Battery on a law enforcement officer, or "batt LEO," is a third-degree
felony in Florida, punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison.
The charge is similar to resisting an officer with violence. However, battery
on a law enforcement officer requires an intentional touching or striking
against a cop, whereas resisting an officer with violence requires an
offer to do violence or actual violence while the officer is engaged in
a lawful duty.
Batt LEO is simply a battery with the added element that the alleged victim
is a police officer.
The law requires that the accused knows that the alleged victim is a police
officer. It is not enough for the accused to strike somebody and later
learn that the alleged victim was a police officer. The accused must know
at the time of the battery that the alleged victim is a police officer.
The batt LEO statute also applies to assistant state attorneys and firefighters.
What's difficult about defending clients charged with batt LEO is the
fact that when a police officer is a victim, he or she usually becomes
overly indignant. Whereas a first-time offender should receive Pretrial
Intervention, the State Attorney's Office has taken a hardline stance
giving police officer victims almost a complete say as to what happens
to somebody charged with battery on a law enforcement officer.
In other words, the State Attorney will only make a plea offer based on
the recommendation of the police officer victim. If the police officer
victim thinks you should be convicted of a felony and serve jail or prison
time, the prosecutor will seek such a sentence. Even if you have never
been arrested before.
Due to this, many batt LEO cases end up in trial.
It is my experience that physical altercations with police are never one-sided.
If you touch a cop, chances are that he or she will beat the holy hell
out of you. So if the allegation is that you slapped a cop on the shoulder,
is it a proportional response to slam you to the ground and break your
nose? I'm not kidding. I have had clients come into my office with
bruises and broken bones. And these clients were charged with committing
violence against a police officer.
Photos are very important. If you have been beaten by police, take lots
of pictures as soon as you can. Nobody likes abusive cops. If a jury sees
a blown-up photo of you looking like you've just gone 12 rounds with
Manny Pacquiao, they are far more likely to take pity on you, not the
hulking cop who suffered a scratch at your hands (allegedly).
Nevertheless, batt LEO is a serious felony that requires strong defense. I am a
Miami-Dade County criminal defense attorney who represents clients in the Miami-Dade and Broward areas.