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. To establish a case of assault, a state prosecutor must prove several legal elements. First, the prosecutor must show that the defendant intended to threaten the victim, cause the victim to feel fear, or carry out a violent act. If the defendant can show a lack of criminal intent because the act was an accident or a joke, the state may encounter difficulties with the case. 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. While each assault offense includes the same basic elements, the prosecutor must establish additional elements for aggravated assault and felony assault. For example, an aggravated felony requires an intent to commit a felony or the use of a deadly weapon.
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.
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.
In a criminal case, it can seem like only the alleged victims have rights; but the fact is, defendants have rights, as well. The critical component of a strong defense is to have a well-developed plan of action and to have a lawyer who is not afraid of being aggressive in following that plan and defending your rights in court. The firm of Valkenburg Law Group, P.A. has been helping their clients address assault and battery charges in a manor favorable to the defendants. Unlike many other law firms, we offer payment plans and a reasonable fee structure designed to make effective legal representation available to defendants of all income levels. Contact our offices at 813-514-1058.