Family Violence Offenses: Battery and Aggravated Battery
In Florida battery and aggravated battery committed against a family or household member qualifies as domestic violence, which is a very serious crime. Battery against a family member can have both civil and criminal consequences. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a battery by a family member, it is vital that you contact an experienced family law attorney who can advise you on your legal options.
A person commits a battery in Florida when he or she:
- Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or
- Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.
A charge of battery in a family violence context when the injury was not intentional is a first degree misdemeanor. It is punishable by a $1,000 fine and imprisonment for up to one year. However, if the accused either intended to cause bodily harm or already has a prior conviction for battery, the crime will be charged as a third degree felony. This increases the potential fine to $5,000 and the term of imprisonment to five years.
A charge of battery is elevated to aggravated battery when a person commits a battery and:
- Intentionally or knowingly causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement; or
- Uses a deadly weapon.
Additionally, if the victim of a battery was pregnant at the time the crime was committed, and the perpetrator knew or should have known of the pregnancy, then the charge is automatically elevated to aggravated battery.
Aggravated battery is a second degree felony in Florida. As such, a conviction is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment and the payment of a $10,000 fine.
Great Bodily Harm
Great bodily harm means any harm that is more severe than a slight injury, like minor bruising, and is more permanent in nature. Examples include:
- Wounds that bleed profusely or require sutures;
- Broken bones; or
- Injuries that require surgery.
Permanent Disability and Disfigurement
Permanent disability and permanent disfigurement are not defined by statute in Florida. Instead, the matter of whether an injury is permanent is left to the discretion of the trier of fact in each case. Examples of injuries that constitute a permanent disability include:
- Chronic back pain;
- Impairment of a person’s ability to speak, write, or perform physical tasks; or
- A permanent limp.
Permanent disfigurement refers to an alteration of the physical body, like:
- The loss of a limb;
- A broken bone that alters physical appearance; or
- Visible scars.
An object that is inherently dangerous, like a firearm, knife, or poison is a deadly weapon. However, the object does not have to be inherently dangerous to satisfy the statute. As long as the offender uses the object in a way that is likely to cause great bodily harm, it will be considered a deadly weapon.
There are also hefty civil consequences for committing a battery against a family member. After a person has been charged with battery, the judge will order the accused to have no contact with the victim. This often means that the accused will be required to find another place of residence for the duration of the proceedings. Offenders are also usually required to attend a 26 to 29 week Batterer’s Intervention Program that helps repeat offenders manage their anger issues. In addition, the judge may order the completion of a certain number of community service hours by the defendant.
If you have been the victim of a battery perpetrated by a family member, please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein immediately for a free consultation.