Charged in Pinellas County with an Aggravated Battery?
St. Petersburg / Clearwater Aggravated Battery Attorneys who Can Help
Understanding an Aggravated Battery Charge
Florida Statute section 784.045 requires a showing that there was an intentional touching or striking that either caused great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement. In the alternative, the prosecutor can prove the case if he can show that you used a deadly weapon or you knew, or should have known, that the victim was pregnant at the time of the offense and your conduct must also be shown to have been willful.
How We Can Defend You on Your Aggravated Battery Charge
The defense attorneys in our office use a team approach in our representation of clients. We likewise aggressively defend aggravated battery charges with a legal arsenal of different tools. Consider just a few aspects of the inquiry and strategy an experienced Pinellas Aggravated Battery Attorney may employ in defending your case:
Can we show that the touching or striking was accidental or unintentional?
In other words, having negligently caused the harm is insufficient. Rather, it must be shown that you “intentionally or knowingly” acted in such a way to cause great bodily harm, disability or permanent disfigurement. Simply accidentally or negligently causing harm to another is insufficient. The appropriate test for determining “intent” is whether the accused knows that his touching or striking is “substantially certain” to cause the harm outlined in the statute. See Diaz v. State, 957 So. 2d 104 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007).
Example: Brake-checking – A “brake check” is the imprudent practice of pumping the brakes of your vehicle to get a tailgating driver to back off. This maneuver can often cause the tailgating vehicle to inadvertently smash into the rear of the motorist he is tailgating. A subsequent investigation by law enforcement can often lead to aggravated battery charges despite any injuries to the tailgating motorist. Law enforcement will base their theory on the fact that a motor vehicle can be considered a “deadly weapon.” We would want to argue that the facts do not demonstrate that our client had placed his vehicle into reverse, nor had he ever attempted to “ram” the victim’s car. Further, we could argue that the facts likewise do not suggest that our client ever intended to “sacrifice” his vehicle or subject himself to possible injury. Such a finding would be required in order substantiate the allegation that he “intended” to have contact occur between the two vehicles at the time that he applied his brakes. The element of “intent” is an essential element of “aggravated battery. Under these circumstances, our client’s conduct should not constitute an aggravated battery charge. Rather, the facts fall squarely within the purview of a simple “reckless driving” traffic offense since the application of the brakes should be viewed as a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” See Fla. Stat. §316.192; See also Grosser v. State, 24 So. 3d 718 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009) where defendant who cut in front of victim and slammed on brakes causing rear-end collision was cited for the offense of “Reckless Driving.”
Did the item used to commit the offense constitute a “deadly weapon”?
Florida Jury Instructions state that “A weapon is a ‘deadly weapon’ if it is used or threatened to be used in a way likely to produce death or great bodily harm.” However, every case is different. For example, the courts have held that a broom stick, a fork, a stun gun, a BB gun, a skateboard thrown at a vehicle, a flower pot filled with dirt, or a barricade thrown at a victim are not deadly weapons as defined by Florida Law.
If there is an injury suffered by the victim, does it rise to the threshold required by Florida law?
The courts have held “great bodily harm should be distinguished from slight, trivial, minor or even moderate harm.” Guthrie v. State, 407 So. 2d 357 (Fla. 5th DCA 1981). The state must prove “more than the victim suffered some harm.” C.A.C. v. State, 771 So. 2d 1261 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000). It is essential that our office investigate whether the victim sought or required medical treatment and to learn the extent or nature of the injury. Sometimes a police officer may portray an injury as severe when, in fact, medical records may show otherwise. In other cases, if no medical treatment was sought, the State may be unable to meet its burden in demonstrating that the injury was actually “great.”
Were you acting in self defense or in defense of another?
It is perfectly appropriate to defend yourself against another person’s unlawful attack. It is also legal to defend another person from harm. Self defense is an affirmative defense and it also constitutes an absolute defense to an aggravated battery charge. At times, our office can demonstrate that the supposed victim was actually the initial aggressor in the incident. You need an experienced Pinellas Aggravated Battery Attorney to consider the reputation and criminal history of the victim. Sometimes, it is also appropriate to raise an issue regarding the disparity in size or physical strength between the parties.
Can you assert Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law?
Florida Statute section 776.012 and Florida Statute section 776.013 took away the former duty to retreat and justifies the use of deadly force under certain circumstances. This area of the law is complex and has been interpreted differently throughout the state of Florida. It is critical to consult with an experienced Pinellas aggravated battery attorney in order to determine if this defense is available in your particular case.
Can the incident be characterized as mutual combat?
If both persons voluntarily agree to engage in a fight or a brawl, we can point out that neither individual is entitled to complain about the resulting contact or injury. In other words, just as in a game of football, the parties had each consented to the contact. We might be able to convince a prosecutor, judge, or jury to view your case in a much more favorable light, if it can be established that the incident was preceded by an invitation to “take it outside” or to “settle it like men.”
Aggravated Battery Penalties – A Mandatory State Prison Sentence
The charge of “Aggravated Battery” in Florida is a second degree felony. Because this offense is characterized as a crime of violence, it has been classified by the Florida Legislature within the Florida Criminal Punishment Code as a “level 7” offense. As a result of this classification, those persons convicted of aggravated battery are subject to a mandatory state prison sentence. This is true even in the absence of any prior criminal record.
Read our article about the Florida Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet Preparation Manual.
Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?
Very often, the purpose, spirit, or intent of Florida law requiring a state prison sentence in connection with an aggravated battery charge can be inconsistent with the conduct. Such a harsh consequence might appear disproportionate to the facts and circumstances of your particular case. Regardless of the unlawful conduct alleged, if you are facing this charge, you have a lot on the line. This is not the time to cut corners. Rather, you need a creative and thorough lawyer who will investigate all possible methods of circumventing or side-stepping this real threat of incarceration.
Early Intervention with the Prosecutor…
Getting the Aggravated Battery / Assault Charge Dropped Quickly
After you are arrested, your case must be reviewed by a local prosecutor for what is known as a formal filing decision. This review typically takes place within thirty to forty-five days of your arrest. If you have not yet received a court date, it is likely that a formal filing decision has not yet been made. In some circumstances, an early intervention by us can be successful in convincing the prosecutor to drop the charge or to file a lesser offense. Examples of Common Lesser Offenses:
- Misdemeanor Battery or Domestic Battery 784.03
- Felony Battery 784.041
- Disorderly Conduct 877.03
- Improper Exhibition of a dangerous weapon or firearm 790.10
- Discharging a firearm in public 790.15
- Simple Misdemeanor Assault 784.011
- Aggravated Assault 784.021
- Reckless Driving 316.192
An early intervention by us, on your behalf, could be extremely valuable, since having the charge dropped or filed as a lesser offense would avoid the harsh minimum mandatory state prison sanctions. The facts of every case are different, but there are often mitigating factors that we can point to in an effort to sway the prosecutor’s decision. You should consider some of the following strategies we have used in the past:
- Pointing out the victim’s prior criminal record and nature of their charges;
- Having the potential cooperation of a victim who does not wish to prosecute;
- Having us prepare a sworn affidavit for the victim to sign which outlines his involvement or conduct that instigated the incident ultimately resulting in your arrest;
- Explaining the role that alcohol might have played in your aggravated battery or aggravated assault charge;
- Arguing that the alleged weapon did constitute a “deadly weapon” but was rather a common item of convenience or opportunity;
- Educating the prosecutor on the true extent of the injury and arguing that it doesn’t meet the threshold of “great bodily harm;”
- Providing appellate case law where the courts have concluded that similar conduct, weapons or injury did not legally constitute an aggravated battery offense.
Aggravated Battery vs. Aggravated Assault
Members of the public, as well as many films and television shows, improperly use the terms “battery” and “assault” interchangeably. However, Florida Law draws important distinctions between the two. An “assault” is the intentional use of threats, words, or action that causes the victim to fear that violence is about to occur. An assault does not require that any touching or striking take place. On the other hand, a “battery” requires an offensive physical contact. The penalties for an “Aggravated Assault” charge can be less severe than the penalties associated with an “Aggravated Battery.” As such, it may be beneficial, at times, to have your lawyer investigate or negotiate the reduction of an “Aggravated Battery” charge to a charge of “Aggravated Assault.”
Call Us for a Free Consultation
We are Pinellas Aggravated Battery Attorneys who can help you with an aggravated battery charge arising out of the St. Petersburg or Clearwater areas of Pinellas County. We are experienced in creatively defending aggravated battery charges and have over 30 years of combined legal experience in the Pinellas County Criminal Justice System. It is important for us to scrutinize the unique facts and circumstances of your case. Let’s investigate possible defenses, and solutions aimed at achieving the best possible outcome. Call our office for a free initial consultation at (727) 578-0303.
- Understanding the Impact of a Felony Conviction
- Aggravated Battery Sentences: Florida Statute Section 775.082(4)(c)
- Aggravated Battery Fines: 775.083(1)(b)
- Florida Aggravated Battery Jury Instructions
- What to do When Facing a Domestic Battery
- Outstanding Pinellas County Warrants
- Getting a Second Chance – Probation