DEFINITION OF BATTERY
The crime of Battery when charged as a Misdemeanor is found under Section 784.03, Florida Statutes. In Florida, a battery occurs when:
An actual and or intentional touching or striking of another person against that person’s will occurs. A battery is not an assault. An assault is governed by Section 784.011, Florida Statutes.
Intent is a required element of a battery charge. To constitute a crime, there must be “either a specific voluntary act or something that is substantially certain to result from the act.” C.B. v. State, 810 So. 2d 1072 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002). A defendant must intend to strike the person, or engage in conduct where he or she knows that a touch or strike “is substantially certain to result from his acts.” Id.
An accidental touching, or a touching that is incidental to other conduct not intended to make contact with another person, is not enough to establish a battery. Beard v. State, 842 So. 2d 174, 176-77 (Fla. 2d DCA 2003).
CONSENT AND MUTUAL COMBAT
In all Florida prosecutions, it is a required element of battery that the touching at issue occur without the consent of the alleged victim.
This issue frequently arises in cases where two people engage in a fight, or “mutual combat.” In Florida, ‘mutual combat’ is a recognized battery defense predicated upon both parties assenting to a physical altercation and therefore consenting to be touched as an understood consequence of that altercation. Both parties must be at fault, and the defendant must not be the primary aggressor or initiate the fight. Eiland v. State, 112 So. 2d 415 (Fla. 2d DCA 1959); A.L. v. State, 790 So.2d 1149 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001).
The issue of consent is left for a jury to decide based on the totality of the circumstances. Testimony from the alleged victim that they did not consent is not required, so long as the state’s evidence can support a jury inference of a non-consensual touching. State v. Clyatt, 976 So. 2d 1182 (Fla. 5th Dist. 2008).
In some cases, where proper procedures are followed, evidence of a defendant’s prior violent behaviors toward the victim is relevant to prove his or her intent to commit the crime of battery or the alleged victim’s lack of consent. This is known as “Williams Rule” evidence.
NO REQUIREMENT OF INJURY
To commit the crime of battery, the Defendant does not have to injure the alleged victim. The intentional touching against another person’s will is sufficient. In fact, where the allegation is that the touching was against the alleged victim’s will, the existence or extent of injury becomes irrelevant. D.C. v. State, 436 So. 2d 203, 206 (Fla. 1st DCA 1983).
OBJECTS CONNECTED WITH A PERSON
Under Section 784.03, Florida Statutes, “there need not be an actual touching of the victim’s person in order for a battery to occur, but only a touching of something intimately connected with the victim’s body.” Clark v. State, 746 So. 2d 1237, 1240 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999).
Under Florida law, a battery can occur not only when there is an unconsented touching of the body, but also where the touching concerns an object “intimately connected” with the body. Id.
Common examples include purses, handbags, wallets, cell phones, other electronic devices, keys, clothing, and other objects being held by or attached to another person. Nash v. State, 766 So. 2d 310 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000) (grabbing a purse being held by the victim sufficient to constitute battery); Malczewski v. State, 444 So.2d 1096, 1099 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984) (stabbing money bag held by victim sufficient to constitute battery).
DIRECT CONTACT IS NOT REQUIRED
Indirect contact, such as by throwing an object, can constitute battery if the indirect contact was intentionally caused by the accused and was against the will of the alleged victim. Mohansingh v. State, 824 So. 2d 1053, 1054-55 (Fla. 5th DCA 2002) (spitting found to constitute battery).
PENALTIES FOR BATTERY (MISDEMEANOR)
Misdemeanor battery is classified as a first degree misdemeanor in Florida. The penalties can include up to a year in jail, or a probationary sentence not to exceed one year.
DEFENSES TO MISDEMEANOR BATTERY
- Defense of Others
- Defense of Property
- Consent (touching not against alleged victim’s will)
- Mutual Combat
- Use of Force under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law
- Accidental Touching
- Touching Incidental to Other Conduct not Aimed at Making Contact
- Other Factors or Motivations Showing Lack of Intent
- Lack of Evidence or Conflicts in the Evidence
VICTIM COOPERATION / CONSENT
One of the most pervasive myths in all of criminal law is that the prosecution cannot pursue a charge of battery or battery domestic violence without the consent or cooperation of the alleged victim. The myth is typically expressed as follows:
“The alleged victim wants the charges dropped, so the State can’t proceed with the case.”
Wrong. The alleged victim does not make prosecutorial decisions. He or she can sometimes influence the decision by requesting that the charges be dropped or by refusing to testify, but this, in and of itself, does not ensure that the case will in fact be dropped. Where the evidence is sufficient, the prosecution often elects to proceed with cases against the alleged victim’s wishes.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A BATTERY OR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BATTERY IT IS CRITICAL TO CONTACT AN ATTORNEY RIGHT AWAY.