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What is the Difference Between Assault and Battery, and When Does it Become Domestic Violence?

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

December 2, 2021

Do you know what makes an offense an assault, battery, or domestic violence incident? In this blog, we’ll go over assault versus battery, the potential penalties for each, and when they become domestic violence. We’ll also cover what you should know about avoiding these altercations that could land you in serious legal trouble.

What Is The Difference Between Assault and Battery?

Florida state laws define the two crimes separately. Assault generally refers to the threat of imminent force, and battery refers to the unwanted touching of another, typically that which causes bodily injury. Battery may also may include offenses of a sexual nature.

Assault Definition

In Florida, assault can be classified as either simple assault or aggravated assault.

Simple Assault in Florida

Simple assault takes place when a threat of violence is made, either verbally or physically, that does not result in the victim being severely injured. For example, making a threat to beat someone up but not actually making physical contact is enough to warrant a simple assault charge.

Simple assault is also referred to as misdemeanor assault because this charge is a second-degree misdemeanor.

The potential penalties for simple assault include:

  • Up to 60 days in jail,
  • Six months of probation, and/or
  • A $500 fine.

Aggravated Assault in Florida

Aggravated assault is significantly more serious than simple assault. Like simple assault, though, aggravated assault does not require there to be physical harm done to the victim. A threat alone can still warrant aggravated assault charges.

An assault is considered an aggravated assault if:

  • There is a factor present during the altercation that makes it more severe in nature,
  • There is a deadly weapon used, or
  • The assault is committed at the same time another felony is underway.

It’s important to note that in cases where a deadly weapon is used, this does not mean the offender had the intent to kill. Instead, the weapon may have been used to scare or cause minor harm to the victim. If the offender did have the intent to kill, the crime would no longer be considered aggravated assault and would instead be attempted murder.

Aggravated assault is a third-degree felony.
If convicted, you face:

  • Up to five years in prison,
  • Five years of probation, and/or
  • A fine of up to $5,000.

Battery Definition

Many people hear “assault and battery” and assume it is one criminal offense. However, assault and battery are two separate crimes. Like assault, battery is considered either simple or aggravated.

Simple Battery in Florida

The biggest difference between assault and battery is that battery requires physical contact to be made between the alleged offender and victim. Simple battery is when you touch someone without consent or intentionally cause someone physical harm.

This is a first-degree misdemeanor, making it more severe than a simple assault.
Potential penalties for simple battery include:

  • Up to one year in jail,
  • 12 months probation, and/or
  • A fine of $1,000.

Aggravated Battery in Florida

Aggravated battery takes place when the physical harm done to the victim causes serious or even permanent injuries. The battery will also be considered aggravated battery if a deadly weapon is used during the attack.

Additionally, a simple battery may become an aggravated battery if the victim is pregnant. However, if the offender did not and could not have known that the victim was pregnant, this is a valid defense and the battery charge may be reduced to simple battery.

The penalties for aggravated battery, a second-degree felony, are:

  • Up to 15 years in prison and/or on probation, and/or
  • Up to $10,000 in fines.

Domestic Violence in Florida

You may be wondering, what must be present during the offense to make something a domestic violence crime rather than an assault or battery?

Domestic violence occurs when there is a crime of violence committed against a family or household member.
This includes:

  • Spouse,
  • Ex-spouse,
  • A relative by blood or marriage,
  • People who live together or formerly lived together, and
  • Parents.

In many cases, domestic violence is considered domestic battery.

Acts that warrant domestic violence charges include:

  • Hitting,
  • Stalking,
  • Threatening,
  • Slapping, and
  • Punching.

Domestic Assault vs Battery

Assault, aggravated assault, battery, and aggravated battery can all be charged as domestic violence if the alleged victim falls into one of the categories listed above.

There is a wide range of potential penalties for domestic violence crimes.

Misdemeanor offenses may result in up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines. More severe felony offenses could potentially result in life imprisonment.

Intent for Violent Crimes

Intent is a crucial part of proving assault, battery, and domestic violence charges. In order to get a conviction, prosecutors must prove that the defendant had the intent to cause harm to the victim. If they cannot prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant’s charges could be reduced, or the entire case may even be dismissed.

Avoiding Altercations

Over the holidays, there tends to be an increase in family altercations. This is in part due to the increased time that people spend with their immediate and extended family, as well as underlying stressors from the holidays like financial costs. Sometimes, heated interactions that can lead to assault or battery escalate so quickly that by the time you realize it’s getting out of hand, it’s too late to step away.

If you know that your family has a history of getting into arguments over the holidays, or you feel there is any chance you could become involved in a heated exchange, use these tips to help avoid any legal trouble over the holidays.

  • Step away: if you feel the emotions in the room becoming angry, or believe that the situation could escalate, be proactive and leave the room. This helps ensure you aren’t brought into any arguments that could lead to threats or violence.
  • Avoid controversy: people always say to avoid politics, relationships, and religion when talking with family members. There has been a lot of controversy over the last year and a half. If your family has passionate and differing views, this could be the catalyst of a major argument.
  • Set boundaries beforehand: it may be best to communicate with some of your family members that you are worried about tensions building during holiday family gatherings. You may choose to make a plan beforehand to explicitly avoid discussing some topics, or a plan for how to safely handle any issues that arise.

Miami Violent Crimes Defense

If you are facing assault, battery, or domestic violence charges, contact our Miami criminal defense attorneys at Hager & Schwartz, P.A.. We have used multiple different defense strategies to help our clients avoid the harsh sentences that accompany these criminal charges. Call us at (305) 330-1360 to schedule a case consultation so we can begin building your defense as soon as possible.