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Court Discusses Verdict Charges in Florida Battery Cases

The Law Office of Genine Ann Mejia, P.A.

Battery is a unique crime in that multiple acts may be considered a single criminal offense, or each act may be charged separately. Regardless of how battery crimes are charged, however, the State must prove each element of the offense to obtain a conviction, which requires that the jury be properly advised as to how to evaluate the evidence presented at trial. This was discussed in a recent Florida ruling in which the court evaluated what constitutes a proper jury instruction in a battery case. If you are charged with a battery crime, it is smart to talk to a trusted Florida criminal defense attorney to discuss your potential rights.

The Alleged Acts of Battery

It is reported that the defendant got in a verbal altercation with the victim, who was his ex-girlfriend. The fight became physical, and the defendant flicked a lit cigarette at the victim, shoved her, and pushed her throughout the course of the argument. He was charged with battery with two or more battery convictions. During the trial, the defendant’s counsel objected to the verdict form because it did not distinguish between each act and he stated that it did not require a unanimous verdict. The court overruled the objection, finding that there was a continuous chain of events with no intervening actions. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed.

Verdict Charges in Florida Battery Cases

On appeal, the court explained that a trial court’s use of a general verdict form that does not ensure a unanimous verdict is a reversible error. Where a single count embraces multiple separate offenses, even if they all violate the same statute, a jury cannot convict a defendant unless its verdict is unanimous as to a minimum of one of the acts specified. In the subject case, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in allowing the jury to deliberate on three separate acts of battery when he was only charged with one offense.

He further stated that each act was distinct, and the State erred in suggesting otherwise during its closing argument. Finally, he argued that the trial court’s failure to adjust the jury verdict form impaired the jury’s ability to issue a unanimous verdict. After reviewing the evidence of record, the court stated that each of the acts could be considered part of a single criminal episode, or they could find that each act was a separate crime. The court ruled, however, that the fact that each juror may assess the acts differently did not mean they could not come to a unanimous verdict on the issue of whether each element of the crime was met and, therefore, that the defendant committed the crime. Thus, the defendant’s conviction was affirmed.

Meet with a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida

Battery is a violent crime that can result in significant penalties, and it is prudent for anyone charged with battery to meet with an attorney. Attorney Genine Ann Mejia has ample experience defending people charged with violent crimes, including battery, and she can meet with you to discuss what defenses you may be able to assert. You can reach Ms. Mejia by calling (386) 463-0849 or using the form online to set up a meeting.

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