Domestic violence is a serious issue both in our state and across the country. In Florida, law enforcement received calls reporting 107,666 acts of domestic violence in 2015. Nationally, approximately 20 percent of women and 14 percent of men have been the victims of severe violence at the hands of an intimate partner, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 10 percent of women and 2 percent of men have been stalked by an intimate partner.
As it has become ever more apparent that domestic violence is a large issue in St. Petersburg and across Florida, law enforcement has become more aggressive in prosecuting domestic violence than they were in the past. If you are accused of domestic violence, you may find yourself facing very serious charges and potential penalties. This is true even if you are completely innocent, the situation was not actually domestic violence, or law enforcement was called because a family member was angry rather than being harmed.
You can be arrested even if the alleged victim does not ask for your arrest.
Call an experienced domestic violence attorney if you are charged with domestic violence. These cases are frequently complicated, and you will need a criminal defense lawyer from the very beginning to avoid severe penalties that can disrupt your life and that of your family for years. The attorneys at the Khonsari Law Group can explain your rights and the legal procedure in domestic violence cases. We will also mount a vigorous defense consistent with the circumstances.
Below is an explanation of Florida domestic violence law.
What Is Domestic Violence?
“Domestic violence” is often used as a catchall term when discussed in the media or popular culture. But Florida law provides a specific definition. The law defines domestic violence under Florida Statute 741.28 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.”
“Family or household member” is broadly defined. It can apply to spouses, ex-spouses, people related to you by blood or marriage, people living together as a family or who have lived together in the past, and parents of a child, whether or not the parents were ever married. Parents do not need to have lived together, but all other family or household members need to be either living together at the time of the incident, or to have lived in the same dwelling together in the past.
There is also a specific definition of stalking, under Florida Statute 784.048. The law covers the defendant’s actions, the pattern to those actions, and how the alleged victim felt about them.
One aspect of stalking is harassment of an individual or individuals. The law states: “‘harass’ means to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.” The law also looks at the course of conduct, which means a pattern or series of actions which demonstrate purpose.
If the person who felt threatened is 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” the threat is considered credible under the law. Threats can be verbal (including electronic communications, such as phone messages, email, or text) or nonverbal, or both. The accusers do not have to prove intent to stalk, only to show a pattern and credible threat.
The stalking law also contains specific provisions about cyberstalking (stalking via computer or electronic device). Email and other electronic communication containing words, pictures, or language that meets the definition of stalking is cyberstalking, and so is accessing a family member’s online accounts or computer systems without their consent. Attempting to access these accounts and systems also falls under the definition of cyberstalking.
What Are the Potential Penalties for Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence charges vary according to what allegedly occurred. It’s important to understand that charges can be either misdemeanors or felonies. The penalties for misdemeanors can be fines, relatively short jail sentences, or probation. Felonies are more serious crimes, and the potential penalties are therefore more serious.
Here’s an overview of common charges and their penalties.
Assault and Aggravated Assault
Assault is defined as intentional threat to do bodily harm, causing the person threatened to believe that violence is going to occur at any moment. Assault is a misdemeanor in the second degree. Penalties can be as many as 60 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. Six months of probation can also be required, in combination with or instead of a fine or jail time.
Aggravated assault is an assault with a deadly weapon. While many people think of a deadly weapon as a gun or knife, it can be any instrument that can kill or cause extensive bodily harm. This charge is a felony in the third degree. Penalties include up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. It is also possible to be sentenced to as many as five years of probation.
Battery and Aggravated Battery
The law defines battery as the intentional striking or touching of another person against their will or with the intent to cause physical harm to that person.
Battery is a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties can include up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
Aggravated battery is the intentional striking of another person with the intent to cause extreme bodily harm, or the use of a deadly weapon. Aggravated battery is a felony in the second degree. Potential punishments include a prison term of up to 15 years and a fine of as much as $10,000.
Stalking and Aggravated Stalking
Stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor. Aggravated stalking, though, is a third-degree felony. Stalking is defined as willful, malicious, and repeated following or harassment of another individual. The felony penalties include a fine of up to $5,000 and/or five years in prison.
Call Our St. Petersburg Domestic Violence Attorneys Today if You Face Charges
Because of the aggressive stance of law enforcement toward domestic violence charges, consult the Khonsari Law Group or call us at (727) 269-5300 for further information or assistance if you are facing any of these charges.