Interactions with police officers and other members of law enforcement can be stressful, intimidating, and even frightening—and if things escalate, it's all too easy to find yourself on the receiving end of an assault and battery charge.
Unfortunately, this is no ordinary battery charge. Whereas battery on another civilian is a first-degree misdemeanor, battery on a law enforcement officer is a third-degree felony that, upon conviction, can result in a hefty fine, lengthy prison sentence, and long-lasting collateral consequences.
Don't let a confrontation with the police threaten to upend your life and destroy everything you've worked for. Keep reading to learn more about these serious charges, then contact us to learn how our highly-skilled team of criminal defense attorneys can help protect your future.
What Constitutes Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer in Florida
If you intentionally strike or cause bodily harm to someone you know is a member of law enforcement while they're engaged in the lawful performance of their duties, you can be charged with battery on a law enforcement officer in the Sunshine State. However, if you didn't punch, hit, kick, scratch, or otherwise harm the officer in question, you may be wondering how in the world you're facing battery charges.
Unfortunately, Florida's definition of battery on law enforcement covers a shockingly broad range of actions. Not only does it apply to intentionally hitting or otherwise inflicting bodily harm on the officer, but it can also apply to unwanted intentional touching. Shoving an officer, knocking a parking booklet from their hands, verbal threats, and even a touch of an arm can result in an arrest and charge for battery on a law enforcement officer.
As a third-degree felony, battery on law enforcement is punishable by up to five years in prison (or five years of probation) and a $5,000 fine. If the battery involved the use of a deadly weapon, or you intentionally and knowingly caused great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement, the charge can be upgraded to aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer—a first-degree felony punishable by a 5 to 30-year prison sentence.
Additionally, the collateral consequences of a felony conviction can be devastating and continue long after you've paid your debt to society. You can suffer damage to your professional reputation, limited employment and housing opportunities, and find yourself ineligible for a number of government programs. A felony record can also destroy established careers and prevent you from applying for—or obtaining—a professional license or security clearance.
This doesn't have to be your future. With the representation of a knowledgeable and experienced defense team, you may be able to have your charges dropped or reduced, or win an acquittal at trial.
“Law Enforcement” Doesn't Just Mean Police Officers
Though uniformed patrol officers may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of law enforcement, the term “law enforcement” refers to a much wider range of officials under this statute. In addition to local and federal police, corrections, and probation personnel, the law also applies to:
- Emergency medical care providers
- Law enforcement explorers
- Public transit employees or agents
- Railroad special officers
- Community college security
- Many others
Legal Defenses to Battery on Law Enforcement Charges
Battery on law enforcement is an extremely serious offense. Fortunately, there are a number of potential defenses to these charges, including:
- You didn't know the person was a member of law enforcement.
- The law enforcement officer wasn't engaged in lawful duty when the incident occurred.
- You were defending yourself against the threat of bodily harm (in a non-arrest scenario when the officer wasn't carrying out their lawful duties).
- You were defending yourself against excessive force during a lawful or unlawful arrest.
- The body movements or contact was unintended and incidental.
- You had a reflexive pain response that resulted in involuntary contact with the officer.
Let Our Exceptional Legal Team Mount the Skillful Defense You Deserve
Don't let an arrest for battery on a law enforcement officer destroy your future. At Flaherty & Merrifield, our dedicated criminal defense attorneys are here to fight for you during this difficult time. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free, no-obligation initial consultation.