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Domestic Violence: Definition and Penalties


In Florida, Domestic Violence is broadly defined. It includes not only, assault and battery, but also sex crimes, kidnapping, stalking and false imprisonment. When one of these crimes is committed by a family or household member against another family or household member, it is defined as Domestic Violence. This crime is heavily prosecuted throughout the State of Florida.

Convictions for Domestic Violence battery and other domestic violence charges come with mandatory increased penalties and consequences.

In the State of Florida, the crime of Assault is defined 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. Fla. Stat. §784.011. This is the legal definition, in the real world this can me a lot of different things.

In Florida, a crime of Battery is defined as any actual and intentional touching or striking of another person without consent, or the intentional cause of bodily harm to another person. Fla. Stat. §784.03.

Aggravated assault and aggravated battery are both felony charges and may be charged if the acts of violence are severe.

When the person who is assaulted or struck is a family or household member as defined under §741.28(3) it is considered Domestic Violence.

Florida Statute §741.28(3) defines family or household member as:

  • Wives and husbands.
  • Ex-wives and ex-husbands.
  • Persons related by blood or marriage.
  • Persons living together as a family.
  • Persons who have resided together as a family in the past.
  • Persons who have a child in common.

This definition is crucial, because if you plea to domestic battery, you cannot seal that case, even if adjudication was withheld. So, it is really important to see if in fact it is domestic, and if it can be dropped or negotiated to another charge.

Penalties for Domestic Violence:

Domestic Violence Battery is classified as a first degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail or 12 months of probations, and a $1,000 fine.

However, because this crime is domestic, there are serious penalties that the accused is facing; among them:

  • 12 months of probation
  • Batterer's Intervention Program (26-week course)
  • Community Service Hours
  • Impositions of No Contact Order

Additionally, federal law imposes additional severe consequences for crimes of domestic violence. Under the Launtenberg Amendment, a person convicted of a “qualifying” (right to counsel, jury trial, and conviction not expunged) misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is permanently disqualified from possessing a firearm or ammunition. Defendant must be spouse, former spouse, co- parent, parent or guardian of victim, person who cohabits or has cohabited as spouse, parent or guardian, or a person similarly situated. No “official use” exemption is applicable. 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9).

Early Negotiation:

One of the advantages of hiring a Jacksonville criminal attorney is our ability to reach out to the prosecutor early. The early presentation of defenses, issues, as well as mitigating circumstances may have an impact on the prosecutor's decision to proceed with a Domestic Violence charge. The goal is to get the charge dropped, amended, or diverted. For example, a charge of Domestic Violence Battery dropped to a simple Battery may alleviate the mandatory statutory requirements.

Victim Contact:

Domestic Violence Battery and other domestic violence charges can effectively be addressed prior to formal charges being filed by the prosecutor. An attorney may contact the alleged victim and ask if they wish to pursue the charge.

The Office of the State Attorney will contact the victim, and if the victim does not wish to prosecute, the State Attorney will generally require the victim complete a domestic violence course, meet with a victim advocate, and complete a drop-charge affidavit.

The decision to prosecute is solely up to the Office of the State Attorney. The prosecutor may take the victim's input into consideration, but is not determinative of their decision.

Importance of Hiring an Attorney.

Domestic Violence Battery and other domestic violence related charges are serious offenses with severe consequences for the accused. There are numerous defenses and defense strategies that are available to avoid a conviction.

If you have been accused of Domestic Violence Battery or another domestic violence related crime, contact the Jacksonville criminal defense attorney Kate Mesic to discuss your options.