Florida’s laws for people with prior convictions sometimes have the potential to inflict some severe penalties if that person gets arrested again, even if it is for something that normally would qualify only as a misdemeanor crime. If you’re someone facing possible felony charges because of your prior conviction, you need the right Clearwater criminal defense lawyer on your side to advocate for you both in court and, just as importantly, outside court in plea negotiations with the State Attorney’s Office.
J.D. was a Pasco County man who found himself facing that possibility following a heated dispute at a Clearwater dollar store. J.D. and his wife were shopping at the Dollar Tree on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard when a store employee and the wife became embroiled in “a verbal altercation over grocery bags,” according to the police report.
The arresting officer further declared that, as the argument escalated, J.D.’s wife pulled out her phone and began recording, the 20-year-old worker then called the wife a “Karen,” and J.D. responded to that affront to his wife’s honor by open-hand slapping the employee on her left cheek, The Smoking Gun reported.
Normally, a slap like the one alleged here would carry with it at most a charge of misdemeanor battery. Typically, a case of felony battery (which is a third-degree felony crime) requires evidence of both intentional and non-consensual touching… and proof that the touching caused “great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.” In this Dollar Tree case, there was no assertion that the store worker suffered great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.
There is, however, another way the state can charge felony battery, even in the complete absence of great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement. That’s when the suspect is accused of intentional and non-consensual touching and that suspect has at least one previous conviction for a battery crime. In J.D.’s case, he had, 22 years earlier, incurred a battery conviction stemming from an Illinois incident when he was a teenager. (In Florida, there is no limitation on how long ago the prior conviction in a case of “Felony Battery (Prior Conviction)” may be. If it is on your record, the state potentially can use it.
Defenses to a Battery Charge
There are defenses to felony battery available to accused people in Florida. They include things like “mutual combat,” which may help if, for example, you and the alleged victim were brawling in a bar fight. There’s also, as is true in most violent felonies, the possibility of asserting self-defense or the defense of others.
Additionally, there are two defenses that are inherent to the nature of the crime itself. Battery requires intentional touching to which the alleged victim did not consent. One defense option, then, is to argue the alleged victim consented, which perhaps brings to mind certain competitive events (apparently this is an actual thing,) but more commonly may come up in certain battery cases involving domestic/romantic partners.
Furthermore, there’s the defense of a lack of intent. If, for example, you slapped someone because you were flailing your arms due to a clonic seizure or a psychotic break, then you’d have a legitimate basis for arguing that you lacked the requisite intent to commit battery.
Of course, you may find yourself in a situation where none of those things applied; you were just someone who lost control and smacked someone for the first time since you were a teenager several decades prior. When that’s true, you need skilled counsel who knows how to advocate effectively on your behalf. Even if your situation means you cannot avoid a conviction, having an experienced attorney who knows how to advocate for you and negotiate with the prosecution can mean the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor, which can make a huge difference in terms of both monetary fines and jail time.
The Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten P.A. have that kind of skill and experience and know how to utilize it to our clients’ maximum benefit. Our attorneys are former state prosecutors who understand how law enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office deal with these cases, so we can (and do) aggressively pursue all options, including the reduction (or dropping) of charges whenever possible. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.