If you’ve ever watched a police procedural show, you may already realize that assault and battery are serious and relatively common criminal charges. What you might not realize is that you can face these charges on their own or combined with one another. In some cases, you could find yourself facing assault charges without every putting a hand on the other person involved.
Facing violence-related criminal charges is a frightening prospect. Simply pleading guilty to avoid the humiliation of court could be a major mistake. You could end up saddled with a criminal record that can impact everything from your living situation to your job for years to come. Understanding how Florida defines these terms can help you create a defense strategy against pending criminal charges.
Assault actually involves a threat, not violence
Assault does not necessarily involve physical violence. Instead, an assault is any action or speech that implies an intention to harm another person.
Even if you know you don’t intend to follow through on such a threat, if the other person reasonably fears that you could hurt him or her, that could be sufficient grounds for an assault charge. All that is necessary for basic assault charges is the perception by the victim that the threat was sincere and that you had the ability to follow through on it.
Simple assault is usually a second degree misdemeanor charge. The potential penalties will vary depending on the circumstances, including your prior criminal record. If convicted, you could face up to 60 days in jail or six months of probation, as well as a $500 fine.
Battery involves causing physical harm to another person
People often conflate assault with battery. Battery involves intentionally touching or striking another person against his or her will or purposefully causing bodily harm to someone else. First time offenses are typically first degree misdemeanors. That means they carry penalties including up to a year in jail or on probation and a fine of up to $1,000.
Those with a previous battery conviction will face third degree felony charges that result in up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Aggravating factors can increase the charges and potential penalties involved with a criminal charge.
Those facing criminal charges have the right to a defense
Thankfully, you can defend yourself against both assault and battery charges. One of the more common defenses against these sorts of charges is a claim of self-defense. You have the right to defend yourself, as well as a third party, from imminent physical danger from another person. If you feel endangered or the other person has already struck or attacked you, defending yourself is your right.