Battery on a law enforcement officer is a felony crime in Florida, punishable by fines and imprisonment. The offense encompasses more than just striking. It can include essentially any aggressive physical contact with an officer. It is a harshly prosecuted offense, even for first-time offenders. However, there are several viable defenses that have proven effective for some defendants.
If you have been charged with battery on a law enforcement officer in Florida, call Goldman Wetzel to speak to a defense lawyer today at 727-828-3900.
How does Florida define battery on a law enforcement officer?
Florida Statute § 784.07 criminalizes assault and battery of law enforcement officers, and provides the penalties for violations. The law states that a person commits battery on a law enforcement officer when the three following elements have occurred:
- The defendant knew the alleged victim was an officer.
- The defendant willfully touched or struck a police officer against the officer’s will or intentionally caused bodily harm. This could be any unwanted physical contact such as pushing, spitting, shoving, kicking, etc.
- The officer must have been engaged in the lawful performance of her duties when the alleged battery occurred.
This protection is not just for police officers. There are various types of state personnel that this law also protects. A defendant can be charged with battery on a police officer when any of the following parties are involved:
- Probation and correctional officers
- Law enforcement explorers
- Parking enforcement officers
- Officers of the Florida Commission on Offender Review
- Federal law enforcement officers
- Officers of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- Emergency medical care providers
- Railroad special officers
- Public transit employees
- Traffic accident investigators
- Breathalyzer operators and blood alcohol analysts
- Security officers
What are the penalties for battery on a law enforcement officer?
When an offender commits battery upon a civilian, it is normally a first-degree misdemeanor (up a one year in jail and a $1,000 fine). When the offender commits battery upon an officer, the severity of the crime and penalties are elevated exponentially. Penalties are contingent upon whether there were any aggravating factors:
- Simple battery on an officer: Third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
- Aggravated battery on an officer: Florida Statute § 784.045 defines aggravated battery as intentionally or knowingly causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement; committing battery using a deadly weapon; or committing battery on a pregnant woman. When an offender commits aggravated battery on an officer, it is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years’ imprisonment with a five-year minimum sentence, and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Battery on an officer with a firearm: When the offender batters an officer, and has a firearm or destructive device in his possession at the time of the offense, the state will impose a minimum prison sentence of three years.
- Battery on an officer with a semiautomatic firearm: If the offender had a semiautomatic firearm and its high-capacity detachable box magazine or a machine gun at the time of the offense, he will face a minimum term of imprisonment of eight years.
What are the defenses to battery on a law enforcement officer charges?
There are several defenses we may use to defend against charges of battery on a law enforcement officer in Florida. Below are just a few examples:
- Lack of knowledge: For the prosecutor to prevail, she must prove that you knew the alleged victim was an officer. We may be able to show that you did not know the person was an officer if, for instance, she was not wearing a badge or uniform.
- Self-defense: You may be able to use self-defense as a defense against battery on a law enforcement officer so long as the officer was not in the process of arresting you. (Resisting arrest, even nonviolently, is against the law.)
- Reflexive action: If your body was responding to sudden pain or otherwise had involuntary motions and you inadvertently touched the officer, the incident does not constitute battery on an officer.
- Officer was not engaged in lawful duty: Engagement in lawful duty is one of the primary elements necessary for a charge of battery on a law enforcement officer to stand. If the officer was not doing her lawful duty, e.g., performing an unlawful frisk, then the prosecutor’s case will crumble.
- Incidental touching: You must have purposefully tried to touch or hurt the officer to be convicted. We can use the defense of unintentional body movements in instances such as when you tried to stop yourself from being hurt when being shoved into the police car or when you tried to shield yourself from an attack from a third party.
- Defense against excessive force: While violence is never justified or lawful (even if the officer is performing an unlawful arrest), you can defend yourself if the officer is using excessive force. If the officer was, in fact, using excessive force, we can try to show that your reactions were justifiable self-defense.
Each case is unique, and the defense that suits you case depends on the circumstances. When you work with Goldman Wetzel, our team of battery defense attorneys will work together to build your defense and present you case in the best possible light. Our goal will be to get your charges dropped, your case dismissed, or when those options are not a possibility, your offense/penalties reduced.
Get a FREE consult with a criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg.
Goldman Wetzel has the skills and resources to handle even the most challenging cases, including those involving battery against a police officer. If you have recently been arrested in Florida, contact our office to speak with an attorney straightaway. We can represent you in court and begin working on your defense. Call us today at 727-828-3900.