Domestic Violence Aggravated Battery
In Florida, aggravated battery, as explained in F.S. 784.045, is charged when a person knowingly causes great bodily harm to another OR uses a deadly weapon. The statute also applies if the alleged victim was pregnant at the time of the offense and the offender was aware of that fact or should have known it.
The aggravated battery statute does not automatically fall under the umbrella of the Florida domestic violence statute, F.S. 741.28. That said, aggravated battery often does arise in the context of domestic violence. However, proof of a familial or romantic relationship isn't required to secure a conviction for aggravated battery.
Per Florida Standard Jury Instructions, prosecutors seeking a conviction on this charge must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant intentionally struck or touched the accuser against that person's will OR intentionally caused bodily harm to that person AND
- In committing this battery, the accused knowingly and with intention caused permanent disability OR permanent disfigurement OR great bodily harm OR
- The defendant used a deadly weapon OR
- The defendant knew or should have known the victim was pregnant. (If the fetus is injured or dies as a result of the attack, additional criminal charges, such as fetal homicide, as detailed in S. 775.021(5), may be filed.)
If aggravated battery arises in the context of domestic violence, the outcome of the case could have implications that extend beyond the criminal matter. It might impact certain outcomes in pending divorce and child custody cases. It could also result in a restraining order and/or loss of certain civil rights, including those that fall under the Second Amendment.Punishment for Florida Domestic Violence Aggravated Battery
Domestic violence aggravated battery is a second-degree felony in Florida. The maximum penalty is 15 years in prison, 15 years on probation, and up to $10,000 in fines.
If you use a gun during, the potential penalties are much higher. Doing so may trigger application of Florida's 10-20-Life Law, as laid out in F.S. 775.087. The law holds that if you are charged with a felony (except a felony in which use of a deadly weapon or firearm is an essential element) and you use, threaten to use, or attempt to use a gun or other deadly weapon in the commission of a felony, your charge can be significantly enhanced.
Instead of a second-degree felony, an aggravated battery charge gets bumped up to a first-degree felony, punishable by a 30-year maximum prison sentence - double the time you'd otherwise be facing. Just possessing a firearm during the incident can net you a 10-year minimum mandatory penalty. If that firearm was a semiautomatic firearm or a machine gun? You're looking at a 15-year minimum mandatory sentence. Discharge that firearm during the incident, and you're facing a minimum mandatory 20-year prison term.
Use of a firearm/weapon can be considered an essential element in a domestic violence aggravated battery charge, which means the 10-20-Life Law might not apply. However, it depends on the circumstances.
The one bright spot is there may be numerous opportunities - even before the charges are formally filed by the state attorney's office - to begin building a strong defense. But it is really important that you hire a criminal defense attorney with extensive experience in felony crimes and domestic violence cases as soon as possible. You want a lawyer who not only recognizes the stakes, but is prepared to approach your case with the expertise, seriousness, and dedication it requires to effectively fight for the best possible outcome.Defenses to Domestic Violence Aggravated Battery
The exact defense employed in your aggravated battery case will depend significantly on the unique fact pattern involved. However, there are a few common threads our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys have identified in defending these cases.
- Self defense. Defending yourself or another person from a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm is an affirmative defense in an aggravated battery charge. You do not need to wait to be hit first before striking back, but you do need to prove your fear of the threat was reasonable.
- Mutual combat. This is when the two adults willingly engage in a fight with each other. Mutual combat is not an affirmative defense like self-defense, as it's considered a crime in its own right (particularly if it's in public and disturbs the peace, pursuant to S. 870.01). However, fighting/affray is a misdemeanor, while aggravated battery is a second-degree felony.
- Lack of intent to touch or strike. You may cause serious bodily harm to someone, but if it was an accident and it was not your intent was not to attack or hurt them, you may have a solid defense.
- Instrument in question was not a deadly weapon. Some objects are very obviously deadly weapons. These include things like guns, knives, axes, and baseball bats. But they might also include cars, gardening tools, boats, dogs, broken bottles. Sometimes, it's argued that hands, feet, or teeth may be deadly weapons - even though the human body in and of itself is not considered a deadly weapon. It really comes down to how the "weapon" was used. The question will be whether the "weapon" was used in a way that was likely to produce death or great bodily harm.
Although the proof burden rests with the prosecution. However, because many victims in domestic violence cases refuse to cooperate, courts have become increasingly more flexible than in allowing certain hearsay exceptions in these matters - particularly when there is a lack of other concrete evidence, such as a 911 call, witness statements, or video footage.
One example is the allowance of a victim's prior out-of-court statements under the hearsay exception of "excited utterance." These are statements made under stress of excitement from the incident, before the person has had enough time for conscious reflection. It isn't necessary to establish physical violence as a "stressor"; a threat of violence is sufficient. (More on the excited utterances hearsay exception can be found in the 1995 Florida Supreme Court ruling of Roger v. State.)
Every Florida domestic violence aggravated battery case has its own unique set of facts. But having a dedicated, experienced Broward criminal defense lawyer who is skilled, prepared, and understands what to expect - and how to effectively challenge the evidence against you - can make all the difference.
If you have been charged with domestic violence aggravated battery in South Florida, call The Ansara Law Firm today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.