Criminal Defense Attorney - Assault or Battery
To successfully defend against criminal charges in St. Johns County you need a St. Augustine criminal defense attorney with courtroom experience. Attorney Christy Opsahl is a former prosecutor with extensive trial experience. She handles a variety of criminal offenses including misdemeanors, felonies, and juvenile delinquency.
Ms. Opsahl has experience handling cases with a variety of sentencing enhancements, such as Habitual Felony Offender (HFO), Habitual Violent Felony Offender (HVFO), Violent Career Criminals, 10-20-Life, and Prison Releasee Reoffenders (PRR).
Assault or Battery
Assault and battery are violent offenses that can greatly impact your life regardless of the potential sentence. Your ability to get a job, enroll in school, participate in organizations, travel, and general reputation can all be negatively affected by a conviction for a violent crime. Assault and battery offenses can range from misdemeanor offenses to felony offenses punishable by life in prison. The presence of injury, weapons, prior convictions, and the relationship to an alleged victim can all enhance the severity of the charge. It is important to understand that the will of a victim does not determine whether you are prosecuted. The State of Florida brings criminal charges against a defendant and can pursue prosecution with or without the consent of the victim. Both the criminally accused and victims of crimes have constitutional rights afforded them by the State of Florida. It is important that criminal defendants and victims of crimes understand these rights.
If you are arrested for an assault or battery, the court will often impose restrictions before you are even convicted. These are pre-trial restrictions such as no contact with the victim, not going within a certain radius of the victim or their residence, wearing a GPS monitor, and complying with alcohol or drug tests. It is crucial that you contact an attorney as soon as possible after an arrest to advise you on your restrictions and whether any of the pre-trial restrictions may be modified or removed. Failure to comply could result in your bail being revoked and remaining in jail until your case is resolved.
Whether you are a first-time offender or have a lengthy criminal record, an experienced attorney can help you navigate the criminal court process for your individual needs. Diversion programs can result in charges being dismissed to avoid a criminal record. An attorney can attempt to negotiate a withhold of adjudication that can reduce the restriction of your constitutional rights such as voting or owning a firearm. It is important to consult an attorney to determine if you qualify for a diversion or a withhold of adjudication. This could also impact whether you are eligible for your record to be expunged in the future.
A conviction for an assault or battery can result in a wide range of penalties depending on the severity of the charge and your criminal record. The outcome can be anything from outright dismissal of charges, completion of a diversion program and dismissal of charges, fines, probation, rehabilitation, jail, or prison up to life in prison. The sufficiency of the evidence and individual facts of each case will greatly impact your disposition. It is important to hire a local attorney who knows how the individual state attorney’s office handles these offenses to be able to adequately negotiate the outcome or effectively take the case to trial.
Domestic Abuse is generally an assault or battery on a family member or individuals who live in the home and can create minimum sentencing requirements under the law. Florida Statutes define the relationship between the accused and the alleged victim that will trigger minimum sentencing requirements for domestic abuse. An experienced attorney can help explain these sentencing requirements and can attempt to negotiate with the prosecutor for a reduction or modification of the charge to avoid any minimum sentencing requirements.
A sexual offense is generally an assault or battery that is sexually motivated and/or involves touching of a sexual organ. Specific sexual offenses are defined by Florida Statutes and subject the accused to a wide range of penalties. The age of both the accused and victim, whether there was penetration or contact with a sexual organ, use or possession of a weapon, prior convictions, and the extent of injury are all factors that determine the potential sentence for a sexual offense. A conviction for a sexual offense can require sex offender or sexual predator registration for a lifetime. A conviction can result in lifetime civil commitment as a sexually violent predator in a collateral proceeding from the criminal case. A conviction for a sexual offense can result in a lengthy prison sentence. These offenses often involve technical forensic evidence such as crime scene collection and storage, evidence transmission to outside agencies, DNA evidence, and medical/anatomical evidence. Sexual offenses often involve the admission of evidence of prior conduct on unrelated individuals that would not otherwise be admissible. Sexual offenses often involve the testimony of children and professional opinions alluding to the credibility of a child’s testimony. There are certain legal exceptions to the Rules of Evidence when child witnesses are involved in a criminal case. It is vital to hire an attorney with experience in the legal nuances of sexual offenses including sentencing, technical evidence, child witnesses, and collateral consequences.
Possession or Use of a Weapon during the commission of an assault or battery as an enhancement will require the State to prove separate and distinct evidence aside from the underlying charge. It is important to hire an attorney familiar with the statutory enhancements that weapons trigger, and experience with the legal defenses that often accompany assault and battery offenses. These defenses include self-defense and Stand Your Ground immunity. These defenses may be absolute defenses meaning you cannot be charged with the particular crime, or they may be affirmative defenses that are factors to be determined by a jury that would require going to trial. Both types of defense require in-depth legal analysis into the facts of the case and knowledge of the implication of the applicable laws.
Possession or Use of a Firearm during the commission of an assault or battery has its own distinct set of laws that can trigger minimum mandatory sentences. A minimum mandatory is a defined minimum period of incarceration that a judge must impose if convicted of a crime involving a firearm. This requires a separate finding of proof by a jury or fact finder. Minimum mandatory sentences may affect any gain time or good behavior credit given while incarcerated. It is crucial that your case be analyzed by an experienced attorney who understands the ramifications of a minimum mandatory sentence on your disposition and has the ability to decipher any defenses that may remove the imposition of a minimum mandatory sentence. Possession of a firearm, discharge of a firearm, and discharge causing great bodily harm are all factual determinations that may trigger a minimum mandatory sentence being imposed.
Crimes involving firearms often involve forensic evidence that needs to be examined. The operability of the firearm, ballistics, gun-shot residue, blood spatter, and projectile trajectory are all evidentiary issues arising in cases involving firearms. Hire an attorney with experience in all of these areas to advise you on the strengths and weaknesses in the State’s case against you.
Christy has experience on both sides of the law as a former prosecutor and defense attorney to guide you through the risks and rewards of plea negotiations, motion practice, and taking your case to trial. Violent offenses have unique legal and factual issues that need to be analyzed by an attorney familiar with these investigations, forensic evidence, constitutional issues, discovery, and with jury trial experience in this area of law.