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It's The Law: Salt Or Battery?

Question: I am having an argument with a friend. He claims there is no difference between salt and battery from a legal standpoint. I claim there is. Can you help end our debate?

Answer: First, let's get the correct terms. Salt is a seasoning. I believe you are talking about assault as a legal term. Battery can be something holding electrical charge and disbursing it or a legal term associated with physical violence.

Assault is threat of doing violence to someone with apparent ability to do so coupled with some act which creates a reasonable fear in the other person that such violence is eminent. In other words, assault is threat but not actual physical violence. Battery is the intentional touching or striking of another person against his or her will or otherwise intentionally causing bodily harm.

From a criminal standpoint, there are varying degrees of both assault and battery. Assault is a second degree misdemeanor. The criminal penalty for conviction of assault is up to 60 days in jail and/or a $500.00 fine.

The penalty is greater for aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill or assault with intent to commit a felony. Aggravated assault still does not involve contact with the victim and is a third degree felony. Punishment for aggravated assault is jail time of up to five (5) years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.00. Greater penalties can be imposed for habitual offenders.

Battery is a first degree misdemeanor. But, when the batterer has a prior conviction for battery, conviction is punished as a third degree felony.

Aggravated battery is punished as a second degree felony. That means conviction brings with it jail time of up to 15 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.00. Aggravated battery involves a) intentionally or knowingly causing great bodily harm, disability or permanent disfigurement; or b) use of a deadly weapon; or (c) battery to a pregnant victim who the defendant knew or should have known was pregnant.

Florida has a third category for battery, known as felony battery or domestic battery by strangulation. Felony battery is intentional touching another person against that person's will which causes great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement. Domestic battery by strangulation is knowingly and intentionally, against the will of another, impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of a family or household member or a person with whom he or she is in a dating relationship causing a risk of or actual great bodily harm by pressure to the throat or neck or blocking the nose or mouth of the other person. These crimes are punishable as a third degree felony.

In addition to exposure to criminal prosecution, assault or battery exposes the wrongdoer to civil liability. A perpetrator of assault or battery is liable for monetary damages to his or her victim. Those damages can include pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages and, in some cases, the spouse of the victim even has a claim for loss of spousal services. Attorney's fees are not generally recoverable in these actions, but where the wrong doing is particularly heinous, the victim may recover punitive damages.

There is probably not much monetary value to a claim for simple assault, as when someone threatens to hit another and does not follow through. Actual impact, particularly impact which causes real injury, makes a more significant case. Unlike baseball, a swing and a miss is a better place to be for a defendant.

It does not sound like you have any real pressing legal issue. However, if you are on either end of an assault or battery, you should discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible. If prosecution is even remotely possible, a potential defendant is well advised to retain an attorney immediately. If civil action is appropriate, the statute of limitations will probably bar the claim in four (4) years. As with all legal matters, early consultation with an experienced attorney is the best course.

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