Assault and battery are two terms often used interchangeably to describe offensive, harmful touching or hitting; however, they are two separate causes of action under Florida law. Assault is defined as an unlawful threat of injury to another by force.  It is the threat, not actual physical contact. While battery occurs when an individual makes actual and intentional physical contact with another person against that person’s will. It is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail.

Claims of Civil Battery

Under Florida Statute Title 46 Chapter 784.03, the following conduct must occur to constitute battery:

  • The offender must actually touch or strike another person.
  • The touching or striking must be intentional.
  • The touching or striking must occur without the consent of the other person.

An individual may also bring a claim for battery if the offender intentionally causes bodily harm to another person. Battery includes crimes of sexual battery, rape, molestation, and malicious wounding.


Defenses to Civil Battery

In a civil case for battery, the individual who allegedly committed the battery may present defenses to avoid liability. 

Common defenses include:

  • Consent: The most common defense is consent. The alleged offender can assert the victim consented or agreed to battery. Consent is an effective defense particularly regarding injuries sustained in contact sports like football or hockey. The offender can assert the victim agreed to play the sport and as a result consented to the assault or battery that occurred.
  • Self-Defense: An alleged offender may assert battery occurred in response to the victim’s conduct. A successful self-defense defense must prove the offender responded appropriately and proportionately in the commission of the battery.
  • Immunity- In certain cases, the offender can assert immunity. Immunity prevents an individual from bringing a civil suit or recovering damages in a personal injury suit for battery. Certain government bodies and authorize actors may assert immunity.

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