What Charges Can Be Filed by the Runner Who Was Sucker Punched During His Race?

While coming around the track in first place, the last thing high school student Nathan Carter expected was to get punched. But, that’s what happened at a high school track meet last week.

Carter was knocked to the ground and out of first place. So now, we are asking who — if anyone — is going to face consequences for a teen getting punched in what should be a safe space for high school competition?

What Happened on the Track?

Carter was leading in a 1,600-meter race at the Tohopekaliga Tiger Invitational in Kissimmee, Florida, when he found the track partially blocked by another student who was not involved in the race. According to reports of the incident, Carter first passed the student and told him to move. During the next lap, Carter bumped or pushed the student out of the way as he passed.

On Carter’s next lap around the track, the student on the sidelines ran up to him and punched him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. The punch was captured on camera, and you can clearly see the student run up to Carter and hit him from behind.

It was later reported that Carter suffered a concussion from the punch.

What Didn’t Happen on the Track?

Police were called to the scene, but no criminal charges were filed that day.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) said that neither family wanted to press charges, according to a report by TMZ. At the time, the Florida High School Athletic Association and Orange County Public Schools said they were reviewing the situation for potential disciplinary actions.

But now, Carter’s family says they were misled and that’s why they did not initially press charges.

Legal representation for the Carter family says they did not initially press charges because police told them their son would also be arrested and charged with battery for pushing the student who hit him. Now that they know their options, the family may take action against both the boy who hit Carter and the officials running the event.

“If this event hired proper officials to help run this track meet, they could have prevented this,” says the Carter family attorney.

“They could have prevented the CC athlete from standing on the track during the first turn. Or they could have moved the CC athlete after the first lap incident. Or they could have moved the CC athlete before the second lap incident. Or they could have stopped the CC athlete before he chased [my client] down and sucker-punched him. They had many opportunities to prevent this and failed to do so.”

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

What Charges Could Be Filed?

The Carter family could proceed with both criminal and/or civil charges.

Criminal Battery Charges

Criminal charges could be filed against the boy who hit Carter. Under Florida law, striking a person and causing them harm is considered battery. Battery is defined under Florida Statute 784.03. It can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor battery can come with penalties of:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to one year on probation
  • Up to $1,000 in fines

Felony battery is a more severe charge and often used if the incident led to lasting physical harm to the victim. It can come with penalties of:

  • Up to five years in jail
  • Up to five years on probation
  • Up to $5,000 in fines

The incident is on tape so the Carters have proof that the student punched Carter. Carter sustained a concussion so it meets the standard of misdemeanor battery.

Civil Personal Injury Charges

Civil charges could also be filed against the boy who hit Carter. In Florida, you can sue for personal injury if someone’s negligence or recklessness causes injury and damages. Since Carter sustained a concussion from the punch, his legal team could sue for personal injury to collect funds to pay for financial losses (such as medical bills) and/or special compensation damages (such as loss of income, cost of altered plans, and emotional trauma).

The Carter family could also seek personal injury compensation from the organizers of the event. They could argue that event organizers failed to live up to their responsibility to provide a safe environment and that their negligence led to Carter’s injury and damages.

Criminal Assault Charges

The boy who hit Carter could also pursue legal action. Since Carter tried to physically push the boy off the track, a legal team could argue that Carter engaged in simple assault. Assault is defined under Florida Statute 784.011 as an “intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.” It would be more difficult to prove than Carter’s case, but it could happen.

At the time of writing this article, neither family has officially pursued legal action.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Get Representation for a Criminal or Civil Case

Being involved in a criminal or civil legal action is serious. Make sure you have an attorney by your side who can guide you through the process and help you get the best possible outcome. If you have pending legal charges against you, don’t delay. Talk to an experienced attorney today.

Request your consultation with TJ Grimaldi or call 813-226-1023 today to schedule your intro meeting.