In Pinellas County, Florida, aggravated battery is a serious crime and is defined as the intentional touching of another with the intent to cause great bodily harm or to use a deadly weapon. The maximum penalty for aggravated battery is 15 years or even more depending on whether Florida’s 10-20-Life law applies.
What Is the Bond for Aggravated Battery?
If you have been arrested for aggravated battery in Pinellas County, the bond varies between $5,000-$20,000, with the recommended bond to be set at $10,000. You also will be ordered to have no contact with the victim as a condition of your bond. That means that if you lived with the victim, you have to move out and find another place to live until the case is over or until the judge lifts the no contact provision. A lot of aggravated battery charges are domestic related, so this can be a big problem. If alcohol was involved, it is also likely that the judge may order you to wear an ankle monitor or Continuous Alcohol Monitor (CAM). These CAM monitors have become extremely popular with the judges in Pinellas County. They are expensive ($10/day) and often alert with false positives. But, until you have hired a criminal defense attorney and discussed the chances of getting it removed, you are likely stuck with it for a while.
What is an Aggravated Battery?
Aggravated battery is defined in Florida Statute § 784.045. It occurs when a defendant intentionally touches or strikes another person and, in doing so:
- intentionally or knowingly caused great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement; or
- used a deadly weapon; or
- battered a person that the defendant knew or should have known was pregnant at the time.
What Is the Meaning of a Deadly Weapon Under the Aggravated Battery Statute?
A weapon is considered deadly if it is used or threatened to be used in a way that is likely to cause great bodily harm or death. This usually means a gun or firearm, but really could be any object capable of inflicting the aforementioned injuries. The key to remember is that the deadly weapon depends more on how it is used rather than what it actually is.
What Are the Penalties for Aggravated Battery in Pinellas County?
Because aggravated battery is a serious crime, the penalties are steep. Aggravated battery is a second degree felony (it goes from third degree to second degree to first degree to life felony and capital) and is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment in the Florida Department of Corrections (State Prison) of 15 years. The crime also could carry a maximum term of probation of 15 years and up to a $10,000 fine.
Are There Gun or Firearm Enhancements for Aggravated Battery?
Yes. The penalties dramatically increase if a firearm was allegedly used during the commission of the crime. In these circumstances, Florida’s 10-20-Life Law applies as follows
- if a defendant possessed a firearm at the time of the crime, there is a minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years;
- if the defendant possessed a semiautomatic firearm or machine gun at the time of the crime, there is a minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years;
- if the defendant discharged (fired or shot) a firearm at the time of the crime, there is a minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years;
- if the defendant discharged (shot or fired) a firearm and caused death or great bodily harm, there is a minimum term of imprisonment of 25 years.
Most importantly, however, is that the prosecutors in Pinellas County take gun crimes very seriously. They are much more likely to prosecute and demand serious consequences if a firearm was used compared to any other situation.
What Are the Defenses to Aggravated Battery in Pinellas County, Florida?
Every case is different, so there is no one approach that will apply to every case. But, the following are common defenses that can be employed:
- Self defense- this is likely the most common defense that is used. It makes sense that the alleged crime did not occur in a vacuum and that something serious must have occurred to have caused the act. When using self defense, a defendant must acknowledge the act, but present evidence that it was excused because it was necessary to defend him or herself against the victim’s imminent use of unlawful force.
- Florida Stand Your Ground Law- this is an extension of self defense that permits one to use force. It establishes that there is no duty to retreat. This law is determined by the judge assigned to your case, not the jury.
- Lack of Intention to Touch or Strike- this is a straightforward defense that simply attacks the intent element of the crime. It is more often used as a mitigating defense tactic rather than a complete defense, however.
- Victim did not suffer Great Bodily Harm, Disfigurement, or Disability- because it is subjective whether the victim actually suffered great bodily harm, this is an area that can be vigorously defended. It has been my experience that many aggravated battery cases are overcharged and should have always been simple misdemeanor batteries. In many cases, the prosecutor and police blindly follow the victim’s wishes to be hard on the defendant and this leads to the overcharging scenario.
- A Deadly Weapon Was Not Used- this is a fact specific defense that depends on the object that was used. In many situations, the alleged weapon is not found and thus proving what the weapon was (and whether one was used) is entirely based on the word of the victim. If there is no admission of guilt by the defendant and no independent witness, this can be a ripe area of attack for a defense attorney.
- The Victim is not Telling the Truth- like any case, the credibility of the victim is extremely important. There are many reasons why a victim would lie or exaggerate. Perhaps they don’t want to get in trouble. Perhaps there is some bias or dislike for the defendant. Perhaps in a domestic related case, the victim is trying to gain leverage for a divorce or child custody. Whatever the rationale, credibility issues with a victim should always be vigorously investigated and pursued.
- The Victim Does Not Wish to Prosecute- in certain situations the victim has second thoughts, regrets, or simply does not want to be involved in the criminal justice system. If a victim does not want to prosecute, the criminal defense attorney needs to relay this information as soon as possible to the state attorney. Another method of resolving a case is when restitution is involved and your attorney can reach a civil settlement with the victim. In every criminal battery case, there is a possibility for a civil claim. It is possible to pay the victim for their damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc) outside of the criminal system. Often, once a victim is compensated for their losses, the need for criminal punishment usually decreases. While there is no guarantee that a civil settlement will resolve the criminal charges, it cannot hurt.
Contact an Aggravated Battery Defense Attorney
I have represented countless people charged with aggravated battery over my career. I only handle cases in Pinellas County, which give me an advantage to know what the prosecutors and judges expect from each case. In every case, it is essential that we develop a strategy immediately and stick to it. For example, if drugs or alcohol contributed to the incident, it may be a good idea to get into voluntary counseling and provide negative drug screens. Another way to minimize the risk of the case is to make sure that any restitution is paid in advance. It has been my experience that if a victim is compensated, that reduces the penalties and the chances that the case will be prosecuted.
It is my goal in every case to get involved early in order to affect the charging decision in the case. If I have evidence that contradicts the victim, there is a much better chance that the case will be dropped. But, the strategy of the case varies from situation to situation. If you have been arrested or are being investigated for aggravated battery in Pinellas County, please contact me for a free consultation.