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Assault and Battery

The crimes of “assault and battery” are similar, related crimes and they are often discussed in conjunction with one another. However, they are in fact two distinct offenses, and Florida law defines them separately.

Fort Lauderdale assault and battery defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm understand how to best approach these charges. We recognize the elements necessary for prosecutors to prove these offenses, allowing us to seek suppression of key evidence and attack the strength of the case at each stage.

Because both assault and battery are considered crimes of violence, it is important that those accused secure immediate legal representation. The effect of a conviction is not only the potential for significant prison time, stringent probation requirements and hefty fines. It may also impact child custody matters and divorce proceedings, current and future employment opportunities and interpersonal relationships.

Our team has been successful in securing reduced charges, dropped charges and dismissed cases on behalf of our clients. Even in situations where there is substantial evidence against you, we work to effectively negotiate with prosecutors to help our clients avoid prison time with participation in diversion programs and probation. We will always fight for the most favorable outcome in your case.

Assault Charges in Fort Lauderdale

Assault, as defined by F.S. § 784.011 is an intentional, unlawful threat that is made either by word or some act of violence from one person to another. In order to secure a conviction on a charge of assault, prosecutors must show not only was the threat made, but defendant had the apparent ability to carry out that threat and created a well-founded fear in the alleged victim that such violence was imminent.

Although some people might not think of a verbal threat as a form of “violence,” assault is in fact treated as a violent crime under Florida law.

The baseline punishment for assault is up to 60 days in jail, as this is considered a second-degree misdemeanor.

However, there are aggravating factors that could push that sentencing ceiling higher.

F.S. § 784.021 is where the state codifies aggravated assault. In order to prove this crime, prosecutors have to show defendant committed assault AND also:

  • Did so with a deadly weapon without intent to kill; or
  • With intention to commit a felony.

Worth noting is the fact prosecutors don’t need to show intent to injure, only an intent to cause victim fear of an attack. Aggravated assault is a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Certain victims are entitled to greater protections, meaning if the assault occurs against one of these individuals, you’ll face a higher penalty as well. State statute identifies these special victims as:

  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Public transport employees
  • Parking enforcement officer
  • Licensed security officer
  • Employee at a detention facility for sexually violent offenders
  • Code inspectors
  • Employees for the Florida Department of Children and Families
  • A person over the age of 65 (regardless of whether age was known to offender)
  • Sports official (during participation or immediately after event)
  • School employees
  • Elected officials

In these cases, even a simple assault would be a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. In any of these cases, if defendant has a prior criminal record (especially of a prior assault), or if a firearm was used, the length of the penalty will be increased as well.

Defense of Battery Charges in Florida

The primary difference between assault and battery is that while assault is a type of threat, battery involves actual physical contact.

Per F.S. § 784.03, battery is when a defendant:

  • Actually and intentionally touches or hits another person against the will of the other; or
  • Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person

Absent any aggravating factors, this is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

If the battery victimized any of the aforementioned “special victims,” the crime increases to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Further, if an individual already has a prior conviction for battery, aggravated battery or felony battery, a second or subsequent battery conviction is considered a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Under the terms of this section, a “conviction” can mean a prior plea deal or a conviction at trial. It doesn’t matter whether defendant entered a plea of nolo contendere or whether adjudication was withheld.

Meanwhile, aggravated battery in Florida is defined in F.S. § 784.045, and involves a battery where defendant:

  • Knowingly or intentionally caused permanent disfigurement, permanent disability or great bodily harm to victim; or
  • Uses a deadly weapon;
  • Knew or should have known victim of battery was pregnant at the time of offense.

In this case, defendant faces a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

There are also enhancements when battery involves strangulation or when victim is a family or household member, former spouse, former intimate partner or someone with whom defendant has a child.

F.S. § 784.041 involves domestic battery by strangulation, which is when a person knowingly and intentionally against the will of victim (as defined above) impedes victim’s normal breathing or blood circulation causing great risk of bodily harm through pressure to the neck or throat or by blocking the person’s nose or mouth. There is no medical diagnosis necessary for proof. It’s considered a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

If you have been charged with a violent crime in South Florida, contact the Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011.

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