You’re not the sort of person who goes looking for fights. However, you may someday find that you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a fight has instead come looking for you. An argument in a bar gets out of hand. A jealous man thinks you’ve made pass at his wife and takes a swing at you. So you do what any reasonable person would – you defend yourself or others who are being threatened or attacked.
However, because physical altercations or attacks usually happen quickly and (usually) not in the presence of police, you may find to your surprise that you, along with the person who started the trouble, are facing assault or battery charges.
Two Separate Crimes
News reports often state that one or more of the participants in a bar brawl or street fight has been charged with “assault and battery”. In reality, though, while both are crimes involving violence and while both do often occur during the same incident, these are actually two separate offenses.
“Assault” is, in essence, the use of physical or verbal threats of violence. Under Florida law, an individual may be charged with assault when:
- He takes, or threatens to take, an action intended to cause physical harm to another person;
- He appears to have the ability to cause physical harm; and
- The action or threat creates in the victim a well-founded fear that physical harm is indeed about to occur.
By contrast, battery occurs when an individual actually physically strikes another. In other words, first there’s the threat (assault), then physical contact (battery). As such, it is possible to be charged with assault alone, if the threat wasn’t carried out. By the same token, a battery can also occur without a prior assault if there was no threat; for example, if the victim is struck from behind and didn’t see the blow coming. Most often, though, if there is physical contact both crimes are usually charged.
The Importance of Effective Legal Representation
Depending whether people were hurt (and, if so, how seriously) and other facts, assault and battery both may be considered misdemeanors or felonies. For example, a single punch will probably result in a misdemeanor (or “simple”) battery charges, but a threat with a gun will usually be considered aggravated assault, a felony.
However, any assault or battery conviction can result in severe penalties, including possible jail time. Additionally, a felony assault or battery conviction can have lifelong consequences, including the loss of the right to vote or hold public office and ineligibility for some types of professional licenses. Whoever was at fault, these are violent crimes and are often prosecuted very aggressively.
If you’ve been charged with one or both of these crimes you need to take those charges seriously, and the first and most important step you can take is to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side.
With offices in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, Orner Law, LLC represents criminal defendants throughout South Florida. Our seasoned and aggressive criminal defense attorneys have many years of combined experience and an outstanding record of successfully defending persons charged with violent crimes in South Florida. We’ll review your case, talk to witnesses and fight for you at each step in the process. If you are facing assault or battery charges, call us for a free consultation today at (561) 347-1336.