Battery is a misdemeanor of the first-degree. The maximum penalties are 364 days in the county jail, 1 year of probation, and a $1000 fine.
There are felony levels of battery, such as felony battery and aggravated battery. However, this post deals entirely with the misdemeanor offense.
Battery charges typically stem from confrontational situations with other people. In a domestic setting, the allegation is usually that one spouse hit the other. Outside of the home, battery charges can occur when two people confront each other and one throws a punch, a shove, or any kind of unwanted touching.
In many fight situations, the alleged aggressor may be charged with battery as the alleged victim will likely tell police that "he/she started it," and that they were merely defending themselves. However, most battery charges are difficult for the State of Florida to prove for that very reason. Without independent witnesses or a video, battery is typically one person's word against another's.
For a first-time offender, an accused person charged with battery should expect to receive an offer to enroll in pretrial diversion (PTD). However, this requires that the alleged victim consent to the accused's participation in PTD. If not, the plea offer could be a withhold of adjudication with probation, or even jail.
If the accused accepts PTD and completes the conditions, they may be eligible to have their arrest expunged.
If the accused accepts a withhold and probation, they may be eligible to have their record sealed provided it is a non-domestic battery charge. Domestic violence charges where the accused has received a withhold of adjudication do not qualify for sealing.
Many times, alleged victims will not agree to withholds of adjudication or PTD because they want to sue the accused, and a conviction with a plea of guilty will be admissible against the accused in civil trial.
There are many defenses to the charge of battery. One defense is that the accused and the alleged victims were mutual combatants. That is, this was a mutual fight where both parties, through their words and actions, consented to allow the other to hit them. Now, it is never smart to get into a street fight, and many times, both participants will be arrested and at the least charged with disorderly conduct. But sometimes we make rash decisions in the heat of anger, but so long as the other party is willing to fight, there can be no crime of battery because there is no touching without somebody's consent. If the evidence shows that the alleged victim was agressive and assisted in instigating a fight by words or actions, you could have a mutual combatants defense.
Also, there is self-defense. Remember Florida's Stand Your Ground Law: you have the right to meet force with force in self-defense. You have no duty to retreat when being agressively confronted or your safety is being threatened. If you are lawfully defending yourself, you have a defense to the crime of battery.
Also, think about surveillance. Not just fixed cameras in places such as nightclubs, parking lots, or buildings, but cellphones and other gadgets that record video. It seems that nowadays, everything is on video. If arrested and charged with battery, contact a South Florida criminal defense attorney who handles battery charges. From personal experience, I will always look for a video, be it a homemade video from a witness's cellphone, or a surveillance tape from the location where the incident occurred. In a case where it is one person's word against another's, video can be a valuable defense witness, especially if it shows the accused being attacked, or the incident being one of mutual combat.
I have handled battery charges at both the felony and misdemeanor level. I have prosecuted hundreds, if not thousands, of battery charges when I was a Miami-Dade prosecutor. Now, I practice criminal defense exclusively in Miami-Dade and Broward County, defending people against charges such as battery.
A battery charge can carry a stigma. People may think you are violent or have anger management issues. If you are convicted, this charge will be available for all to see, even current or prospective employers. There may be fines, court costs, even jail time. And since battery is treated as a "victim crime" in County Court, if the alleged victim is angry with you, he or she may have all the power in determining your case's resolution.
In my experience, there are many weaknesses with battery prosecutions. I am always prepared to defend a client at trial for that reason. As a criminal defense lawyer, I would never encourage a client to plead guilty or no contest to a charge where the evidence was weak.
Since County Court only handles misdemeanors, battery cases are treated with special care by prosecutors. It is very possible to be offered jail on your first offense if the alleged victim wants it that way. Don't cave in and let the State Attorney's Office bully you around. Stand up and fight these charges! Call my office today.