What is the Difference Between Assault and Battery in Florida?

Assault and battery are separate and distinct offenses that can result either in misdemeanor or felony charges. Since these terms are often heard together, many people are unclear of the difference between assault and battery in Florida. 

In Florida, the difference between assault and battery lies in the absence or presence of physical contact. Assault is a verbal or physical threat of harming another. Battery occurs when either a person causes bodily harm to another or intentionally makes physical contact against the other person’s will.  

Even though assault and battery are often confused, these are separate offenses that can result in different penalties and charges. Since these crimes are handled differently, it’s important to understand how Florida law defines these offenses and what the possible consequences are for each charge.

Difference Between Assault and Battery in Florida

Despite the fact that sometimes assault and battery are related crimes in Florida, these offenses are not the same. In other words, Florida law defines assault and battery as separate offenses. As a result, these crimes might also result in different charges and punishments. 

According to Florida Statute § 784.011, an assault is the offense of intentionally threatening to harm another person. In addition to threat, there should also be an apparent ability to perform it and by doing so, it should create a well-founded fear in the other party that violence is imminent. Unlike battery, assault does not imply bodily harm or physical contact. 

On the other hand, Florida law stipulates that battery is the offense of touching or striking another person without their consent or intentionally causing bodily harm to another party. In other words, a battery offense implies that the defendant made physical contact with the victim. 

Examples of assault and battery

Below there are some examples of some situations that can be charged as an assault and a battery offense in Florida. 

Example of Assault 

Peter abruptly stands up, gets in James’s face, raises his fist, and says, “I dare you to say that again.” James, afraid of being hit, backs down and leaves. Since there was only the threat of — not actual — violence, this is assault

Example of Battery

After Peter stands up and threatens James, James punches Peter in the jaw. Because James touched and caused Peter physical harm, this is battery.

graphic representing the difference between assault and battery

Can you be charged with assault and battery?

Depending on the details of her or his case, a person can be charged with either or both assault and battery. In order to determine the charges, the prosecutor must analyze the evidence and the circumstances surrounding the offense. 

For example, violently breaking a beer bottle on the bar and holding it menacingly while yelling at someone is assault, while spitting on someone (a seemingly less serious action) is battery, a more severe offense.

Whether you’re facing assault or battery charges, a criminal defense lawyer might be able to help you to reduce your charges. Contact our defense attorneys to know your legal options. 

Florida Penalties for Assault and Battery

In Florida, assault offenses are charged as second-degree misdemeanors. This means that the person might face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 maximum fine. Battery offenses are charged as first-degree misdemeanors which can result in up to 1 year of jail and a $1,000 fine. 

However, a person that has a prior conviction for battery can face a third-degree felony charge. These charges can result in a maximum of 5 years of prison and a fine that does not exceed $5,000. 

Aggravated assault and battery in Florida

According to the Florida Statute § 784.021, an assault can be classified as aggravated if the offense was committed with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill or with an intent to commit a felony. 

Aggravated assaults can be charged as third-degree felonies and they might result in the following penalties: 

graphic with the penalties for aggravated assault and aggravated battery in florida

An aggravated battery occurs when: 

  • A deadly weapon was used.
  • The victim was pregnant. 
  • The aggressor intentionally caused great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement. 

These types of offenses are charged as second-degree felonies and can be punishable by up to 15 years of prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. 

How to Beat Assault and Battery Charges in Florida

In Florida, it’s possible to successfully defend a person facing charges for assault and battery. Some of the most common defenses that our criminal attorneys use to beat these charges include:

  • Self-defense or defense of others. Criminal lawyers might be able to build a defense that proves that the defendant committed the offense because he or she considered themselves in danger of violence. This can also be applied if the alleged accused acted in defense of others. 
  • Lack of proof. If the prosecutor or the law enforcement do not have enough evidence to prove the offense, your attorney might be able to get your charges dropped. In assault cases, the prosecutor must prove that the alleged victim was in fear of imminent violence. For example, if the victim’s back was facing you, they might not be able to prove that they were aware and feared an attack. 
  • Mutual combat. Another strategy that your lawyer might use as a defense is to prove that both parties participated and assented to the physical altercation. In these cases, a criminal lawyer might try to prove that there was consent of the other party as a consequence of the physical altercation. 

Even though these are common defenses against assault or battery charges, the strategies that a lawyer might pursue will depend on the circumstances of each case. In order to learn about your legal options, you should enlist the help of a criminal defense attorney. 

Contact an Assault and Battery Lawyer in Florida

Facing charges for assault and battery can be a frustrating experience that can result in severe charges. For that reason, you should retain an aggressive criminal lawyer that can help you build a strong defense for your case. 

Goldman Wetzel is a criminal law firm that represents clients facing criminal charges, including assault and battery offenses in St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Tampa, Pinellas County, and surrounding areas. 

If you have been charged or arrested for an assault or battery offense, contact our criminal defense attorneys to secure aggressive legal representation. Contact us through our email form or call us at (727) 828-3900 to schedule an appointment.