Aggravated Battery

The concept here is simple. Take a misdemeanor battery, then add an extra ingredient or two--and voila--instant aggravated battery. The words behind the aggravated battery describe why the battery is enhanced, like "with a deadly weapon", or "causing great bodily harm". Let's show you a few examples of how this works.

AGGRAVATED BATTERY CAUSING GREAT BODILY HARM

One way to take a misdemeanor battery and turn it into a felony aggravated battery is to alleged that the battery caused "great bodily harm". So, if you can prove that (1) an unwanted touching occurred, and (2) that touching caused 'great bodily harm', you've got yourself an aggravated battery. 

For example, one defendant was charged with aggravated battery causing great bodily harm after a defendant shocked the victim with a stun gun. The victim testified that the shock caused her to lie down, and the stun gun caused her great pain, but she required no medical treatment and the stun had no lasting effect. The court overturned the defendant's conviction, finding that 'great bodily harm' requires more than slight or moderate 'harm'. [See Nguyen v. State, 858 So. 2d 1259 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003).

In another example of an aggravated battery causing great bodily harm that turned out to be just a simple battery, check out Gordon v. State, 2011 WL 6016913 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2011).  Gordon's aggravated battery was overturned due to the fact that the bruises caused did not require medical treatment, and eventually fully healed--thus not qualifying for "aggravated" status.  For a more in depth analysis of this case, and the difference between an aggravated battery and a misdemeanor battery, check out my article "When Aggravated Battery is really only a Battery".

AGGRAVATED BATTERY WITH A DEADLY WEAPON

Which brings us to another way to get an aggravated battery, and that's with a "deadly weapon". The theory here is also simple. Take a misdemeanor battery, but rather than using your bare hands (a fist, or open hand slap, for example), you use a stun gun, and the state calls it 'Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon", how does that work?  As you might expect, the definition of  a 'deadly weapon' play a key role in determining whether or not the charge is legit.

Take our stun gun case above, for example. In that case, the court found that an aggravated battery with a deadly weapon charge was invalid as well, because for an object to qualify as a "deadly weapon", it must be designed to be deadly as contemplated by it's manufacturer. In the case of a stun gun, it's not designed, nor is it likely to cause great bodily harm, so the court in Nguyen (above) found that a stun gun does not qualify as a deadly weapon based upon it's design.

That being said, sometimes the state can get away with charging aggravated battery with a deadly weapon if an ordinary item is used in a manner that is likely to cause great bodily harm. If you take a stun gun to an intensive care unit at the hospital to kill an unsuspecting patient, the circumstances of the stun gun's use would qualify for 'deadly weapon' treatment. Household items like screwdrivers have been held to be deadly weapons based upon the manner of their use. Which brings us to the obvious--use of a firearm will always qualify as an aggravated battery with a firearm (and look out for those hefty mandatory minimum firearm sentences, typically 10-20 years).

Unfortunately, our legislature has done a poor job of defining what constitutes a "deadly weapon".  So, lazy prosecutors across the State of Florida have filed deadly weapon charges for just about every household non-deadly item you can think of.  Yes, stuff you would allow your baby to play with has been found to be deadly by some prosecutors.  Lucky for us, we have some appellate courts which can review such nonsense, and overturn cases when necessary.  To see the details on how a broomstick beating was overturned due to the fact that a broomstick is not "an instrument that will likely cause death or great bodily harm when used in the ordinary and usual manner contemplated by its design", check out my article "Can a Broomstick Be a Deadly Weapon?"

BATTERY UPON PROTECTED CLASSES OF CITIZENS

Another way to upgrade a misdemeanor battery into a felony battery involves an analysis of who was hit.  Say, for example, the person battered is pregnant.  The charge is no longer a misdemeanor, it is a felony Battery upon a Pregnant Person.  Or, if the person is a police officer, the misdemeanor becomes a felony Battery upon a Law Enforcement Officer.  But, every enhancement requires more proof, and its not as easy as it looks.  For example, a misdemeanor battery becomes a felony if the battery is upon an emergency medical care provider.  Is it easy to prove that someone works as an emergency care provider?  Let's take a look.

In the case of Spurgeon v. State, 114 So. 3d 1042 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013), Spurgeon was convicted of spitting in the face of an emergency room security officer at South Seminole Hospital.  Technically, the charge was battery on an emergency medical care provider.  The prosecution proved that the security guard spat upon "was an employee or agent of South Seminole Hospital, that [the security guard] was wearing a security uniform that had a badge and shield on it, that [the security guard] was authorized by South Seminole Hospital to provide security to its facility, and that [the security guard] was performing her duties when she was attempting to place the restraints on Spurgeon in the emergency department", but, "the State failed to introduce legally sufficient evidence to show that [the security guard] was an employee or agent of a hospital, as a hospital is defined in chapter 395."

How is that the state proved the victim worked for a hospital, in the emergency room, yet still lost their case?  The analysis begins with the definition of "emergency medical care provider".  This definition includes all employees of a hospital as defined in Chapter 395 who perform duties associated with the hospital's emergency department or the security thereof.  Sound's simple enough, right?  Well, chapter 395 requires the state to present proof that the hospital's emergency room offers "services more intensive than those required for room, board, personal services, and general nursing car, and offers facilities and beds for use beyond 24 hours by individuals requiring diagnosis, treatment, or care for illness, injury", etc.  Even though it was proven that the security personal worked in the ER, for a hospital, there was no proof that the hospital qualified under the statute and the felony conviction was overturned.

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