Domestic violence is a particular type of assault that occurs between family members or members of a household. Violence between those that share a home can often be confusing and result in complex emotions. As such, it is sometimes best to hire a professional litigator to sort through these issues.
If you have been accused of domestic violence, you must get in contact with an experienced criminal attorney. Domestic abuse is a serious crime that can result in legal penalties, destruction to your personal and professional reputation, and even jail time in severe cases. A competent criminal attorney can help you navigate domestic violence cases’ legal landscape to ensure that your process rights are protected and that you get the best possible legal outcome of the case.
In the state of Florida, domestic abuse is taken very seriously in both criminal and civil courts. Domestic violence is an especially morally charged issue that many judges and juries seek to enforce the max penalty as a means to uphold an ethical position. No criminal case is entirely black and white, and all come with nuances, though, despite the public enthusiasm indicating otherwise. Without someone on your side in court, you could be charged and face a felony conviction on your record.
Domestic Violence Legal Definition
The Florida Statute 741.28 defines domestic violence as 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.”
In this passage, the term “family member” can include spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who reside together as if they were a family or who have lived as a family, and persons who have a child together, regardless of marriage. Except for those who have a child in common, “family members” in this context must currently reside together or have previously lived together.
Below is a list of various actions that could be construed as domestic violence, according to Florida’s laws.
Actions That Can Be Considered Domestic Violence
Florida differentiates ten specific crimes and one catchall category that can be considered domestic violence when committed against a family or household member. Each type of offense carries a different charge based on the severity and past criminal record.
Assault: Assault involves intentionally threatening someone with violence in a circumstance where you have the power to commit said violence, and the victim has reason to believe that you will do so. You can be charged and convicted of assault even if you do not physically harm someone. Assault is a second-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of 60 days and a fine of up to $500.
Aggravated assault: Aggravated assault is an assault that involves the use of a deadly weapon with the intent to cause injury. Aggravated assault is generally tried as a third-degree felony and can carry a maximum 5-year prison sentence and up to $5,000 in fines. Again, you do not have to injure someone to be convicted of aggravated battery physically. Only the realistic threat of violence with a deadly weapon is enough.
Battery: “Assault” and “Battery” are often used interchangeably, but they are separate legal crimes. Battery involves touching or causing bodily harm to another. The simple act of touching someone without harming them can be considered battery, such as shoving someone without injuring them. Battery domestic violence is usually charged as a first-degree misdemeanor and can carry a maximum 1-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $5,000.
Domestic battery by strangulation: Florida carves out a specific happening to put under the umbrella of felony battery. If someone strangles or intentionally blocks airflow to a family or household member, they can be charged with a third-degree felony of domestic battery by strangulation. The max penalty is five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Aggravated battery: The aggravated battery involves the use of a potentially deadly weapon to cause serious injury or disfigurement to another. Aggravated battery is classified as a second-degree felony and carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $10,000.
Sexual battery: According to Florida law, sexual battery is sexual penetration without consent. Unwanted penetration can involve either genitals or another object. Sexual battery is considered a first-degree felony and can carry a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a $10 000 fine. If the alleged instigator threatens to use a weapon or seriously injures the victim, they can receive a life prison sentence and up to a $15,000 fine.
Stalking: Under Florida law, stalking covers both real life and online behavior. Stalking could involve showing up to a person’s place of work or residence unannounced. It could involve excessive emails, tagging in social media posts, or any other kind of behavior that can be considered harassment. Stalking charges can carry a maximum one-year jail sentence and a fine of up to $1,000.
Aggravated stalking: Aggravated stalking involves someone who makes a credible threat to another person while stalking them. For example, if a person stalks another and threatens to kill them for dating someone else, this could be considered aggravated stalking. Aggravated stalking is regarded as a third-degree felony and carries a maximum 5-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $5,000.
False imprisonment: When it comes to domestic violence cases, false imprisonment usually covers instances where a person is being held against their will. For example, a person locking their partner in a room and removing phone access to others might be considered false imprisonment domestic violence. A false imprisonment charge is a third-degree felony and can be met with up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Kidnapping: Kidnapping in the context of domestic violence involves a person holding a family or household member against their will with the intent to commit a felony, to inflict physical violence against them, or to terrorize them. Kidnapping is a first-degree felony and carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Other crimes: Florida statute has a specific section in the legal definition covering “any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.” This is a comprehensive definition and can include several types of behavior.
Domestic violence charges themselves are divided into four degrees: first, second, third, and fourth degree. First-degree domestic violence charges are the most serious and are second-degree felonies. They carry a maximum sentence of 15 years (minimum of 5) in prison. First-degree domestic violence that causes serious physical injury has a maximum of 30 years in jail (minimum of 10) without parole until 85% of the sentence has been served.
Second-degree domestic assault is considered a Class D felony and can carry up to 7 years of prison time and fines up to $10,000. Third-degree domestic assault is a class E felony and can result in up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Fourth-degree domestic assault is usually charged as a Class A misdemeanor and can carry a maximum of one year in prison along with a fine of up to $2,000. No matter what degree of domestic violence you are being charged with, an attorney can help ensure that you get the best possible legal outcome.
Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction
A domestic violence conviction can carry several negative consequences. Apart from prison time and financial penalties, those convicted of domestic violence may be forced to obey a restraining order or may be forced to take batterer’s intervention courses. Someone guilty of domestic violence may also be required to pay damages for legal expenses and pain/suffering. A person convicted of domestic violence by a former spouse may lose custody of any children they have together.
A domestic violence conviction may also carry several social consequences. Your reputation could be destroyed, and you could even lose your job. It is much harder to find work when you have a felony conviction on your permanent record. Having a domestic violence conviction may also impede your ability to hold specific professional licenses, prevent you from owning a gun, or even show up on your credit score. There is also the social stigma that is attached to those convicted of domestic violence. It can have a severe negative impact on your social life and mental wellbeing.
That is why again, finding a qualified criminal defense attorney is imperative if you are arrested and charged with domestic violence. By working with an experienced attorney, you could have your charges lessened or, in some cases, dropped entirely. A competent Florida lawyer will know how to navigate the legal landscape to give you the peerless defense you need.
Order of Protection in Florida
In addition to any potential criminal charges, an alleged domestic violence victim may also seek an injunction for protection, which is commonly called a restraining order. The issuing of this order of protection is a civil matter and separate from any criminal proceedings. As such, the burden of proof that the alleger must meet is a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt and falls on a preponderance of evidence standard.
Protection orders can still be a severe matter and involve loss of child custody or visitation rights, restriction of access to a shared home, or the restriction of owning a firearm. Violating an order of protection itself is a severe violation and can involve harsh penalties and fines.
How Can a Domestic Violence Attorney Help Me?
A licensed attorney can help approach several legal strategies to lessen your charges, reduce your sentencing from the charges, prevail at trial, or have the charges dropped entirely. Here are some strategies your Florida domestic violence attorney may take to help your case.
- Speak to the alleged victim and determine whether they would like to drop the charges. The victim can be requested to write a statement explaining their decision to drop any charges.
- Defend your case in court. In criminal cases in the US, the prosecution is required to demonstrate your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a high standard to meet. A competent criminal defense lawyer can help punch holes in the prosecutions’ case, so they do not reach that standard.
- An attorney can help separate fact from fiction concerning testimony and eyewitness accounts. A lawyer could argue that there is no evidence of injuries or say that you acted in self-defense.
- A competent legal attorney also knows the contours of working in a specific region. A local Florida attorney, for example, will see the prosecution and judges working the case, and so is more likely to work with them to resolve an issue in the best interest of both legal parties.
- An attorney can put together a favorable plea agreement, which could see your charges lessened or dropped from a felony to a misdemeanor. They can also alleviate the actual penalties, such as probation instead of prison time.
In all cases, a competent attorney will ensure that all your process and substantive rights are being protected at each stage of the criminal justice proceedings. You have a right to argue your case in court, and you have the right to face your accuser and push back against any unfounded allegations. We here at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. will work day and night tirelessly to build the sturdy defense you will need to combat a domestic violence charge at court, and we can help investigate all other legal options to help alleviate the dispute. If you are being charged with domestic violence, time is of the essence, and you must move quickly. So call us today at (754) 755-8554 to schedule a consultation.