If you were involved in a high-conflict incident with another person, but did not engage with that individual in a physically violent manner, then you may be surprised to find that you could be held criminally liable for misdemeanor (simple) battery. Florida — like many other state jurisdictions — imposes criminal liability in a variety of assault and battery scenarios, including those that do not necessarily involve violent or injury-causing behavior.
Criminal litigation is frightening, as you could be exposed to significant penalties (and a smear against your record). Given that such litigation is fundamentally high-stakes, we encourage prospective defendants to seek the assistance of a qualified criminal defense attorney for guidance.
Let’s take a closer look.
Misdemeanor Battery Fundamentals
Section 784.3 of the Florida Statutes defines misdemeanor battery as:
- Actually and intentionally touching or striking another person against their will; or
- Intentionally causing bodily harm to another person.
Misdemeanor battery will be upgraded to felony battery if there are aggravating factors, such as the use of a deadly weapon or if serious bodily injury results from the act itself. The crime of misdemeanor battery is associated with penalties of up to $1,000 and a year of imprisonment in jail, though judges frequently impose probation as an alternative.
Criminal Liability May Attach Without Injury
It’s worth noting that liability for misdemeanor battery will attach even if no injury has been caused to the victim. For example, if you touch a person non-violently (but without their consent), then you may still be found liable for misdemeanor battery. Similarly, if you spit at someone, and the spit makes contact with their body, then you could be found liable for misdemeanor battery.
There are two common defenses that are worth highlighting in the context of non-violent battery contact: 1) incidental/accidental contact, and 2) assumed consent.
For liability to attach, the defendant must have intended to touch the victim without their consent. As such, incidental or accidental contact (for example, spitting on the sidewalk but accidentally hitting a bystander due to high wind) is not enough to establish liability for misdemeanor battery.
Consent is also assumed in certain circumstances. If you have a prior relationship with an individual, or if the social atmosphere generally allows for basic touching — for example, if you are at a professional networking event and you reach out and shake a person’s hand — then consent can be reasonably assumed (if no prior warning is given).
Contact Fowler Law Group for a Free and Confidential Consultation
Fowler Law Group is a boutique Florida defense firm committed to providing comprehensive and personalized legal representation to those who have been accused or charged with various criminal offenses, including battery.
We believe that a successful defense requires a deep understanding of the client and the particularities of their case. As such, we maintain open lines of communication with the client throughout litigation, and tailor our strategy accordingly as we gain further insight into the case at-hand.
Unlike many of our competitors, we are willing litigators who have taken numerous cases to trial, when necessary. This gives us significant negotiating leverage with prosecutors, helping us to push for favorable resolutions at an early stage.