Law Enforcement Officers at an Outdoor EventUnder Florida Statute Section 784.07, battery on a law enforcement officer is punishable by up to five years in prison or probation and a $5,000 fine. If you are convicted of aggravated battery involving the use of a weapon or the victim suffers serious injuries as a result of your actions, the minimum sentence is five years in prison—but you can face as long as 30 years behind bars.

When it Comes to Battery Charges, Law Enforcement Officer Is Broadly Defined

Florida defines a law enforcement officer as any person who is responsible for upholding the state’s laws—so this charge applies to more than just police officers. A law enforcement officer can be any of the following:

  • Police officer
  • Correctional officer
  • Traffic enforcement officer
  • Probation officer
  • Auxiliary law enforcement officer
  • Auxiliary corrections officer
  • Federal law enforcement officer
  • An employee of the Department of Corrections who supervises or provides services to inmates
  • Officer of the Fishing and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The law also allows for this charge when the victim is considered a protected public official. This includes:

  • Community college security personnel
  • Emergency medical care providers
  • Firefighters
  • Public transit workers

There Are Several Potential Defenses That May Apply to Your Case

Every case is unique, which is one of the reasons why it’s critical that you work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine how to proceed. However, there are a number of general defenses that may apply to a charge of battery on a law enforcement officer:

  • You lacked knowledge that the victim was a law enforcement officer. To be found guilty, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were aware the victim was considered a law enforcement officer under the law.
  • The officer was not engaged in lawful duties. If the officer violates the law while performing their role, such as by performing an unlawful detention, the charge is not valid. If the officer was working off-duty for a private employer such as a bar or convenience store, they are not awarded enhanced protection unless they are performing activities that could be considered of an official police nature—such as escorting a trespasser off the premisses or breaking up a fight between two or more individuals.
  • You were acting in self-defense. As long as you were not being arrested at the time the incident occurred, you are allowed to use reasonable force to defend yourself. For example, self-defense may apply if the charges result from an incident where the officer was unlawfully entering a private home or unlawfully detaining or frisking a third party.
  • The law enforcement officer was guilty of police brutality or excessive force. You are not allowed to resist an arrest—even if it is later determined to be unlawful—with violence. However, this rule does not apply in cases where the officer uses excessive force. If an officer is using excessive force or the appearance of excessive force appears to be imminent, the conventional rules of self-defense apply.
  • The conduct in question qualifies as incidental touching. If you did not intend to make physical contact with the law enforcement officer, the charge does not apply. An example of this might be a case where you accidentally hit an officer while attempting to prevent an attack by a third party.
  • Your actions were solely reflexive. It is a normal human response to react to pain. An involuntary action that is a reflex to pain from an arrest does not support the charge.

A Special Note About Assault Charges

The general public often assumes that assault and battery are synonyms, but this is not the case. While the crime of battery on a law enforcement officer requires actual physical contact, you can be charged with assault on a law enforcement officer even if you did not make physical contact or cause injury. An assault charge only requires an intentional threat of violence, an apparent or demonstrated ability to carry out the threat, and fear in the victim that the violence is about to occur. 

Request a Consultation to Discuss the Best Way to Proceed

If you’ve been charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, you are facing serious penalties. The best thing you can do to protect your rights is to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Flaherty & Merrifield Criminal Defense is here to help. Contact us today to request a free and discreet consultation.