Assault on a Victim of a Protected Class in Florida
Assault and battery carry severe penalties, which can increase if committed against victims in a protected class. This includes particularly vulnerable victims, such as people over 65 or who have a disability, but also at-risk professionals in the course of their duties.
Protected classes of victims in Florida also include:
- First responders, including firefighters, paramedics, ambulance drivers, EMTs, and traffic accident investigation officers
- School employees, including teachers, counselors, educational professionals, and child protection services officials
- Law enforcement officers, including correctional officers, police officers, probation officers, blood alcohol analysts, breath test operators, and others
- Safety and security personnel, including parking enforcement specialists and licensed security guards
- Health care workers, such as doctors, surgeons, registered nurses, emergency care providers, hospital volunteers, and medical staff
- Public transit employees, including train operators, bus drivers, security personnel, maintenance personnel, and field supervisors
- Railroad special officers employed by a Class I, Class II, or Class III railroad
Penalties for Assault Against a Victim in a Protected Class
If an offense involves a victim of a protected class, the assault charge is upgraded by one level. This means you could be facing:
- A year in jail. Simple assault is usually charged as a second-degree misdemeanor, but after a step up to a first-degree misdemeanor, you may face up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
- A minimum of three years in prison. Aggravated assault on a protected victim turns a third-degree felony into a second-degree felony. If the aggravated assault is committed against a police officer, the judge must impose a mandatory minimum sentence of three years imprisonment.
- Up to 15 years in prison. A second-degree felony conviction carries up to $10,000 in fines and up to 15 years in prison, compared to a maximum of five years for a third-degree felony.
The “protected class” provision also applies if an offender is charged with battery. An aggravated battery charge becomes a first-degree felony with a potential 30-year prison sentence, and aggravated battery of a police officer carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.
Let Our Fort Lauderdale Criminal Lawyer Build Your Best Defense!
There are several ways to refute charges of assault against members of a protected class in Florida. For instance, for the charge to be upgraded, officers or agents must have been performing within the scope of their official job duties at the time of the alleged assault. If the assault involved an off-duty security guard or a neighbor who happened to be a teacher, the increased charges might not apply.
In addition, law enforcement officers who violate your rights during an arrest or traffic stop cannot be considered to be performing their “official” duties. Charges could be dropped or reduced if officers acted outside the scope of their employment.
Finally, a charge of aggravated assault on a protected class member requires two specific factors: an intentional action (the assault) and a deliberate intent to harm that class member. For example, you cannot “knowingly” intend harm to a police officer if you didn’t know that the alleged victim was a police officer. You may also be able to argue that your actions were caused by intoxication rather than specific intent.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer, Robert David Malove, provides comprehensive defense services and affordable payment plans to help offenders protect their rights. Contact us online or call us today at 954-861-0384 for a free consultation on your case. Even if you decide not to retain us, learning your options will cost you nothing.