Domestic violence is an epidemic that affects millions of Americans all across the country. Recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NIPSV) to study the issue. Researchers determined that one in four women and one in seven men had experienced domestic violence. This is an extremely troubling trend that doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

In Florida, victims reported 105,668 instances of domestic violence to state law enforcement agencies last year, and these reports resulted in 63,193 arrests. Last year, the state released its annual Florida County and Jurisdictional Reported Domestic Violence Offenses, 2017. Pinellas County had 6,228 domestic assault reports; St. Petersberg alone accounted for 2,233 of those cases.

Prosecutors usually charge domestic violence abusers with the most severe crime possible given the circumstances, and judges often sentence these offenders to the maximum extent permitted by law. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics:

  • A third of violent felony defendants have domestic violence charges.
  • The prosecution rates for sexual assault defendants is 98 percent; this rate is higher than in cases that involve non-domestic sexual assault defendants, which is 87 percent.
  • Law enforcement is less likely to grant pretrial release to domestic aggravated assault defendants (54 percent) than non-domestic aggravated assault defendants (62 percent).

Defendants convicted of domestic violence charges run the risk of losing their freedom for a long time. Understanding the limits of the law and working with an experienced attorney are important. In today’s Khonsari Law Group guide, we will discuss the basics of Florida’s domestic violence laws and penalties.

Domestic Violence Under Florida Law

Domestic violence is not a mere marital spat, argument, or anger management issue. The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence to include a pattern of controlling behaviors. Offenders use power, violence, abuse, and intimidation to control the other person.

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.” The state also defines “family” and “household members” to include spouses, ex-spouses, co-parents of children, relatives, and in-laws. Persons must currently stay together, or they must have once stayed together a single dwelling. The only exception to the state’s living arrangement rule are parents who have children in common.

Prosecutors examine the circumstances of each domestic violence case to determine what criminal charges to file. For example, prosecutors may charge an individual who strikes his or her partner with assault, or they may file sexual assault charges against a spouse who forces his ex-wife to engage in sex.

District attorneys often pursue aggravated assault charges if an offender’s crimes are particularly egregious. Aggravated assault charges result in felonies and involve much more severe penalties.

Florida Recognizes Dating Abuse

Florida also includes another form of violence within its definition of domestic violence: dating abuse. Dating abuse must involve two people engaged in a romantic, intimate, or sexual relationship and occurs when one person uses threats and physical violence to control the other individual. Florida courts may issue no-contact orders to individuals who can prove that their dating partners pose an immediate danger.

Domestic Violence Charges in Florida

Under Florida law, persons convicted of domestic violence that results in bodily injury may be required to serve the following sentences:

  • Convicted individuals may spend up to ten days in jail for the first conviction.
  • An abuser may spend 15 days in prison for a second conviction.
  • Abusers may spend 20 days for a third offense, unless they receive a non-suspended period of incarceration in a state correctional facility.

Penalties increase for people who abuse their partners in front of a minor under 16 years old. Individuals convicted of engaging in domestic violence in front of a minor face:

  • Fifteen days in jail for the first offense.
  • Twenty days in jail the second conviction.
  • Thirty days in prison for the third offense.

Prosecutors can also file criminal charges for domestic battery, a first-degree misdemeanor for a convicted offender. Convicted individuals face a one-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $1,000.

The state may impose other penalties, including:

  • A 36-week domestic violence abuse program
  • Twelve months of probation
  • Community service
  • Loss of civil liberties (such as the right to openly carry a gun)
  • An injunction (or no-contact order)

Hire a St. Petersberg Domestic Violence Criminal Defense Attorney

Domestic violence charges can change your life. If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, you may face jail time and a steep fine. Don’t attempt to fight criminal charges without qualified representation; you need a strong legal team to defend your rights in court. Call the Khonsari Law Group at (727) 269-5300, or contact us online, to schedule your free consultation today.