Claiming Self-Defense in an Assault or Battery Charge

If you are facing criminal charges for assault or battery in Tampa, Florida, or anywhere else in the state, you could be facing serious penalties depending on the nature of the alleged offense. In Florida, assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case, so it is not an offense to take lightly, especially if you acted in self-defense.

Assault is considered a “violent crime” in Florida and so is battery. If someone gets into a physical fight with another person, or if they somehow harm another person, they can be charged with assault or battery under the Florida Statutes. Under Chapter 784 of the Florida Statutes, assault and battery are broken down into:

  • Assault under Sec. 784.011
  • Aggravated assault under Sec. 784.021
  • Battery under Sec. 784.03
  • Felony battery under Sec. 784.041
  • Aggravated battery under Sec. 784.045

Assault consists of any intentional threat or action to commit violence against another person, coupled with the ability to carry out such a threat.

In order for a threat or act to be considered “assault,” the actor must have done something to create a well-founded fear in the other person that they were about to be harmed. Assault is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.

Someone commits an “aggravated assault” under Sec. 784.021 when the actor intended to commit a felony, or when the actor used a deadly weapon without the intent to kill the victim.

Aggravated assault is a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and by a fine not to exceed $5,000.

Battery and Felony Battery

In many situations, someone will get into a physical altercation and they will be charged with battery or felony battery under sections 784.03 and 784.041 of the Florida Statutes respectively.

A person commits the offense of “battery” when they actually touch or strike another person against his or her will. A person also commits the offense of battery when he or she intentionally harms someone else’s body.

For example, if a man gets into a fight with someone at a football game and he punches the other man out because he let his emotions get the best of him, he would likely be charged with battery under Sec. 784.03.

If it’s the person’s first battery offense on the books, they would be charged with a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by a $500 fine. However, if the defendant was previously convicted of battery, aggravated battery, or felony battery, then their new offense would be a felony of the third degree.

A defendant commits felony battery under Sec. 784.041 when he or she intentionally strikes another person against their will and they cause permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or great bodily harm. Felony battery is a third-degree felony.

Felony battery is elevated to aggravated battery under Sec. 784.045 when the actor uses a deadly weapon or when the victim is a pregnant woman. Aggravated battery is a felony of the second degree.

What if I was defending myself?

Often, an innocent person is attacked by another individual who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, in the middle of a jealous rage, or simply mentally unstable.

In these situations, an innocent party may be attacked and when they fight back in self-defense, they cause serious bodily injury to the person who attacked them. Then, the innocent person ends up in jail and facing felony charges.

Under Sec. 776.012, people have a right to defend themselves. Under this section, “A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another” when he or she believes they must use such conduct in order to defend themselves against another person’s use of unlawful force.

If you are facing assault or battery charges after defending yourself, we sincerely hope that you will contact our Tampa criminal defense firm for legal advice!