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Parental Discipline and the Definition of Domestic Violence in Florida

At the time when the Florida Department of Corrections sought to obtain the perception of the public regarding crimes involving partners, they were polled as to how they understood what qualifies as “domestic violence.” The most common response was that it is an act of physical aggression by a male against his girlfriend or wife. However, at Musca Law, we recognize that Florida has a much broader definition of domestic violence.

Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 741.28(2), “domestic violence” is defined 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.”

As stated above, domestic violence constitutes everything from assault, defined under Florida Statutes 784.011(1), 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,” to battery, which is defined under Florida Statutes Section 784.03 as when a person “actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.”

Basically, domestic violence in Florida occurs when a person:

  • Shoves another individual
  • Kicks another individual
  • Threatens bodily harm
  • Hits another individual
  • Punches another individual
  • Strikes another individual with some type of object
  • Chokes another individual
  • Commits a sexual offense (such as rape and nonconsensual touching)
  • Falsely imprisons another individual
  • Prevents an individual from calling for help
  • Causes severe bodily injury using a weapon (such as a gun)

Generally speaking, domestic violence does not include emotional-related communications such as screaming, loud arguing, or pointing fingers. Typically, domestic violence is often repeated by alleged offenders, however, this does not mean that a person cannot be placed under arrest for committing a single act of domestic violence.

While domestic violence-related offenses are serious, the penalties associated with them are enhanced when the alleged behavior occurs within the context of a close knit “family or household member.” In order to qualify under this category, the alleged victims must be spouses or former spouses, people who have a child together (regardless if they are married or not), and those who are or have lived together as a family unit.

In the majority of domestic violence cases, those alleging that they are the victim of domestic violence are usually former or current household members or are those who have a child in common.

Others who may also allege domestic violence include the following individuals:

  • Sister or brother
  • Step-parent
  • Step-sister or step-brother
  • Parent
  • Legal guardian
  • Uncle or aunt
  • Grandchild
  • Grandparent
  • Ex-roommate
  • Roommate
  • Girlfriend or boyfriend

When a crime constitutes a “domestic violence offense,” the alleged offender will face harsh penalties. Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 784.041(1)(a)&(b), “domestic violence battery” qualifies as a felony if the alleged offender:

  • “Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; and
  • Causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.”

Domestic violence matters are often emotionally charged, and both the alleged victim and offender typically find themselves shocked that the underlying actions escalated into domestic violence. Oftentimes, alleged victims seek the services of a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer to help clear things up. When an alleged offender is supported by the party who reported the domestic violence, the case is often dismissed or the charges are reduced. However, this is not a guarantee, as Florida courts take domestic violence cases very seriously.

Is Parental Discipline Another Form of Domestic Violence?

The simple answer to this question is that it depends. The first thing to think about is the child’s age. Those under the age of eighteen are considered controlled by their legal guardians or parents. The Florida Supreme Court in Marshall v. Reams has ruled that parents have the right to correct a child under their control and to moderately chastise him or her. However, there is a limit to what parents or legal guardians can do. In 2002, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Radford v. State that a parent is not immune from prosecution for engaging in what qualifies as child abuse. One year earlier, the Florida Second District of Appeal held in State v. McDonald that a parent who engages in behavior that results in severe bruises or the need for medical intervention will be subject to prosecution. Keep in mind that this law also applies to legal guardians.

Notwithstanding, Florida courts have made it clear that parents (and legal guardians) have the right to discipline a child with a reasonable amount of corporal punishment that is not excessive. Spanking a child once, for instance, is typically deemed non-excessive and reasonable. Keep in mind that if a domestic violence court case is pursued (including a domestic violence injunction), the alleged offender can assert that he or she was engaging in a reasonable and non-excessive form of discipline.

All of this may not be relevant if the child is older than the age of eighteen. Specifically, violent behavior that involves a child and his or her parent may qualify as domestic violence, even if they no longer reside together.

Contact the Florida Domestic Violence Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Today

If you are facing domestic violence criminal charges and/or you have been served with a domestic violence injunction, your legal rights are on the line, and you need an attorney by your side to advocate on your behalf. At Musca Law, our skilled Florida Domestic Violence Defense Lawyers work tirelessly to ensure their clients receive the best legal representation possible. To find out how Musca Law can help you with your legal matter, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057. Our legal team is available 24/7 to answer your questions, address your concerns, and provide you with the guidance you need to move forward. We look forward to making a difference for you!


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