Florida has had its fair share of bizarre assault cases, but have you ever heard of one involving a front-end loader? This may very well be the strangest case of aggravated assault we have seen in a while.On June 3, Erick “Pork Chop” Cox and his boss, Perry Byrd, were preparing a lot in DeBarry, Florida, for a new Wal-Mart. The two were engaged in a verbal argument when an assault took place. Witness recounted Cox getting into a front-end loader and dumping a pile of dirt on Byrd. Cox then got out of the front-end loader and smacked Byrd on the head with a 6-foot aluminum level while laughing. He then dumped a second pile of dirt on the unconscious Byrd.Cox was arrested and charged with aggravated battery, although he is claiming that he acted in self-defense. He was released on a $5,000 bond.Obviously, most assault and battery cases don’t involve a front-end loader or construction equipment. As I mentioned above, that’s unusual to say the least.But assault and battery are two of the most common violent crimes in the state of Florida, and both come with serious consequences. If you have been charged with assault, battery, or both, it is important to understand the difference between the two charges and the penalties associated with each.Assault and Battery in Florida You’ve probably heard the terms “assault” and “battery” used together often. But what do they mean, legally speaking?In Florida, assault is the term used to describe any threat of harm inflicted against a victim. This could be done through words, gestures, or a related action, like damaging a piece of property.The following must be proven in order for someone to be convicted of assault:
- The defendant intended to inflict fear of harm or threaten the victim
- The defendant engaged in threatening words, gestures, or actions
- The defendant displayed his or her ability and intention to carry out the threat
- The victim anticipated or feared harm
When the defendant intentionally makes contact with a victim to inflict harm, then he or she has committed battery. Battery is a more serious crime than assault since it involves physical contact.There are three types of assault and three types of battery in Florida: simple, aggravated, and felony. They each refer to different levels of aggression and severity. The prosecutor will charge a defendant accordingly.If assault or battery is committed against a family member, roommate, or significant other, the incident may be called “domestic assault” or “domestic battery.”
Here is how assault and battery are classified and penalized in Florida:
- Simple Assault: Second degree misdemeanor; up to 60 days in prison and/or fines up to $500
- Aggravated Assault: Third degree felony; up to 5 years in prison and/or fines up to $5,000
- Simple Battery: First degree misdemeanor; up to one year in prison and/or fines up to $1,000
- Felony Battery: Third degree felony; up to 5 years in prison and/or fines up to $5,000
- Aggravated Battery: Second degree felony; up to 15 years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000
Defenses against Assault and Battery Charges
In Erick Cox’s case, self-defense seems like it might be tough to prove. However, there are many cases in which self-defense works well to justify your actions. But claiming self-defense isn’t the only potential defense strategy out there. There are several other options out there you can use to defend an assault and battery charge in Florida, including:
- Accident: Accidents happen, especially in the heat of the moment. For example, you intended to let out your frustration by hitting a wall, but you accidentally struck a neighbor or coworker. If you did not mean to inflict harm on the victim, you could claim that the incident was in fact, an accident.
- Lack of intent: You are innocent until proven guilty. To be convicted of assault or battery, the prosecution must prove that you intended to inflict harm or cause injury to the victim.
- Consent: If you and a buddy are engaged in physical activity or exchanging fighting words and the police catch you, you may still be charged. You and any witnesses will have to prove that any threats and physical contact were consensual between both parties.
- Defense of another person or property: You can also claim to have acted in the defense of others. If someone is threatening your children or your friend, you have the right to defend that person with physical means. If someone is breaking into your home and threatening to steal or damage your property, you also have the right to defend your home using physical means.
A proper defense strategy is crucial for an assault and battery case. Even if you cannot prove your innocence, a judge may be willing to reduce your sentence. If, for example, you are charged with felony assault, a good Florida assault lawyer may help you reduce your sentence to simple assault. In that case, you would avoid having to live life as a convicted felon.The point? If you have been charged with assault or battery, you may face felony charges and time in prison. This is especially true if you face charges of assaulting someone with a deadly weapon or assaulting a police officer. Don’t let an argument or accident put you in jail for years.About the Author:Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he's done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.