Nearly 20 people are physically abused each minute by an intimate partner. This results in over 10 million abused men, women, and children each year. These numbers show that domestic violence is a staggering concern – both in the United States and here in Florida.
Domestic violence should never be tolerated. At the same time, however, false or exaggerated domestic violence accusations should never be made to take advantage of a family law situation. Domestic violence is a serious issue that is unfortunate for everyone involved – the victim, the accused, and any children affected.
Regardless of whether you are the victim or the accused, it’s necessary understand how domestic violence laws work, and what to do if you are ever facing domestic violence charges. It’s not necessarily the same from state-to-state, either. So you can’t expect the same specific results to apply.
What is Domestic Violence?
Florida law 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.”
Although these offenses are crimes on their own, they are classified as domestic violence offenses when a family or household member commits them.
A family or household member is defined as:
- Current and former spouses
- Persons related by blood or marriage
- Persons who are presently residing together or who have formerly resided together
- Persons who are parents of a child in common, regardless of whether they have been married
The law also notes that with the exception of parents who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have formerly resided together in the same single dwelling unit.
So, for example, if a roommate assaults you, an act of domestic violence has been committed. If, however, you are assaulted by your neighbor who is not a family or household member, then that person will be charged with assault and not domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Penalties
Under Florida law, domestic violence cases are not taken lightly. Here are 7 penalties and consequences you might face when accused of domestic violence.
- You will not be allowed to post bond and get out of jail until you have your first court appearance within 24 hours of your arrest. At that point, if you are able to post bond, you will not be allowed to have contact with the alleged victim.
- A victim can’t decide to simply drop the charges. The State’s Attorney’s Office will often drop a case if the victim doesn’t want the offender prosecuted. With domestic violence cases, however, as long as there is enough evidence, the State’s Attorney will move forward with prosecution.
- Probation requirements will be strict. Along with successfully completing six months of family violence counseling, you may have to maintain no contact with the victim, be evaluated and treated for alcohol and psychological issues, and pay restitution.
- You can face mandatory or extended prison sentences. Depending on your criminal history and the facts of your case, you may face increased jail time.
- You can be charged with a felony if you have a prior misdemeanor conviction. If you were previously convicted of a misdemeanor domestic battery charge, a second domestic battery charge can turn into a felony offense.
- You can’t own or use a gun. If you are arrested, your weapons permit will be suspended. If you are convicted, federal law prohibits you from having a gun – period.
- A domestic violence charge can negatively impact a divorce or custody case. If you are going through a divorce or custody case, a domestic violence arrest or conviction won’t help you.
Fighting against Domestic Violence Charges
As outlined above, a domestic violence conviction can greatly impact your life. That’s why if you have been falsely accused of domestic violence, you need to fight back. Here are two ways you can defend yourself:
Poke holes in the prosecution’s case. If the prosecutor can’t prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you intended to commit the specific crime, then a judge or jury can’t convict you. Alternatively, you could present an alibi proving that you were somewhere else when the crime was committed, or use other related strategies. By disproving the elements of the case, a defendant should be found innocent of the crime.
Assert that you were acting in self-defense. If the victim was actually the aggressor and you were simply responding to instigation, you may be able to say you were defending yourself from the initial physical assault. You will need to support this claim with evidence, and also justify your response.
If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence, contact an experienced Florida family lawyer today who can protect your rights and help you fight back.