WHAT ARE ASSAULT AND BATTERY?
Assault and battery are some of the most common and easily defensible crimes in the State of Florida. Although they are often paired together, assault is a separate crime from battery in and of itself. Here we will look at the difference between these two crimes. In addition, we will see what constitutes aggravated assault and what constitutes aggravated battery and felony battery.
Assault refers to the intentional threat of violence towards another person coupled with the apparent ability to do so. Specifically, the elements of assault are:
- A person made an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to commit violence against another person
- The person making the threat seemed to have the ability to act on the threat
- The threat caused the victim to have a reasonable fear that violence was imminent
All three of these elements need to be present to prove that someone is guilty of assault. Note that there is no requirement that the assailant actually intended to harm the victim; it is only necessary that the victim possess a well-founded fear of imminent violence.
Penalties for Simple Assault
Simple assault is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. If the victim is an emergency care provider, law enforcement officer, or a firefighter, then the charge becomes a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
A charge of assault can become aggravated assault when:
- All the elements of simple assault are met; AND
- The assailant uses a deadly weapon or intended to commit a felony
A deadly weapon is any object that can be used to cause great bodily harm or death, such as a knife.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
What is battery? The main distinction between assault and battery is that assault refers to the threat of violence, while battery refers to the actual commission of violence against another person. Battery occurs when:
- A person intentionally touches or strikes another person against the other person’s will, OR
- A person intentionally causes harm to another person
Intent is an important element of battery. As such, accidentally touching another person does not constitute battery. Also note that battery occurs whenever you touch or strike another person against their will, regardless of whether you actually cause injury.
Penalties for Simple Battery
Simple battery is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the victim is a law enforcement officer, emergency care provider, or a firefighter, then the crime becomes a third degree felony, punishable by a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Aggravated Battery and Felony Battery
Aggravated battery occurs when all the elements of simple battery are met, and in addition, the defendant:
- Intentionally or knowingly caused great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement; OR
- Used a deadly weapon in the commission of the battery; OR
- Battered a pregnant person when the defendant knew or should have known the victim was pregnant
Felony battery is another battery charge that is very similar to aggravated battery, except in a felony battery the defendant did not mean to cause great bodily harm or a permanent disability. However, the defendant still must have intended to strike the victim. A battery may also become a felony battery if the defendant has a prior battery conviction.
Penalties for Aggravated Battery and Felony Battery
Aggravated battery is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Felony battery is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
DEFENSE FOR ASSAULT AND BATTERY CHARGES
Because assault requires that the victim possess a well-founded fear of imminent violence, a conditional threat does not constitute assault. A conditional threat is a threat that violence will occur if a certain action occurs. Because the threatened violence is not imminent, it cannot constitute assault.
Assault and battery require an intentional threat or commission of violence against a person. If you accidentally bump into someone and cause injury to that person, then you should not be found to have committed battery (although you may face a civil case for personal injury depending on the circumstances).
People have a right to defend themselves. A defendant may assert that he or she was not the primary aggressor, but was merely defending him- or herself.
Additionally, the Florida legislature enacted the “Stand Your Ground” statutes in 2005, which eliminate the “duty of retreat.” Before these statutes, someone who was being assaulted had the duty of trying to escape to their best ability before they could use deadly force in their defense; now, as long as someone is in a place in which he or she has a right to be, that person can use deadly force without trying to escape if it is necessary for self-defense.