In Florida, an aggravated assault or battery conviction can mean stiff felony penalties, including minimum prison sentences. These crimes typically involve an assault or battery with a weapon or resulting in great bodily harm. The law also imposes felony penalties for repeat battery offenses, battery to further a riot, and domestic battery by strangulation. Enhanced penalties apply for assault or battery against a vulnerable victim.
This article discusses aggravated assault and battery and felony battery in Florida. Below, you'll find explanations of terms used in the laws for assault and battery. If you're in a hurry to find the penalties, skip down to the following sections. And for more information on simple assault and battery, see Simple Assault and Battery in Florida.
Generally speaking, an assault means to threaten violence against another, while battery refers to intentionally touching another or causing bodily harm. Aggravated and felony penalties apply when the harm or possible harm increases.
Florida's law specifically provides that:
Say a person threatens to throw another up against a wall and looks strong enough to do it. That person committed an assault. If the person then grabs the other's arm, whether or not injury results, that contact is a battery. Striking, pushing, punching, kicking, or throwing the person up against the wall would also constitute a battery.
Aggravated assault and battery and felony battery charges typically apply in those offenses that involve a weapon, increased harm to a victim, or vulnerable victims. As you review the penalties below, here are some of the terms you'll encounter and their meanings.
Deadly weapons are objects or substances that are inherently deadly or dangerous, such as a firearm, knife, bleach, or other dangerous poison. They can also include everyday objects that can be used in a manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm, for example, steel-toed boots.
Great bodily harm is any harm more severe than minor or slight harm and could include wounds that bleed profusely or require stitches, broken bones, and injuries requiring surgery.
Permanent disability is an injury that leaves a person permanently unable to function in a normal manner. A permanent limp, chronic back pain that limits activities, and permanent impairment of someone's ability to speak or write are examples.
Permanent disfigurement refers to an alteration of the physical body, such as a visible scar, loss of a limb, or a broken bone that alters one's physical appearance.
A person convicted of aggravated assault or battery faces first- through third-degree felony penalties.
Aggravated assault is an assault with a deadly weapon or with the intent to commit a felony. Remember, assault doesn't require an intent to injure, only the intent to cause the victim fear of an immediate attack. For example, pointing a handgun at another person to scare them is considered aggravated assault.
A person convicted of aggravated assault faces a third-degree felony and up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Stiffer penalties can apply if the deadly weapon was a firearm or the assault was committed in furtherance of a riot.
Aggravated battery occurs if the offender:
A conviction for aggravated battery carries second-degree felony penalties of up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. As with assault, a person may be looking at stiffer penalties if the battery involved a firearm or was committed to further a riot.
Florida law (like many other states) provides increased penalties and protections for certain vulnerable victims and those working as employees in at-risk fields. Examples of protected classes of victims include elderly victims (age 65 and older), law enforcement officers, emergency responders, health care workers, school employees, and certain public employees (such as transit workers and child protection).
When an offender targets a victim within a protected class, an aggravated assault or battery charge bumps up a felony level. Aggravated assault increases to a second-degree felony, which carries a 15-year prison sentence (compared to five years). And aggravated battery becomes a first-degree felony with a 30-year maximum prison sentence. Minimum sentences may also apply. For instance, aggravated battery of a police officer carries a minimum five-year prison sentence.
(Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082 to .083; 784.021, 784.045, 784.07 to .083 (2021).)
A person convicted of felony battery faces third-degree felony penalties of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Felony battery in Florida involves any of the following circumstances.
Great bodily harm or permanent harm. If a battery results in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to the victim, the offender is guilty of a felony battery. This crime differs from aggravated battery in that felony battery doesn't require proof that the offender intended the harm, only that the touching was intentional and harm resulted.
Repeat battery offenses. A second or subsequent battery offense (including simple battery) results in felony battery charges.
Riots. Committing battery in furtherance of a riot also constitutes felony battery.
Protected victims. A person who commits simple battery against a victim in a protected class (see examples above) faces felony battery charges.
Domestic battery by strangulation. If someone batters a family or household member or dating partner by impeding their normal breathing or blood circulation and creating a risk of great bodily harm, the offender is guilty of domestic battery by strangulation. Strangulation consists of putting pressure on someone's throat or neck or blocking the nose or mouth. "Family or household members" include current and former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons currently or formerly residing together as if family, or persons who share a child.
(Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082 to .083, 784.03, 784.041, 784.07 to .083 (2021).)
A felony conviction can seriously impact your life. A convicted felon may lose the right to vote, hold public office, serve as a juror, and carry or own firearms. In certain circumstances, a felony conviction also can result in the loss of a professional license. Felons who face criminal charges later may find that the new charges can be enhanced because of their prior conviction(s). If you are convicted later of another crime, a felony record also can subject you to a harsher sentence in the new case.
If you face criminal charges, talk to a criminal defense attorney who knows the local court system. A lawyer can explain the criminal justice process, protect your rights, and zealously defend your case.