Assault and Battery Charges in the Jacksonville Area
It is a fact that friends, family or even strangers can have disagreements. The smart move is to walk away and let a cooler head prevail, but sometimes that is not possible. Assault and/or battery occurs when a conflict is heightened to the point where there is an act of violence (battery) that causes injury or the threat or act of violence without physical contact (assault).
Lockett Law, P.A., provides criminal defense representation for clients, including those facing assault and/or battery charges. We understand that the circumstances involving these charges often involve two sides of the same story. During initial consultation, attorney Lee Lockett will listen to your side of that story, understanding that it may not coincide with the report made by law enforcement. We then conduct our own investigations, often uncovering details missed or dismissed by the officer. Regardless of the circumstances, we always aggressively defend your rights and work toward a positive outcome.
Typical Charges We Handle
As with other criminal charges, assault and battery charges in Florida involve different degrees with corresponding penalties. The charges we handle include:
- Simple assault
- Aggravated assault
- Simple battery
- Felony battery
- Aggravated battery
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Vehicular assault
- Sexual assault
- Domestic battery
What’s the Difference between Assault and Battery in Florida?
Just as robbery and burglary are confused with one another every day, so are the terms assault and battery. Many people use the words interchangeably as if they were the same. They are not. Assault is a separate crime with different elements and charged under a separate statute. An assault is where a person threats another, by word or act, to do violence to another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so. Consider two people at a Jaguar football game for example. Neither is particularly happy come the fourth quarter—as is often the case in Jacksonville–and each are several beers into the afternoon. One fan screams at another sitting next to him while threatening to do violence and holds up a beer bottle in the air. That is an assault.
Well, what is battery then you ask? That occurs if the person committing the assault makes good on the threat and hits the person. Batteries are charged under a separate statute and involve the unlawful striking or touching of another against their will. What about spitting on someone? Believe it or not, individuals in Florida have been prosecuted for battery when spitting on police officers, and others holding an official governmental title. However, these cases are oftentimes dropped or reduced. Contact an experienced assault defense attorney in Jacksonville today.
Is an Assault or Battery charge a Felony or Misdemeanor?
That depends on the circumstances. In assault cases, the state will file it as a misdemeanor (simple assault) so long as the person was not using a weapon or firearm to threaten the victim. In that case, the charges can be filed as a felony (aggravated assault). The same applies to battery charges. So long as the person does not use a weapon or firearm in the commission of the battery, it will be filed as a misdemeanor absent any prior battery convictions. Who the victim is will also dictate whether the charges are filed as a felony. For example, if the alleged victim of a battery is a police officer, healthcare provider, firefighter, or a licensed security officer, a felony can be filed. Likewise, if a person commits a battery or assault against school employees (including referees), DCF or elected officials, felony charges will be filed as well. For example, if a person commits an aggravated battery against one of these designated persons, then the charges will be increased from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony.
The battery statutes cover many more categories of persons who, by virtue of their title or status, will increase the offense level. Code inspectors and the elderly are among them. Always know who you are about to go to blows with beforehand. You could be spending more than one night in jail.
Violent Crime Sentences in Florida
Penalties and sentencing ranges vary widely in assault and battery cases. Misdemeanor Battery charges are typically filed as first degree and carry a maximum jail sentence of one year. However, depending on one’s prior history, these cases can also be resolved with no jail and/or some probation. However, the usual misdemeanor battery charge can be bumped up to a felony of the third degree where the person has a prior Battery conviction. Third degree felonies carry a five-year maximum prison sentence.
Domestic Battery cases for example have their own unique minimum mandatory penalties. Battery arrests involving the use of deadly weapons or great bodily harm can be filed as second-degree felonies which carry a fifteen-year maximum prison sentence. It is also considered an aggravated battery where a pregnant person is involved.
Where a battery is filed as a first-degree felony (e.g., aggravated battery on a school official), a person could be looking at up to thirty years in prison. Aggravated battery charges involving the elderly will be filed as a first-degree felony and also carry with it a three year minimum mandatory prison sentence if convicted.
Assaults, while still considered violent crimes, carry lesser penalties. Simple misdemeanor assaults are the lowest level crime that can be charged, a second-degree misdemeanor. That carries with it a maximum sixty days in jail if convicted. If an assault is committed against one of the previously referenced designated persons (e.g., police officer) then the charges will remain at the misdemeanor level—however jumping up to a first-degree misdemeanor carrying a one-year maximum jail sentence.
An assault could become a felony if a person commits an aggravated assault. As in the case of aggravated battery, this occurs when a weapon is used. Then a third-degree felony is filed, which is the lowest felony level. Aggravated assaults committed against certain designated persons, such as the elderly, not only increase the charges to a second-degree felony, but a person convicted in that situation faces a three year minimum prison sentence if convicted.
Legal Defenses to Assault & Battery Charges
Persons accused of assault and battery have a few options in defending themselves against such accusations. The most widely known one is self defense or “stand your ground”. Florida’s stand your ground law changed significantly in 2017 by requiring the prosecution to bear the burden of disproving a defendant’s initial showing of immunity. The law grants immunity from prosecution to those who were legally justified in committing a battery. Persons in Florida, in many situations, need not retreat when faced with threats of force and can use force against someone when there’s a reasonable belief that such force is necessary to defend themselves or another.
Because the Florida legislature has granted citizens in these circumstances immunity, an accused person can move to dismiss the charges before trial in an effort to strip the state of their case entirely without the need of ever having to go to trial. If such a motion is filed, the judge must set it for an evidentiary hearing and take testimony from each side. If the motion is granted, then the charges are dismissed.
Other defenses could involve identity. If a huge crowd gathers and a multi person fight breaks out, the state must be able to prove who it was that hit who when the alleged victim is uncertain who it was. Even where the victim alleges it was a certain person, the defense may challenge that claim by bringing forth evidence to refute that it was the person charged who committed the crime. This scenario can only typically surface where the combatants don’t know each other.
We Defend Your Rights
Even a lesser charge of simple assault can result in 60 days in jail, while the more severe charge of aggravated battery can result in prison term of 15 years. It is vital to protect your freedom and future by contacting a qualified Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. We can then help build a strong case that strives to dismiss or reduce the charges. Often this involves asking such important questions as:
- Did you act in self-defense?
- Did you act to defend property?
- Did you act to defend another person?
- Was it an accident?
- Was there intent to do harm?
- Was there consent for physical contact?
Let Us Review Your Case Today
Call our offices in Jacksonville at 904-858-9818 or schedule appointment using our contact page. It’s important to keep a cool head in Florida before you blow a gasket. These charges are treated seriously in many cases and if convicted, you could be facing serious time or a felony conviction. If you or someone you know is facing assault or battery charges, call an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer for a free case analysis. Stay safe and as always, Know Before You Blow!