The terms “assault” and “battery” are often used interchangeably and thought of as a single crime. Under Florida law, however, they are actually two separate offenses. The same series of events can yield both an assault and a battery. Gainesville criminal defense lawyers can help you understand the important differences between the two, and how those differences apply to your case.
Under Florida law, an assault requires:
- An intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to another person;
- Coupled with an apparent ability to carry out the threat; and
- The performance of an act that creates a well-founded fear in the victim that the violence is imminent (i.e., about to occur).
An assault does not require any physical contact between the perpetrator and the victim.
The judge can sentence a defendant convicted of assault to any combination of the following:
- Up to 60 days in jail.
- Up to 60 days probation.
- Up to $500 in fines.
Some defenses that Gainesville criminal defense lawyers may be able to assert to an assault charge include:
- The threat was conditional, meaning that the accused would follow through only if something occurred or did not occur at some undetermined future time.
- The accused did no overt act to make the victim fear imminent violence.
- The victim’s fear was not actual or well-founded (i.e., reasonable).
In Florida, a battery occurs when one person:
- Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against that person’s will; or
- Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.
Unlike assault, battery requires physical contact between the perpetrator and the victim, but the contact need not be direct. For example, a battery can occur when the perpetrator throws something that hits the victim. The victim need not be injured.
A judge can sentence a defendant convicted of battery to any combination of the following penalties:
- Up to a year in jail.
- Up to a year of probation.
- Up to $1,000 in fines.
Some common defenses to battery include:
- Self defense or defense of another person or of property.
- Consent by the victim to the contact.
- Accident or lack of intent to touch or strike the victim.
Aggravating Factors and Enhancements
When no aggravating factors or enhancements exist, the offenses are misdemeanors commonly known as “simple assault” and “simple battery.” The offenses can be enhanced to the serious felonies of aggravated assault, felony battery, or aggravated battery under certain circumstances. These include, but are not limited to:
- Use of a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense.
- Intentional (or even unintentional) serious injury, permanent disability, or disfigurement of the victim.
- The status of the victim as, for example, as a member of law enforcement or someone the perpetrator knew to be pregnant.
- Prior convictions of the accused for battery, aggravated battery, or felony battery.
Aggravated assault, felony battery, or aggravated battery can expose the accused to far lengthier terms of imprisonment and steeper fines.
Contact a Gainesville Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with assault, battery, or any other crime, you need to understand and assert your legal rights. Call the Law Offices of Richard Mercure, PA – RPM Law at (352) 222-2047 for a free, confidential case evaluation.