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Common Defenses To A Battery Claim

In Florida, battery is defined as actual and intentional contact with another person without permission (which may or may not cause bodily harm).  Standard battery qualifies as a first-degree misdemeanor, and conviction may result in up to a year in jail time (or probation for up to a year).

If you have been charged with battery, it is not necessarily true — or even likely — that you will be convicted of battery, so long as you can adequately draw attention to various defense issues that will counter the charge.  As such, it’s critical that you secure the aid of a qualified criminal defense attorney to ensure that all the necessary defenses are raised and argued to the fullest extent.

There are, fortunately, a number of defenses available to criminal defendants fighting off a battery charge.  Consider the following common defenses to Florida battery.

The Battery Was Unintentional

Under Florida law, a battery conviction cannot be sustained without a showing of requisite intent to commit battery.  In other words, the prosecution must show that the defendant engaged in some voluntary act that is substantially certain to result in battery — the defendant must either specifically intend to engage in contact with the victim, or must be substantially certain that unwanted contact will result from his or her conduct.

This can be a bit confusing without a mental anchor, so let’s go over a quick example to help clarify the defense.

Suppose that you are bending down to pick up coins that you dropped on the ground.  As you secure the coins, you snap back up to the standing position.  At the time, you were located a public sidewalk, but the volume of pedestrian traffic was very low.  However, upon snapping back to the standing position, you collide with another pedestrian, causing them to trip over and fall to the ground, resulting in injuries.  In these circumstances, a court would likely find that your conduct was clearly accidental and did not demonstrate the requisite intent for a battery conviction.

Self-Defense and Defense of Others

If you intentionally caused harm to the victim or otherwise engaged in unauthorized physical contact as a means to protect yourself from harm, then you may be able to counter the battery charge with a self-defense assertion.

Florida law also provides that an individual may use force that he or she reasonably believes is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily harm to another person — not just to protect themselves.

Florida law does not require that you retreat from an aggressor, but there are limitations on self-defense.  You can only escalate the level of force (i.e., taking a situation where only non-lethal force is utilized to one involving lethal force) if it is reasonable to believe that doing so is necessary in order to protect against death.  Do bear in mind that the total circumstances will decide — to a large extent — whether your self-defense involved a reasonable level of force.  For example, if the attacker is much larger and stronger than you, using a knife to defend yourself may be reasonably necessary.

Victim Gave Consent

Battery in Florida assumes unauthorized contact.  The victim cannot have given consent to be touched.  If the victim does consent to such contact, then the defendant cannot be convicted of battery.

Florida law recognizes a unique battery defense related to consent known as mutual combat.  In the mutual combat defense, the defendant must show that each individual involved in a fight consented to the fight and understood the consequences.  If the involved individuals did consent to a fight and the consequences thereof, then the defendant cannot be convicted of battery on the basis of this demonstrated consent.

Importantly, to make use of the defense, the defendant cannot have been the main aggressor in the fight.

If you’ve been charged with battery, or if you’re simply concerned that you may be charged with battery on the basis of a past incident, call 941-404-8919 as soon as possible to speak with experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorneys at the Fowler Law Group today.

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