Never Touch a Cop

“Battery” is legal jargon for unwanted touching. If you deliberately touch me, and I did not invite the touch, then you will have commited battery. You need not hit someone nor cause injury, to have commited battery. Under the law, a mere touch suffices to charge the crime of battery. Different states’ criminal statutes may use slightly different wording, but the following (Florida) statute is typical:

Battery — 784.03(1)(a) The offense of battery occurs when a person: 1. Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; (2), a person who commits battery commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.

What is a “misdemeanor of the first degree”? It is a trivial crime that usually results in a fine or, at worst, a few days in the county lockup. A misdemeanor cannot result in being sentenced to prison for years. Because of this, if someone innocently taps you on the shoulder to get your attention or takes your elbow to steady you from tripping, they will have committed battery, but no prosecutor would pursue such a case.

Nevertheless, there is a situation where mere touching (battery) is a felony, punishable by hard time in the state penitentiary. It is battery upon the person of law enforcement officer (LEO). Again, different states word it slightly differently, but here is Forida’s statute:

Assault or battery of law enforcement officers — 784.07(2) Whenever any person is charged with knowingly committing an assault or battery upon a law enforcement officer, the offense for which the person is charged shall be reclassified as follows: (b) In the case of battery, from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the third degree.

And so, anyone who merely touches a LEO without permission has committed a serious crime, a felony which can result in years of imprisonment. The LEO is authorized to use whatever force is necessary to apprehend the felon and bring him or her to justice.

The following video shows an incident where an LEO is trying to cuff a suspect. At 24 seconds into the video, a woman in pink, apparently a friend of the suspect, touches the LEO. The LEO responds by punching the woman in pink in the face and resumes trying to secure the original suspect.

The above video was posted on Youtube as an example of police brutality. This is in error. Under the law, the woman in pink was lucky that she was not tasered or shot. In any event, she committed a felony on camera. She will lose her citizenship rights and have a permanent record as a felon. In addition, her lawyer will have a very hard time keeping her out of prison.

Dr. Sweet’s grandfatherly advice: Never touch a cop.

P.S.: Incidentally, in Florida and several other states, there is a second class of persons where unwanted touching is a felony:

Assault or battery on persons 65 years of age or older; reclassification of offenses — 784.08(2) Whenever a person is charged with committing an assault or aggravated assault or a battery or aggravated battery upon a person 65 years of age or older, regardless of whether he or she knows or has reason to know the age of the victim, the offense for which the person is charged shall be reclassified as follows: (c) In the case of battery, from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the third degree.

Next time: Stand Your Ground versus Duty to Retreat


Frank W. Sweet is an NRA-certified firearms instructor who teaches the safe and effective use of handguns for self-defense. He was awarded an M.A. in Civil War Studies in military history from American Military University in 2001. He is the author of Legal History of the Color Line (ISBN 9780939479238), Six Gems of Forgotten Civil War History (ISBN 9780939479023), and of numerous published historical essays. To receive a schedule of his firearms training courses, email to The information above should not be construed as legal advice.

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