The Types of Assault in Florida
Other than DUI and perhaps marijuana possession, assault is probably the most commonly-charged misdemeanor in St. Lucie County.
Many assaults are basically arguments which got slightly out of control. Other assaults are domestic battery cases. In both these situations, officers must determine who was the aggressor and who was the victim. That’s often difficult to determine, especially since neither party, or both parties, might have a physical injury.
An assault conviction could mean significant jail time, fines, and other direct consequences. Additionally, assault is a crime of moral turpitude. So, there could be immigration, family court, and other indirect consequences.
An aagressive Port St. Lucie criminal defense attorney can thoroughly investigate the matter, look for defenses, and reduce or eliminate these negative consequences.
Assault v. Battery
Florida criminal law uses the common law distinction between assault and battery. These are two different offenses which require different kinds of proof.
Assault is essentially a credible threat of imminent violence which incites fear. Raising one’s fist might be an assault, as well as saying something like “I’m going to kill you.”
All elements must be present. Many times, the “assault” is not a credible threat or does not reasonably incite fear. If an accountant shakes his fist at a heavyweight boxer, there is no reasonable fear. Likewise, if a person says “I’m going to kill you” but has no weapon, there is no credible threat of imminent violence.
Battery is a harmful or offensive touch. Physical injury is not a requirement, but an injury does make battery easier to prove in court.
There are several defenses to battery. Self-defense may be the most prominent one. The actor must use reasonable force to counter the threat, but the result does not matter. Pushing someone away who threatens you is a reasonable use of force. If the person falls, hits his head, and is seriously injured, that may not be relevant for criminal law purposes. The same thing applies for other use-of-force defenses, including defense of property and defense of a third person,
Levels of Assault and Battery in Florida
Section 784 of the Florida Statutes contains most of the assault and battery criminal laws. The different levels are:
- Simple Assault: In many states, simple assault is basically a traffic ticket. But in Florida, this offense is a second-degree misdemeanor which carries a fine of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to sixty days.
- Simple Battery: If the defendant touched the alleged victim, the charges move up to a first-degree misdemeanor (one year in jail and $1,000 fine). As mentioned, non-injury touches are difficult to prove in court, so many prosecutors file assault charges in these situations.
- Aggravated Assault: The aforementioned “I’m going to kill you” assault is probably an aggravated assault. Prosecutors must still prove that the threat reasonably incited fear of imminent harm. Aggravated assault is a third-degree felony (five years and $5,000 fine).
- Felony Battery: This offense is also a third-degree felony. Prosecutors can enhance simple battery charges to felony battery if the defendant has a prior conviction.
- Aggravated Battery: If the defendant seriously injuries the alleged victim, which usually means putting someone in the hospital, the maximum sentence is fifteen years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
In court, prosecutors must establish every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard of proof in the law.
Reach Out to an Aggressive Lawyer
Assault and battery carry significant consequences. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie criminal lawyer, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.