Definition of Battery on a Police Officer
The crime of Battery on a Police Officer / Law Enforcement is defined under Section 784.07, Florida Statutes. Under the statute, Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer occurs where:
- The defendant intentionally touches or strikes a police officer / law enforcement officer against his or her will or causes bodily harm;
- The defendant knows that the alleged victim was a law enforcement officer/police officer; and
- The law enforcement or police officer was engaged in the lawful performance of his or her duties when the defendant committed the battery.
Meaning of ‘Law Enforcement Officer’
Under Section 784.07, the term ‘Law enforcement officer’ can include any of the following:
- Ordinary police;
- Correctional officers;
- Law enforcement explorers;
- Traffic enforcement officers;
- Parking enforcement officers;
- Part-time police and correctional officers;
- Auxillary law enforcement;
- Auxillary correctional officers;
- Probation officers;
- Employees of the Department of Corrections who supervise or provide services to inmates;
- Federal law enforcement officers;
- Officers of the Fishg and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Other Protected Officials
The special protections extended to police officers under Section 784.07 are applied to numerous other categories of public officials and public servants. Some of the most common categories include:
- Emergency Medical Care Providers;
- Public Transit Employees (i.e. bus drivers, train operators, revenue collectors, maintenance personnel, and supervisors connected with transit authorities);
- Community College Security personnel.
Battery on a Police Officer is classified as a third degree felony. As such, the offense is punishable by up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.
Where a defendant’s conduct constitutes Aggravated Battery, the offense is upgraded to a first degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Any person convicted of aggravated battery on a police officer is subject to a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 5 years. See Section 784.07(2)(d), Florida Statutes.
Defenses to the Charge
There are numerous defenses available to contest a charge of Battery on a Police Officer. Some of the more common defenses include the following:
As discussed below, self-defense is applicable to the change of Battery on a Law Enforcment Officer so long as the incident does not involve an arrest scenario. For additional information, visit our web page on Self-Defense in Florida.
Officer Not engaged in Lawful Duty
To support a conviction for battery on a law enforcement officer, the State must prove that, at the time of offense, the officer was lawfully executing a legal duty. Thus, if an officer conducts an unlawful detention or frisk, a conviction for battery on a law enforcement officer cannot be sustained.
However, this defense applies only in situations where the officer is not conducting an arrest. Meeks v. State, 369 So. 2d 109, 110 (Fla. 1st DCA 1979). Under Section 776.051(1) “a person is not justified in the use of force to resist an arrest by a law enforcement officer who is known, or reasonably appears, to be a law enforcement officer.”
Thus, even if the arrest is illegal, the use of force by a defendant is not justified, unless such force is used to repel excessive force used by the officer.
Private Sector Employment
Although, in many scenarios, a defendant can commit Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer where the officer is working in an off-duty capacity for a private employer, a conviction requires that the officer be engaged in the lawful performance of his or her duties. J.A.S.R. v. State, 967 So.2d 1050 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007).
Thus, if an officer is intervening to stop a fight between two combatants, this constitutes lawful execution of a duty and the offense can be committed. S.D. v. State, 11 So. 3d 401 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009). By contrast, an officer is not engaged in such duty (and the offense cannot be committed) where he or she is merely escorting an unruly customer (who had not committed any crime), from an amusement park. J.A.S.R., 11 So. 3d at 1051.
Unintended actions or bodily movements not calculated to make contact with the officer do not meet the basic elements of Battery on a Police Officer. Common scenarios where this issue may arise include:
- Where the defendant’s movements are intended to prevent harm from being slammed to the ground or placed against a patrol car;
- Where the movements are intended to repel an attack by a third party;
- Where the defendant makes incidental movements of the body not intended to make contact with any person.
Involuntary actions taken as a reflexive response to pain inflicted by an arrest do not satisfy the intent required for commission of an offense.
Although an arrest, whether lawful or unlawful, may never be resisted with violence, any excessive force used by the officer may be forcefully defended against in accordance with conventional principles of self-defense. Jackson v. State, 463 So. 2d 372, 374 (Fla. 5th DCA 1985). This is true even in lawful arrest scenarios. Id.
Lack of Scienter
Section 784.07 contains a scienter requirement in that, in order to convict a defendant of the offense, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the alleged victim was a law enforcement officer. Street v. State, 383 So. 2d 900 (Fla. 1980).
Importance an Attorney
Battery on a Police Officer is a serious offense that is vigorously prosecuted throughout Florida. An attorney is critical for identifying appropriate defenses and pursuing all legal options available to contest the charge or to minimize potential penalties.
If you have been arrested, contact attorney Steven Sessa today for a free consultation. Attorney Steven Sessa handles cases in Palm Beach County, Florida.