Lack of intent is also a defense to assault and battery charges, as defendants often claim the interaction was accidental. Self defense is another common defense, as defending one’s self or another person often leads to acquittal.