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Assault and Battery Under Florida Law

Many people mistakenly assume that assault and battery are essentially the same thing, but they are not.  Under Florida law, they are two distinct crimes with separate elements, but both are potentially severe charges that can lead to hefty fines, prison time, or both.  Read on to learn more about these common criminal charges.

What is assault?

Assault does not require any actual physical contact between perpetrator and victim.  Under Florida law, an assault is simply a credible threat to harm someone.  To prove assault, the prosecution must show:

  1. An intentional, unlawful threat to harm someone;
  2. An apparent ability to commit such harm; and
  3. Some act that creates a well-founded fear in the victim that such harm is imminent.

A simple threat alone is not enough to prove assault.  There must be some overt act that convinces the victim that he or she is likely to suffer violence at the perpetrator’s hands.  For example, threatening to shoot someone when you clearly do not have a gun is not assault.  On the other hand, threatening to shoot someone with your hand concealed in a pocket, and then lunging at that person, might well subject you to assault charges.

The severity of the punishment for an assault conviction depends on the circumstances.  The offense of simple assault, as defined above, is a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of not more than $500.

Aggravated assault is an assault committed:

  1. With a deadly weapon, but without intent to kill; or
  2. With intent to commit a felony.

Aggravated assault is a third degree felony, punishable by a prison term of up to 5 years and a fine of not more than $5,000.

What is battery?

Battery requires actual physical contact between perpetrator and victim, but not necessarily injury.  A battery is essentially an unwanted touching.  The prosecutor must prove:

  1. An actual, intentional touching or striking of another person against that person’s will; or
  2. An intentional causing of bodily harm to another person.

Simple battery is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, and a fine of not more than $1,000.  Aggravated battery occurs when, during a battery, the perpetrator:

  1. Intentionally or knowingly causes great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement;
  2. Uses a deadly weapon; or
  3. Knows or should know that the victim is pregnant.

Aggravated battery is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in jail, and a fine of not more than $10,000.

Potential defenses to assault and battery

Potential defenses to these crimes might include:

  • Defense of self or another;
  • Lack of intent to cause harm or fear of harm; or
  • Consent to physical contact.

Consult a Central Florida criminal defense lawyer

When you are facing criminal charges, it is important to seek help from experienced, knowledgeable defense counsel.  The Orlando attorneys of Cotter & Zelman, P.A., are skilled criminal defense lawyers with experience handling a wide variety of complex criminal matters from arrest to appeal. We vigorously advocate for clients in Orlando, Winter Park, and throughout central Florida.  Contact us for a consultation about your case today.

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