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Self Defense is Not Always a Valid Defense to Battery in Florida

In Florida a battery is normally committed when a person forcefully touches another in an unauthorized manner. A first time battery will likely be charged as a misdemeanor crime. The charge becomes domestic battery if the victim is a relative or shares another specified relationship with the suspect. A battery can be a felony if a weapon is used or the battery results in sufficiently serious injuries to the victim.

However, no matter the type of battery, domestic or otherwise, felony or misdemeanor, the defendant may have a self defense argument. A valid self defense claim is a complete defense to a battery charge and, if successful, would result in a verdict of not guilty in a criminal trial.

A person in Florida has a right to use force against another if he/she reasonably believes it is necessary to protect him/herself or another from that person’s imminent use of force. In other words, if you think someone is about to use force against your or another victim, you can use force against that person if it is reasonably necessary to prevent that force from occurring.

This right to self defense is not absolute. There are two common situations where self defense is not a valid defense to a battery charge. If the defendant is committing a forcible felony, attempting to commit a forcible felony or escaping from the commission of a forcible felony, he/she does not have the right to claim self defense if he/she uses violence against someone. For instance, if a defendant breaks into another’s home to steal something, someone inside is about to strike the defendant and the defendant hits that person first, the defendant will not be allowed to use the self defense claim. In this case, the defendant was committing a burglary and had no right to strike the other person. The defendant would be charged with burglary and battery without a valid self defense argument.

The other scenario occurs when the defendant initially provokes the use of force. If the defendant starts a fight and the other person moves to strike the defendant, the defendant is not authorized to use a self defense argument if the defendant strikes the other person first.