At Flaherty & Merrifield, we defend locals, military members, and vacationers who have been arrested for an assault or battery offense in Northwest Florida's Fort Walton Beach area. Here's what you need to know if you're facing these very serious charges.

Any act that involved either actual physical harm or the threat of it is going to be aggressively pursued by both law enforcement and prosecutors. Aside from the possibility of serving a prison term, you may be perceived as a dangerous and unstable person to potential employers or landlords if you are convicted of assault or battery. Also, some assault and battery offenses are impossible to expunge or seal from your criminal record, meaning that this can stick with you for the rest of your life, even if the charges against you are completely false.

My name is Tim Flaherty. I have been defending clients accused of assault and battery in Fort Walton Beach since 2001. My partner Brandy Merrifield joined me in 2007. Criminal defense is our only area of practice. Keep reading to learn more about these charges and how we use our expertise and trial experience to defend you against them.

Defining Assault and Battery Under Florida Law

  • Florida Statute 784.021 defines assault as "an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to someone else, along with the apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which created a well-founded fear in the other person that such violence is imminent." Misdemeanor assault is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
  • Florida Statute 784.03 defines battery as "the actual and intentional touching or striking of a person against their will or with the intent to cause bodily harm." Misdemeanor battery is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine.‚Äč

Assault and Battery Cases We Handle

Accused of—or charged with—an assault or battery offense in the Fort Walton Beach area? Brandy and I defend locals, military personnel, and vacationers who've been accused of the following crimes:

Aggravated Assault

Florida Statute 784.021 defines aggravated assault as "an assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, or with an intent to commit a felony." Aggravated assault is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and a permanent felony conviction.

Defending an Aggravated Assault Case

Aggravated assault is the type of case where an effective defense strategy can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. While every case is different, here are a few of the issues we will look at in order to develop the most effective legal strategy to win your case:

  • Whether we can argue self-defense; if so, this could lead to a dismissal or a win at trial.
  • Assault requires the state to prove that the victim was in fear. In other words, if the alleged victim doesn't want to prosecute, the state may have no choice but to dismiss the case.
  • The state must be able to prove that you had the ability to carry out the threat. For example, if you threaten someone in an email, you can't be convicted of aggravated assault because it is impossible to carry out a physical threat through the computer.
  • The state will be required to produce the item they are claiming is a deadly weapon.

Aggravated Battery on a Pregnant Woman

If you have been arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant woman, you are facing a mandatory prison sentence if you are convicted. This charge is called aggravated battery because of the victim being pregnant, not because the battery itself was aggravated. In other words, even if the battery was minor enough to only be a misdemeanor under normal circumstances, if the alleged victim was pregnant, the state will charge you with felony aggravated battery.

Elements of Aggravated Battery on a Pregnant Woman Under Florida Law

The state will be required to prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant intentionally touched or struck the victim against their will or intentionally caused bodily harm to the victim; and
  • The victim was pregnant at the time; and
  • The defendant knew or should have known that the victim was pregnant at the time.

Aggravated battery on a pregnant woman is a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Under Florida's sentencing guidelines, the charge is a Level 7 offense, which requires a minimum sentence of 21 months in prison if you are convicted.

Defending an Aggravated Battery on a Pregnant Woman Case

Every case is different, but here are three issues we will look at:

  • We will contact the alleged victim to see if they would be willing to sign a drop-charge request. If they are, the state may or may not continue with prosecution, but it increases the chances of a successful outcome.
  • We will review whether it is possible to argue self-defense.
  • We will review whether we can make an argument that you didn't know the victim was pregnant. Obviously, this is very case-specific. If the victim was someone you just met, it might be a viable argument. If it was your wife or girlfriend, we probably can't claim you didn't know she was pregnant.

Aggravated Battery With a Deadly Weapon in Fort Walton Beach

I hate to be so blunt about this, but if you are charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, the state is going to roll right over you and send you to prison if you don't have an attorney to fight for you. Cases that are this serious require an experienced defense team.

A deadly weapon can be any object capable of causing great bodily harm. Common examples include firearms, baseball bats, clubs, knives, etc.

Penalty for Aggravated Battery With a Deadly Weapon

This charge is a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Under Florida sentencing guidelines, it is a Level 7 offense, which scores a minimum of 21 months in prison. Depending on the severity of the victim's injuries, the state can add additional points to the scoresheet. In those scenarios, the sentence would be calculated as follows:

  • With Slight Injury. 56 points + 4 injury points = 60. 60 – 28 = 32. 32 x 0.75 = 24 months in prison.
  • With Moderate Injury. 56 points + 18 injury points = 74. 74 – 28 = 46. 46 x 0.75 = 34.5 months in prison
  • With Severe Injury. 56 points + 40 injury points = 96. 96 – 28 = 68. 68 x 0.75 = 51 months in prison.

Maximum Assault and Battery Penalties by Charge

The various Florida assault and battery charges and their maximum penalties can be found in the chart below:

Charge Statute Misdemeanor or Felony Degree Maximum Penalty
Simple Battery / Misdemeanor Battery 784.03(2) M 1st 1-year jail and $1,000 fine
Simple Assault 784.011 M 2nd 60 days jail and $500 fine
Domestic Violence 741.28 M 1st 1-year jail and $1,000 fine
Aggravated Assault with a Weapon or Firearm 784.045(1)(b) F 3rd 5 years prison and $5,000 fine
Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer 784.07(2)(b) F 3rd 5 years prison and $5,000 fine
Domestic Violence by Strangulation 784.041(2)(a) F 3rd 5 years prison and $5,000 fine
False Imprisonment 787.02(2) F 3rd 5 years prison and $5,000 fine
Child Abuse 827.03(2)(c) F 3rd 5 years prison and $5,000 fine
Battery on the Elderly 784.08 F 3rd 5 years prison and $5,000 fine
Aggravated Battery on a Pregnant Person 784.045(1)(b) F 2nd 15-year prison and $10,000 fine
Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon 784.045(1)(a)1 F 2nd 15-year prison and $10,000 fine
Aggravated Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer 784.07(2)(d) F 1st 30 years prison and $10,000 fine
Burglary with Battery 810.02(2)(a) F 1st Punishable by Life in prison and $15,000 fine

Additional Assault or Battery Cases We Defend

Our team has many years of experience defending locals, military personnel, and vacationers accused of, arrested for, and charged with assault and battery crimes. We can also defend you against the following charges:

Take Advantage of a Free Consultation

If you've been charged with an assault or battery crime, you need a knowledgeable and experienced legal team to take charge of your defense as soon as possible. Reach out to us today by completing our contact form or calling our law office at 850-374-6273 to schedule an appointment for a complimentary, no-obligation consultation.