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Assault or Battery on a Police Officer

Florida law forbids unlawful threats or unlawful touching of law enforcement officers. To do so is known as “Assault on a Police Officer” or “Battery on a Police Officer.” A violation of the law, F.S. 784.07, can be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on severity of the crime.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know many of these cases stem from actions that occur in the course of arrest. Officers will rather routinely:

  • Throw a suspect to the ground
  • Forcibly tackle a suspect
  • Slam a suspect’s head onto a vehicle
  • Use a Taser
  • Draw a firearm

These uses of force are allowed so long as they are “justified.” Anytime an officer uses force, he or she has to complete a “use of force” form detailing the reason. A lot of times, that need to justify use of force gives officers an incentive to allege suspect committed assault or battery against a law enforcement officer.

Sometimes the evidence comes down to “he-said-she-said.” Other times there might be helpful witness statements, surveillance video or cell phone clips that could serve to discredit the officer’s assertions. Uncovering this evidence often requires an independent investigation.

It’s not even necessarily that officers lie about this sort of thing. But when being involved in a confrontation with adrenaline pumping, even a trained law enforcement officer may have an exaggerated perception of the facts. We work on behalf of our clients to identify and present any possible weakness in the state’s case.

Defining Assault and Battery on an Officer

The crime of Assault on a law enforcement officer is comprised of three essential elements:

  • Intentional physical or verbal threat of violence on a law enforcement officer;
  • Combined with the apparent or demonstrated ability to do so;
  • Which causes fear in the officer that violence is likely to occur.

The crime of Battery on a law enforcement officer is one in which there was:

  • Intentional touch or strike on a law enforcement officer against his or her will or resulting in great bodily harm;
  • Where defendant knew the alleged victim was a law enforcement officer;
  • Where law enforcement officer was engaged in the lawful performance of his or her duties at the time of the offense.

In both cases, it’s essential to prove the officer was “engaged in lawful performance of his or her duties.” So that means if the officer was in fact deploying excessive force, then defendant may not be convicted because his or her actions could be framed as actions of self-defense.

Note that it is unnecessary to prove the officer was hurt or, in the case of assault, even touched at all. This type of broad definition is why the crime – particularly assault on a law enforcement officer – is so commonly charged.

In either case, the charge may be “aggravated” when there is a weapon involved or if the alleged victim suffers serious injuries. If a battery or assault is deemed “aggravated,” it will result in more severe penalties.

Defining Law Enforcement Officer

An “officer” is not solely a police officer who pulls you over in a traffic stop. For purposes of the statute, the term may also include:

  • Correctional officers;
  • Parking enforcement officers;
  • Law enforcement explorers;
  • Auxillary law enforcement;
  • Probation officers;
  • Federal law enforcement officers;
  • Officers with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission;
  • Department of Corrections workers who supervise or provide inmate services.

There are also special protections that are granted under this statute to other categories of public servants. Those include:

  • Firefighters
  • EMS workers
  • Public transit workers
  • Community college security guards
Possible Penalties

Conviction of assault or battery on a law enforcement officer could have serious consequences to your reputation, your job prospects, your finances and your freedom.

A conviction may result in the following penalties:

Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer:

  • Second-Degree Misdemeanor, up to 60 days in jail and $500 fine
  • First-Degree Misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 fine

Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer:

  • First-Degree Misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 fine
  • Third-Degree Felony, up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 fine

Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer (carries a 3-year minimum prison term)

  • Third-Degree Felony, up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 fine
  • Second-Degree felony, up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 fine

Aggravated Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer (carries a 5-year minimum prison term)

  • Second-Degree Felony, up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 fine
  • First-Degree Felony, up to 30 years in prison and $10,000 fine
Possible Defenses

There are a number of defenses to this charge that include:

  • Incidental Touching: Where defendant’s actions are intended to prevent self-harm, repel attack by a third party or where movements are incidental and not intended to make contact with another person.
  • Reflexive Actions : Movements or actions that are involuntary and are the result of reflex to pain.
  • Excessive Force: Where an officer uses excessive force – even in the course of a lawful arrest – a person has a right to act forcefully in self-defense.

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

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