In Florida, the act of touching a person without their consent is unlawful, and people that engage in such behavior may be found guilty of battery. Notably, contact is an essential element of many battery crimes, and if the prosecution cannot establish that a person charged with battery made actual contact with their alleged victim, they should not be able to obtain a conviction. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the court reversed the defendant’s battery conviction. If you are accused of battery, it is smart to speak to a Clearwater battery defense attorney about your potential defenses.
Facts Surrounding the Alleged Assault
It is alleged that police officers attempted to pull over the defendant when he was driving. They offered several reasons for their attempt, including that the defendant had an unregistered tag, failed to wear a seatbelt, and his car smelled of cannabis. The officers, dressed in law enforcement clothing, were in an unmarked black SUV with red and blue track lights activated to stop the defendant.
Reportedly, when the defendant did not immediately comply with the officers’ orders to pull over, they positioned their SUV slightly in front of his vehicle and activated the siren, trying to stop him. At this point, the defendant revved his engine and drove his car toward the officers’ SUV. However, both officers managed to jump back into the SUV, and the defendant’s car struck the front passenger door of the SUV without hitting any of the officers. The State subsequently charged the defendant with several offenses, including aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer. He moved for an acquittal on the aggravated battery count at the close of evidence. The court denied his motion, and he was convicted, after which he appealed.
Evidence Needed to Establish Aggravated Battery Under Florida Law
On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence presented during the trial was insufficient to meet the requirement for aggravated battery. The court ultimately agreed with the defendant and reversed his conviction. In doing so, it noted that the relevant Florida Statute, section 784.045(1)(a), defines aggravated battery as intentionally or knowingly causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement or using a deadly weapon. The statute does not address whether striking another person’s vehicle can be considered aggravated battery, however.
The court cited previous case law, which held that the intentional striking of an automobile could constitute battery on the vehicle’s occupant, but rejected a per se rule and stated that it is generally for the jury to determine if a vehicle is sufficiently connected to a person for the striking of the vehicle to be considered battery on the person. Instead, the court explained that for the question to reach the jury, the State must produce evidence showing a connection between the impact of the collision and its effect on the occupant.
In the subject case, however, the State failed to present evidence linking the impact of the collision to a battery on any of the individual officers. As such, the court concluded that the defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal should have been granted.
Meet with an Experienced Clearwater Attorney
The prosecution must establish each element of aggravated battery to demonstrate a defendant’s guilt, and if it cannot, the defendant should not be convicted. If you are accused of battery or another violent offense, you should meet with an attorney to examine your potential defenses. The experienced Clearwater defense attorneys of Hanlon Law can assess the facts of your case and develop compelling arguments on your behalf. You can reach Hanlon Law by calling us at 727-897-5413 or using our online form to set up a meeting.