Prosecutors are tasked with proving a defendant’s criminal intent for certain crimes. Often, Florida violent crimes with an intent component also carry a harsher sentence. For instance, aggravated battery requires proof of a specific intent to cause great bodily harm, whereas felony battery does not. In a recent Florida appeals court decision, the court upheld the jury’s finding of aggravated battery because the evidence showed an intent to not only strike a bar owner but severely injure him as well.
Late at night, the defendant arrived at a South Beach bar and began harassing a female bar patron. After the woman complained about the defendant’s behavior, the bar manager spoke to the defendant, who agreed to stop harassing the female patron. The defendant did not stop, however, and a security guard escorted the defendant outside. The defendant became enraged; he spit in the security guard’s face, stated that he would not leave, and threatened to kill the bar manager and the security guard. The bar manager called law enforcement after the defendant was escorted from the bar. The bar manager then stepped outside and was punched in the head by the defendant. When the punch connected, it knocked the bar manager unconscious. The bar manager fell backwards and hit his head on the ground. Medical expert testimony at trial indicated that the bar manager suffered brain damage as a result of the punch.
The defendant appealed the aggravated battery conviction because he argued that he did not have the requisite intent as required under Florida law. Florida statute section 784.045 provides that “[a] person commits aggravated battery who, in committing battery . . . intentionally or knowingly causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.”
The court’s analysis of the defendant’s intent focused on (i) the extent and nature of the victim’s injuries; (ii) the context of the attack; (iii) the amount of force used; and (iv) the manner of the attack. Although the court did not analyze each of these factors separately, the court determined that the defendant intended to cause great bodily harm to the bar manager. To support its finding, the court noted that the defendant angrily confronted the bar manager and threatened to kill him. Florida courts, perhaps unsurprisingly, have found that stating an intent to kill is evidence of an intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Also, the court noted that the force of the defendant’s punch was so hard that, according to the bar manager’s doctor, it caused a concussion and permanent brain damage. Although the defendant did not actually kill the bar manager, his statements and actions were sufficient to support the jury’s conviction for aggravated battery.
Aggravated battery causing great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, or permanent disability is a serious offense, and harsh punishments are meted out, especially if it is not a first offense. It is important to have an experienced Tampa attorney on your side as early as possible in the process, since strong defense tactics may be available even before you are charged. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has provided a vigorous defense to people accused of crimes such as aggravated battery since 1994. He strives to provide responsive and personalized representation. Call Hanlon Law at 813-228-7095 or use our online form to set up an appointment with a battery defense lawyer.
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