Dealing with Domestic Violence Charges in Florida: What You Need to Know
If you or someone you know has been arrested for domestic violence in Florida, it can be an overwhelming and frightening situation. Domestic violence charges must be taken very seriously, as they can lead to severe criminal penalties if convicted.
The good news is that Florida law provides many protections for those accused of domestic violence. In this post, we’ll break down Florida domestic violence laws, penalties, and defense strategies so you can make informed decisions if facing charges.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence Under Florida Law?
Florida Statute 741.28 broadly 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."
A family or household member under the law includes:
- Spouses (current or former)
- Persons related by blood or marriage
- Persons who currently or formerly resided together
- Persons who share a child together
- Individuals who currently or previously dated
- Domestic violence includes both physical and emotional abuse. Threats, intimidation, harassing phone calls, destruction of property, and other controlling behaviors can qualify.
Florida has strict penalties for domestic battery charges in particular. Under Fla. Stat. 784.03, a domestic battery occurs when a person actually and intentionally touches or strikes someone against their will or intentionally causes bodily harm.
Domestic Battery Penalties in Florida
Domestic battery penalties vary based on the severity of the alleged abuse. Basic penalties include:
- First offense misdemeanor - Up to 1 year in jail, $1,000 fine
- Second offense misdemeanor - Up to 1 year in jail, $5,000 fine
- Third offense felony - Up to 5 years in prison, $5,000 fine
Strangulation, which involves impeding normal breathing or circulation, boosts a domestic battery to a third-degree felony.
Aggravated domestic battery involving great bodily harm or a deadly weapon becomes a second-degree felony. This charge can mean up to 15 years in prison.
A domestic battery by strangulation resulting in great bodily harm escalates to a first-degree felony. This is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
As you can see, domestic violence accusations must be addressed immediately. An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the evidence and work to build the strongest defense.
Creating an Effective Defense Strategy
There are various legal defense strategies that could potentially apply in Florida domestic abuse cases:
- False allegations - Perhaps the alleged victim fabricated the accusations out of anger or to gain leverage in a divorce. Your lawyer can look for inconsistencies and work to undermine the credibility.
- Mistaken identity - You may have an alibi or evidence showing you were misidentified and could not have committed the alleged abuse. Eyewitness misidentifications are common.
- Self-defense - If the alleged victim was in fact the primary aggressor, you may have acted in self-defense, which can be a complete defense in Florida.
- Accident - Any touching was purely accidental, with no intent to harm.
- Mental defects - The alleged abuser suffers from mental illness or instability that impacted their actions.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can pinpoint if any of these defenses may apply in your case after reviewing the accusations, police reports, and evidence.
What Should I Do if Arrested for Domestic Violence?
Being arrested for domestic abuse can be extremely scary. However, it's crucial to remain calm and know your rights. Here are some tips:
- Remain silent - Do not admit anything or try justifying yourself to police. Wait to share your side once you have legal counsel.
- Be cooperative otherwise - Don't resist arrest or get combative with officers. This will only make matters worse.
- Hire a lawyer ASAP - Immediately call a trusted domestic violence defense lawyer so they can start working on your case.
- Seek bail - Your attorney can argue for your release at the initial court hearing and help get any protective orders lifted.
- Gather evidence - Write down exactly what happened while it's fresh in your mind. Have your lawyer collect crime scene photos, medical records, text messages, and other evidence.
- Get counseling - Seeing a counselor shows you're being proactive and serious about addressing any issues.
By taking these steps immediately, you give yourself the best chance at minimizing penalties and avoiding a conviction.
Domestic Violence Cases Can Be Beaten
Facing domestic battery or abuse charges in Florida is no doubt scary. But experienced criminal defense attorneys beat these types of allegations every day. With an individualized defense focused on the specifics of your case, you can potentially get charges reduced or dismissed completely.
Never simply accept defeat—fight the allegations by hiring a seasoned domestic violence lawyer right away. Together, you can develop a game plan to protect your future. Prime yourself by learning your rights under Florida law. Then you can make informed decisions on how to approach your defense if you find yourself accused of harming a loved one.
About David Edelstein
David Edelstein has been practicing criminal defense in Miami, Florida for over 25 years. He represents clients in both state and federal courts.
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