Florida has one of the most comprehensive domestic violence laws in the United States. The law defines domestic violence as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the circumstances, and it is a crime that can be prosecuted by state or federal prosecutors. In this article, we’ll discuss the penalties and defenses that could be used by those facing domestic violence charges.
What is Domestic Violence?
According to Florida Statute § 741.28, domestic violence “means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.”
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that occurs in an intimate relationship and involves the use of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. It can include threats, intimidation, and isolation. Domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of race, age, income, or education. It can happen in heterosexual as well as homosexual relationships.
Domestic violence is not just about two people arguing or even getting physically violent with each other. It’s about one person in the relationship using a pattern of abusive behaviors to control the other person. Domestic violence is a serious problem that can have lasting effects on the victim, the children in the home, and the family and friends of the victim.
What Does Family or Household Member Mean?
Household or family members can include current and former spouses, blood relatives, in-laws, people who currently live together or have lived together in the past as if they were a family, and parents of children conceived outside of marriage. With the exception of parents raising children born out-of-wedlock, all other family or household members must currently reside in the same home or have resided there before.
Most Common Types of Domestic Violence Offenses
There are four common types of domestic violence offenses, which include:
Physical abuse is when one partner physically harms the other. This can include hitting, kicking, slapping, punching, or other physical force.
Sexual abuse is when one partner forces another to engage in sexual activity against their will. This can include rape, sexual assault, or any other type of sexual activity that is unwanted or forced.
Emotional abuse is when one partner repeatedly uses words or actions to control, intimidate, or degrade the other. This can include name-calling, put-downs, threats, or other behavior intended to hurt the other person emotionally.
Financial abuse is when one partner controls the other’s access to money or financial resources. This can include controlling the other person’s spending, not allowing them to work, or taking away their credit cards. Financial abuse can also involve using the other person’s money without their permission or making them feel they have to ask for permission to spend their money.
What are the Penalties for a Conviction of Domestic Violence in Florida?
The penalties for a conviction of domestic violence in Florida depend on the nature of the crime and can include fines, jail time, probation, community service, and more. They also depend on whether or not you have previous convictions for similar offenses.
If you are convicted of domestic violence as defined by Florida law, you could face one or more of the following penalties:
- Fines up to $1,000 for each count
- Jail time up to one year
- Probation for up to five years
- Mandatory anger management classes (at your expense)
- Mandatory substance abuse evaluation and treatment (at your expense)
Additionally, if your partner suffered bodily injury as a result of your actions, then you could be charged with aggravated battery, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and fines reaching $5,000.
Florida is one of only three states where a domestic violence conviction can result in a felony charge. If the victim or their children are injured during an act of domestic violence, you could face additional penalties for those injuries. For example, if the victim is pregnant and sustains severe injuries because of your actions, then you could face charges for aggravated battery on a pregnant woman.
The penalties for aggravated battery on a pregnant woman are even higher than those for simple battery: up to 15 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
As well, if you are convicted of domestic violence, the penalties you face will depend on whether or not the abuse occurred in front of a minor.
If you were convicted of domestic violence with no children present and there was no injury to the victim, then you can expect to be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor and sentenced to up to one year in jail, probation, and fines up to $1,000.
If you were convicted of domestic violence with no children present and there was an injury to the victim, then you can expect to be charged with a third-degree felony and sentenced to up to five years in prison, probation, and fines up to $5,000.
If you were convicted of domestic violence with a child present who had been injured as a result of your actions (or if they saw their parent being hurt), then you can expect to be charged with a second-degree felony and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, probation, community service hours or restitution fees paid out as restitution for damages caused by your actions/injuries sustained by another person.
If domestic violence is charged with another offense, such as sexual assault, the defendant could face even more severe sentencing. Assault, for example, can be a second-degree misdemeanor charge, while some instances of battery may be charged as a third-degree felony. The penalties for these crimes can include up to five years in prison or more, depending on the circumstances.
What Defenses Can be Raised in a Domestic Violence Case?
If you have been charged with domestic violence, it is important to understand what defenses may be available to you. Some common defenses that can be raised in a domestic violence case include the following:
Self-defense: If you reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger of harm, you may be able to claim self-defense.
Defense of others: If you were defending someone else from imminent harm, you might be able to raise this as a defense.
Lack of evidence: In order to convict you of domestic violence, the prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is insufficient evidence to support a conviction, this may be raised as a defense.
False accusation: Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for domestic violence charges to be based on false accusations. You should raise this as a defense if you have been wrongfully accused.
Get Legal Help from an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
A Florida criminal defense attorney will be familiar with the state laws and can help you understand the charges against you, investigate the facts of your case, and build a strong defense on your behalf.
The attorneys at Hanlon Law Clearwater have experience handling a wide range of criminal cases, from misdemeanors to felonies related to domestic violence. They will work hard to protect your rights and defend you against the charges you face.
If you or someone you know has been charged with domestic violence, contact them today for a free consultation. They will review your case and help you understand your options.
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Clearwater, FL 33755