Domestic Violence Lawyers in Jacksonville, Florida
Florida Domestic Violence Laws, Penalties, & Legal Defenses
Under Florida law, domestic violence encompasses a wide range of conduct. Florida Statute Section 741.28(2) 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.”
Under Florida Statute Section 741.28(3), a family or household members include the following:
- Former spouse;
- Persons related by blood or marriage;
- Persons who presently reside together as a family or persons who have previously resided together as a family (i.e., no relationship by blood or marriage is required); and
- Persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether the parents have been married.
The family or household members must either currently reside together or have resided together in the past except for parents who have a child in common. In such cases, there is no residency requirement.
How Are Domestic Violence Crimes Defined in Florida?
The definitions of domestic violence crimes are mostly consistent from state to state, but the penalties for conviction may vary by state. Florida defines domestic violence crimes as the following:
- Assault – Florida Statute Section 784.011(1) defines assault 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.”
- Aggravated Assault – Florida Statute Section 784.021(1) defines aggravated assault as an assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill or an assault with an intent to commit a felony.
- Battery – Florida Statute Section 784.03(1)(a) defines battery as an actual and intentional touch or strike to another person against that person’s will or intentionally causing bodily harm to another person.
- Aggravated Battery - Florida Statute Section 784.045(1) defines aggravated battery as intentionally or knowingly causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement, or commits a battery with the use of a deadly weapon. A battery may also be considered an aggravated battery “if the person who was the victim of the battery was pregnant at the time of the offense and the offender knew or should have known that the victim was pregnant.”
- Sexual Assault/Battery – In Florida, sexual assault falls under the sexual battery statute. A sexual assault can be any unwanted touch of a sexual nature, but sexual battery is defined under Florida Statute Section 794.011(1)(h) as “oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object.”
- Stalking - Under Florida Statute Section 784.048, stalking encompasses various behaviors and actions which collectively may be considered stalking. Any person who “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person” may be charged with and found guilty of stalking. The various behaviors and actions that collectively lead to a stalking charge include the following:
- Harassment – Engaging in a course of conduct “directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.”
- Course of Conduct – Engaging in a pattern of conduct comprised of a “series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose.”
- Credible Threat – A verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, which includes “threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm.” A person does not need to threaten another to be convicted of stalking. Harassing a person repeatedly as a course of conduct is sufficient to meet the definition of stalking.
- Cyberstalking – Stalking a person electronically includes a “course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person,” or to “access, or attempt to access, the online accounts or internet-connected home electronic systems of another person without that person’s permission.”
- Kidnapping – Florida Statute Section 787.01(1)(a) defines kidnapping as “forcibly, secretly, or by threat confining, abducting, or imprisoning another person against her or his will and without lawful authority,
and with the intent to (1) hold for ransom or reward or as a shield or hostage, (2) commit or facilitate commission of any felony, (3) inflict bodily harm upon or to terrorize the victim or another person, or (4) interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function.
- False Imprisonment – Florida Statute Section 787.02(1)(a) defines false imprisonment as “forcibly, by threat, or secretly confining, abducting, imprisoning, or restraining another person without lawful authority and against his or her will.” Further, Section 787.02(1)(a) states that “confinement of a child under the age of 13 is against her or his will within the meaning of this section if confinement is without the consent of her or his parent or legal guardian.”
Additional domestic violence crimes include any other criminal offense that leads to the injury or death of a family or household member. The crimes described above are serious on their own, but when they involve family or household members, the consequences can be harsh and go beyond jail time and fines.
What Are the Penalties for Conviction of Domestic Crimes in Florida?
Penalties for a conviction of a domestic crime will vary based on the severity of the crime and whether the crime is considered a misdemeanor or felony. Potential penalties for domestic violence crimes in Florida include the following:
- Assault – Under Florida Statute Section 784.011(2), a person found guilty of assault faces a second-degree misdemeanor that carries potential jail time of up to 60 days and a fine of up to $500.
- Aggravated Assault – Under Florida Statute Section 784.021(2), a person found guilty of aggravated assault faces a third-degree felony that carries potential jail time of up to 5 years and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Battery – Under Florida Statute Section 784.03(1)(b), a person found guilty of battery faces a first-degree misdemeanor that carries potential jail time of up to 1 year and a fine of up to $1,000. If the convicted individual has one prior conviction for battery or has committed felony battery, he or she is guilty of a third-degree felony that carries potential jail time of up to 5 years and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Aggravated Battery – Under Florida Statute Section 784.045(2), a person found guilty of aggravated battery faces a second-degree felony that carries potential jail time of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Sexual Assault/Battery – Florida’s sexual battery statute defines varying degrees of severity, such as the age of the accused individual as well as the age of the victim. Depending on both age and how severe an alleged sexually battery is, the consequences range from a first-degree felony to capital felony that have the following penalties:
- Stalking – Under Florida Statute Section 784.048(2), a person found guilty of stalking faces a first-degree misdemeanor that carries potential jail time of up to 1 year and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Kidnapping – Under Florida Statute Section 787.01(2), a person found guilty of kidnapping faces a first-degree felony that carries potential jail time of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- False Imprisonment – Under Florida Statute Section 787.02(2), a person found guilty of false imprisonment faces a third-degree felony that carries potential jail time of up to 5 years and a fine of up to $5,000.
Additional Consequences of a Florida Domestic Violence Charge or Conviction
The criminal penalties, such as jail time and fines, are not the only negative consequences an individual may face if he or she is convicted of domestic violence crimes. Not only are jail time and hefty fines possible consequences but convicted individuals may no longer be allowed to see their children or other family members or may be limited in the circumstances by which they may see their children and other family members.
Also, protective orders may be issued against a convicted individual that prevents a person from coming into contact with the alleged victim as well as any children or other family members who may be involved. Violations of protective orders could land an alleged domestic violence offender in jail for a substantial period of time.
Additionally, there are statutory requirements specifically for domestic violence crimes that include, but may not be limited to, the following:
- Batterers’ Intervention Program – Under Florida Statute Section 741.281, if a person is found guilty or pleads nolo contendere (no contest) to a crime of domestic violence, he or she “shall be ordered by the court to a minimum term of 1 year’s probation and the court shall order that the defendant attend and complete a batterers’ intervention program as a condition of probation.”
- Minimum Term of Imprisonment for Domestic Violence Crimes – Under Florida Statute Section 741.283, if a person is found guilty of a crime of domestic violence and has intentionally caused harm to another person, “the court shall order the person to serve a minimum of 10 days in the county jail for a first offense, 15 days for a second offense, and 20 days for a third or subsequent offense as part of the sentence imposed, unless the court sentences the person to a nonsuspended period of incarceration in a state correctional facility.” If a crime of domestic violence that involves intentional bodily harm occurs in the presence of a child under the age of 16 who is a family or household member of the victim or perpetrator, “the court shall order the person to serve a minimum of 15 days in the county jail for a first offense, 20 days for a second offense, and 30 days for a third or subsequent offense as part of the sentence imposed, unless the court sentences the person to a nonsuspended period of incarceration in a state correctional facility.”
- Intent to Protect Victims of Alleged Domestic Violence - Under Florida Statute Section 741.2902, courts handle alleged crimes of domestic violence with more scrutiny with the goal of protecting victims and removing a dangerous individual from the home. This does not mean an accused individual is presumed guilty, but the court believes steps to protect the victim of an alleged crime of domestic violence – at least temporarily – is of great importance. As such, a person accused of committing an act of domestic violence may not be allowed to be in contact with the victim or any children for a specific period of time, depending on the severity of the conduct in question.
Individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes may have difficulty keeping a job and/or getting a new job as well as difficulty being accepted to college. Moreover, a convicted individual may have difficulty renting an apartment or home. In any situation where a convicted individual must undergo a background check, he or she is at risk of being denied something such as a job, school, or home, a burden that can last for a long time and have a negative effect on all family members involved.
Legal Defenses to a Florida Domestic Violence Charge
Allegations of domestic violence should always be taken seriously. However, some allegations are false or describe conduct that does not meet the definition of a domestic violence crime under Florida law. As such, accused individuals have a right to contest and defend themselves against allegations of domestic violence. Arguments attorneys can make on behalf of an individual facing a domestic violence criminal charge include, among others, the following:
- Self-Defense – If the accused individual feared for his or her life and acted in self-defense, he or she may have grounds for dismissal of the domestic violence criminal charge.
- Defense of Others – If the accused individual’s conduct was to protect another’s life (such as a child), he or she might have grounds for dismissal of the domestic violence charge.
- False Allegations – If the accused individual is innocent, he or she can present evidence to demonstrate that the victim is making false allegations of domestic violence. False allegations can severely impact an accused person’s livelihood and reputation. Also, evidence that the alleged victim is vindictive (seeking revenge) can be used to argue that the victim’s allegations are false.
- Lack of Injuries – If an alleged victim is not physically injured, the accused individual can use a lack of a physical injury as evidence that a domestic violence crime did not happen.
- Mutual Combat – If both the accused individual and the alleged victim committed the same acts against one another (i.e., neither person is the victim).
Victim Was Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs – If the victim was under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs that impaired his or her judgment at the time of the alleged act of domestic violence, the accused individual might have grounds to seek dismissal of domestic violence charges.
Additional legal defenses may exist depending on the unique facts of the domestic violence charge. As such, defense strategies will vary from one client to the next. A client’s criminal history – i.e., whether he or she has prior criminal convictions – may play a role in a client’s defense strategies.
How Musca Law Can Protect Your Legal Rights if You Are Facing a Jacksonville Domestic Violence Charge
The Jacksonville Domestic Violence Attorneys of Musca Law are available 24/7 to provide you with the legal advice and guidance you need if you are facing a domestic violence charge. No matter how minor or severe the domestic violence charges are, Musca Law has the resources, dedication, and professional experience to protect their clients’ legal rights and provide them with the best possible defense.
At Musca Law, our attorneys have a good reputation with prosecutors, courts, and judges. While many criminal defense attorneys require an up-front consultation fee, our attorneys offer a free case evaluation to provide prospective clients with the information they need to move forward.
If Musca Law can help you fight charges of domestic violence, our attorneys will aggressively advocate on your behalf and will uncover every fact that supports your defense. While no attorney can guarantee a successful result when fighting Jacksonville domestic violence charges, Musca Law has a record of reaching the best possible outcome for their clients.