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I'm researching Chapter 784 in the Florida State laws. The problem I'm having is there's no general "terms and definitions" at the top like there are in other chapters. I searched to see if there was a "terms and definitions" from another chapter that was written to cover multiple chapters, no dice. Specifically, I'm trying to find the Florida state definitions for "bodily harm" and "great bodily harm". Using google, I found plenty of law firms giving examples of "great bodily harm", but I still don't know what "bodily harm is". The context is 784.03 1(a) which states :

(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; or

2. Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.

Since there's that dreaded "or" there, I'm trying to figure out what is technically still a crime even with consent.

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The question is not firmly settled under Florida law. Wheeler v. State, 203 So. 3d 1007 addresses the issue w.r.t. Fla. Stat. §827.01(2), now §827.03(1)(a)3 and the crime of aggravated child abuse, which depends on causing "great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement". The court notes that the chapter does not define "great bodily harm", but they also note that the same term is used in §784 – where as you observed it is likewise undefined. The courts take the term to mean the same thing in both cases. Calling on previous case law, they observe that GBH is

"distinguished from slight, trivial, minor, or moderate harm, and as such does not include mere bruises as are likely to be inflicted in simple assault and battery." T.W. v. State, 98 So.3d 238, 243 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012); see also Brown v. State, 86 So.3d 569, 571-72 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012); Gordon v. State, 126 So.3d 292, 295 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011); Smith v. State, 969 So.2d 452, 455 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007)

Thus

[t]he state "must prove more than that the victim suffered some harm" Smith v. State, 175 So.3d 906

Consequently, the jury instruction for §775.087(2), related to discharging a firearm in the commission of a crime, states

“Great bodily harm” means great as distinguished from slight, trivial, minor, or moderate harm, and as such does not include mere bruises.

does not include a case where

The victim suffered no injury and testified that it only stung when she was struck with the broomsticks

nor does it include scratches, swelling, and puncture mark, but it does include a beating where a victim's

lips were "the size of a banana ... [and] his head was the size of a basketball." D.C.'s face was so swollen that his mother did not recognize him the next morning.

It is not hard to imagine unclear cases between puncture marks and ... swellings? It's interested to note that in one case, minor swelling is dismissed but massive swelling is taken to be great bodily harm.

Courts might appeal to a dictionary, such as Merriam-Webster's legal dictionary

physical injury suffered by the victim of a violent crime that causes a substantial risk of death, extended loss or impairment of a body part or function, or permanent disfigurement : physical injury that is more serious than that ordinarily suffered in a battery

which is a bit problematic since the crime you are interested in is a battery.

Minnesota defines these terms, but makes a three-way distinction in types of bodily harm:

"Bodily harm" means physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.

"Substantial bodily harm" means bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or which causes a fracture of any bodily member.

"Great bodily harm" means bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.

Washington also has a 3-way classification for child abuse, repeated for general crimes:

(2)(a) "Bodily injury" means physical pain or injury, illness, or an impairment of physical condition;

(b) "Substantial bodily harm" means bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ, or which causes a fracture of any bodily part;

(c) "Great bodily harm" means bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ.

Ohio has a two-way distinction where

"Physical harm to persons" means any injury, illness, or other physiological impairment, regardless of its gravity or duration.

but

"Serious physical harm to persons" means any of the following:

(a) Any mental illness or condition of such gravity as would normally require hospitalization or prolonged psychiatric treatment;

(b) Any physical harm that carries a substantial risk of death;

(c) Any physical harm that involves some permanent incapacity, whether partial or total, or that involves some temporary, substantial incapacity;

(d) Any physical harm that involves some permanent disfigurement or that involves some temporary, serious disfigurement;

(e) Any physical harm that involves acute pain of such duration as to result in substantial suffering or that involves any degree of prolonged or intractable pain.

Texas has a rather different classification in terms of harm vs. serious bodily injury, the latter being

bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

but harm is

anything reasonably regarded as loss, disadvantage, or injury, including harm to another person in whose welfare the person affected is interested

thus can include financial losses and no physical contact.

The line in Florida is not bright.

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  • Yeah, crappy laws. Meanwhile, even the court cases only seem to argue about the "great bodily harm" question, leaving the regular "bodily harm" untouched. And that's the one that's technically a crime even with consent. But thanks for the research help! – Alan Aug 12 '20 at 15:51
  • @Alan "Bodily harm" is any harm to the body that is not "great bodily harm." – Just a guy Aug 12 '20 at 16:06
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    So what's "harm"? Is a pinch harm? a slap? Meanwhile, the way it is phrased it seems to make illegal just about all medical procedures, sporting events, etc, since there are 0 exceptions in that chapter exempting them like other states have. Someone elsewhere suggested the law might be challenged on that ground – Alan Aug 12 '20 at 16:12
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    Pinches and slaps are bodily harm. Consent distinguishes surgery and Larry slapping Moe from me slapping you. – user6726 Aug 12 '20 at 17:46
  • @alan Medical professionals also have government issued licenses that make it legal for them to to cut people (generally only with their consent). As for athletes, battery usually requires lack of consent. – Just a guy Aug 13 '20 at 14:31

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