Assault and battery offenses start as misdemeanors but can quickly escalate to felonies. In Florida, a person can be convicted of assault for threatening harm to another. An unwanted, intentional touching, even if no harm results, can result in battery charges. Both carry enhanced penalties when the crime involved increased harm, riots, or vulnerable victims.
This article discusses simple assault and battery in Florida. For more information on aggravated assault and battery, see Aggravated 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.
Florida's law specifically provides that:
Say a person threatens to punch you and looks strong enough to cause you some serious pain. That person committed an assault. If the person then grabs your arm, whether or not injury results, that contact is a battery. Punching you would also constitute battery and, depending on the level of harm inflicted, could be a felony. Accidently shoving you while in a large crowd, however, wouldn't be considered battery because the person did not intend to make contact with or harm you.
Simple assault and battery can be charged even where no harm results. The penalties increase as the level or potential level of harm increases. If a victim suffers more than bodily harm (more than bruising or superficial wounds), felony penalties may apply. An offense that involves a weapon will also increase the penalties. A weapon can be something obvious, like a knife or gun, but can also be an everyday object that can be used to inflict harm, such as steel-toed boots or a bat.
Florida, like many states, provides increased penalties and protections for certain classes of vulnerable victims. Such victims include elderly victims (those 65 and older) and victims whose employment puts them at increased risk of harm, such as police, emergency responders, health care workers, corrections staff, and school teachers. As you'll see below, assault or battery involving a protected victim generally bumps up the penalty by a level, which could be a higher misdemeanor penalty or a felony.
Florida's law also contains additional penalties and protections for domestic violence victims. More information can be found in Florida Domestic Violence Laws.
(Fla. Stat. §§ 784.011, 784.03, 784.07 to .083 (2021).)
A person who commits simple assault is guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor and could face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Simple battery carries a first-degree misdemeanor penalty of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
If either crime is committed in furtherance of a riot or against a protected victim, the penalty increases as follows:
Third-degree felony penalties also apply to a second or subsequent conviction for simple battery.
(Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 775.083 (2021).)
A conviction for a misdemeanor or felony becomes part of your criminal record, which can have a serious impact on your life. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A criminal record—even a misdemeanor conviction and, particularly, a conviction for a violent crime—can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment.
If you face assault or battery charges, speak with a local criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help explain the criminal justice process and any options you might have in your jurisdiction. Make sure to ask your attorney about the current and future consequences of a conviction.