Battery on a Police Officer or Firefighter in Miami, Florida
When those in positions of authority, such as police and firefighters, overstep, it invites backlash. Protests across the United States prove militarized police states and abuses of power are unsuccessful in preserving law and order. However, states create laws to protect the system, meaning assault or battery on an official such as a police officer or firefighter escalates the charges to more serious crimes.
If you have been arrested for battery on a police officer or firefighter, you need the experience of a trial-tested criminal defense attorney on your side. The attorneys at Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC provide those accused of crimes with exceptional legal services every day and are capable of assisting you in defending your rights. If you need legal advice in Miami or South Florida, contact Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC today for a consultation.
Assault and Battery Defined
Florida defines an assault as an imminent threat to do violence to another person with the clear ability to cause harm. Usually, someone who commits an assault is guilty of a misdemeanor in the second degree.
A battery is the intentional touching or striking of another person that results in bodily harm. Usually someone who commits a battery is guilty of a misdemeanor in the first degree.
Assault and Battery on a Police Officer or Firefighter
The term police or law enforcement officer covers a variety of positions under the criminal justice system. It includes traditional law enforcement officers such as local police or sheriff deputies, state and federal law enforcement, correctional officers in jails or prisons, probation officers, and officers employed by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection.
A firefighter is a person employed by a state or local government to prevent and control fires as well as protect life or property.
If a firefighter or law enforcement officer alleges assault or battery, the punishment for the crime automatically increases. In the case of assault, when a law enforcement officer is involved, the punishment increases from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree misdemeanor. Jail time increases from a maximum of 60 days to a maximum of 1 year.
In the case of battery, the punishment increases from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Jail time increases from a maximum of 1 year to a maximum of 5 years.
For Increased Punishment to Apply, the Victim Must be Engaged in a Public Duty
The sentencing enhancements that apply to firefighters and law enforcement officers do not automatically come into effect just because a victim is employed as a firefighter or police officer. For increased punishment to apply, the firefighter or police officer must be engaged in the lawful performance of his or her duties at the time of the alleged assault or battery.
This means assault or battery on an off-duty firefighter or police officer that picks a fight at a bar, sporting event, or public rally is not automatically a more serious crime. Under Florida law, an accused can only be charged with the more serious first-degree misdemeanor or third-degree felony if the firefighter or law enforcement officer was lawfully performing his or her job at the time of the assault or battery.
Examples may include resisting a lawful arrest or throwing bottles or bricks at a police officer assigned to keep peace and protect life or property at a public rally. The distinction gets hazy in situations where a firefighter or police officer exceeds the scope of his or her duties or engages in unlawful activity under the guise of doing his or her job. An example is if a police officer is arresting or detaining an individual without probable cause or using excessive force.
In any situation, it is recommended anyone accused of assault or battery against a firefighter or law enforcement officer discuss the facts of his or her case with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the charges and assess the evidence, keeping the best defenses in mind.
Fighting Back Against Charges of Battery on a Police Officer or Firefighter
The legal system provides additional protection for those whose role is to protect and serve its citizens. In many cases, this is a good thing. The public should always be discouraged from interfering with a firefighter’s duty of putting out a fire.
However, in many cases, criminal charges exceed the intent of the law. For instance, enhanced assault laws shouldn’t be used to charge anyone without the imminent ability to follow through on a threat. Battery charges apply only in the situation where actual bodily harm occurs. A proper defense raises issues with the charges, pointing out the circumstances and how the charge does not apply to the accused’s actions. For example:
- Charges of assault when the accused made statements such as “Down with the police,” while protesting with hands raised peacefully.
- Charges for battery where the harm occurred incidentally, as when a police officer is struck by an accused defending himself from a third party’s attack.
- Charges for battery for reflexive actions, such as an involuntary reflex to pain.
- Charges for battery in situations where the accused defends himself from a police officer’s excessive use of force.
Contact a South Florida Criminal Attorney
The country is finally beginning to take notice of how people in positions of authority treat everyday citizens. The abuses of power are now clear. This includes charging individuals with criminal behavior when their conduct can be reasonably explained. If you are accused of assault or battery against a firefighter or law enforcement officer, it is important to seek legal representation immediately. Experienced criminal defense attorneys like those at Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC can help the prosecution understand the circumstances from your point of view and fight to clear you of overreaching charges. Contact Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLCtoday to schedule a consultation.