In Florida, felony battery is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in state prison.
There are three main ways in which a person can be charged with felony battery.
1) A person can be charged with felony battery if they have one prior conviction for battery, aggravated battery, or felony battery and that person commits any second or subsequent battery. A "conviction" means a determination of guilt that is the result of a plea or a trial, regardless of whether the court imposes a withhold of adjudication or a plea of nolo contendere is entered.
That means that a person with a prior battery, even if it's just a misdemeanor, can be charged with felony battery if they commit another battery in the future.
Secondly, a person can be charged with felony battery under the following circumstances:
2) A person commits felony battery if he or she:
(a) Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; and
(b) Causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.
This differs from aggravated battery in that felony battery does not require intent to cause great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement. Felony battery does not require that a weapon be used.
An example of felony battery would be your typical "one-punch" scenario where Person A punches Person B just one time, but in that punch, Person A breaks Person B's jaw. It is hard to say that Person A intended to inflict great bodily harm with that one punch, but by virtue of the punch itself, the injury was caused. This offense is for cases in which serious harm is done to a person but without the proof of intent to cause that serious harm by the offender.
The third type of felony battery is domestic battery by strangulation:
3) A person commits domestic battery by strangulation if the person knowingly and intentionally, against the will of another, impedes the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of a family or household member or of a person with whom he or she is in a dating relationship, so as to create a risk of or cause great bodily harm by applying pressure on the throat or neck of the other person or by blocking the nose or mouth of the other person.
This offense was specially designated by the Legislature so that courts could impose serious punishments upon domestic batterers who strangle their victims.
Felony battery is a serious offense. In Miami-Dade County, Pretrial Intervention (PTI) may be offered to first-time offenders provided the alleged victim agrees.
In Broward County, the same result is possible although improbable. Broward prosecutors are typically less likely to offer PTI than Miami-Dade prosecutors.
Felony battery is a defensible crime. One defense assesses the "great bodily harm" aspect of the charge. Simply put, did the accused actually cause great bodily harm? Is it a broken bone or a chipped tooth? A gash that required 30 stitches or a small cut? What is the extent of the injury? If there is a fine line between injury and serious injury, the charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Another defense is self-defense. Florida's Stand Your Ground Law permits a person to meet force with force. If somebody is attacked with non-lethal force (fists and feet), then that person has an absolute right to use non-lethal force to defend themselves. There is no duty to retreat (meaning you do not have to run away). If somebody approaches you in an aggressive manner and either uses force or threatens force, and you reasonably believe that force is necessary to protect yourself, you may use it.
If in the process of lawfully defending yourself you cause great bodily harm to the other person, there can be no crime. However, this does not stop the police from arresting you.
You must remember that police officers show up to the scene of a crime after the crime has already occurred. They may arrive to find you, who doesn't have a scratch, and the "victim," who is holding their broken nose with a bloody T-shirt.
First impressions are everything, and it's not going to take the officers long to determine that you clearly won the fight. If there are no independent eyewitnesses (just you and the "victim"), they will likely base their arrest decision on who got the best of who. Even if you lawfully defended yourself and in doing so caused the aggressor bodily harm, you may find yourself charged.
It is one of the most unfair situations one can fall into. Here you are, a taxpaying, law-abiding citizen who is attacked without provocation. When you use lawful self-defense to possibly save yourself from injury (or even death), you find yourself being charged with a felony.
The criminal justice system is a scary place to be. Everyday, I counsel clients who are treading these waters, many for the first time. Getting arrested is a terrifying and humiliating experience. I wouldn't wish it upon anybody who didn't deserve it.
Felony battery charges can land you in prison. If the prosecutor is being unreasonable, then the only option may be a trial by jury. I am always ready and willing to defend my clients in trial. It is part of the service I provide. I never charge extra or separately when my client exercises a fundamental constitutional right.
If you or somebody you know has been arrested for felony battery, please call my office today so that we may determine the best defense to these charges.