Domestic Violence Under Florida Law
Orlando Domestic Violence Attorney
If you have been charged with domestic violence in Orlando or in any other place in Central Florida you should contact our Orlando domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible. Domestic violence is taken very seriously under Florida Law and can have long lasting consequences if you are found guilty.
What is domestic violence?
Under Florida law, the term domestic violence, also called domestic abuse, encompasses a wide range of criminal offenses committed by a member of a family or household against another one. Although domestic violence usually follows a repeated pattern within the family, an isolated offense will also be considered a case of domestic violence. Defense attorney David Hill handles domestic violence cases, which may occur between the couple, siblings, parents and children or any other family member.
Household members are defined by Florida Law as:
- Spouses or former spouses
- People related by blood or marriage
- People residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family
- Parents who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married
Domestic Abuse vs Domestic Violence
The terms domestic abuse and domestic violence can be used interchangeably in our criminal justice system, but essentially they mean the same thing. Domestic unrest can become a crime if a person touches another without their permission in the course of an argument, whether any physical harm comes from it or not. Words alone, no matter how mean, cannot result in a charge unless the words are threats to do bodily harm coupled with an apparent ability to carry through on those threats (for example if you said in a fit of anger, “one of these days I’d like to hit you, you make me so mad….”, you are saying something that may happen one day in the future, which would not be a crime. However, if you raise a hand, or have some type of weapon in your hand, while saying during the argument, “I will hit / shoot / stab you” and you are within range, that can be either a misdemeanor or felony assault charge (use of a deadly weapon makes it a felony assault). Attorney David Hill has thirty years of experience handling these types of cases and can help you get through the minefield of the criminal justice system that treats these types of cases very seriously.
Types of Domestic Violence Under Florida Law
Among the types of Domestic Violence defined by the Florida Law are:
- Assault: Intentional threat by one person to another one to do bodily harm causing fear in the victim that the violent act is imminent. An assault is a second degree misdemeanor and can carry penalties up to 60 days in jail, and/or a fine up to $500 and/or up to 6 months of probation.
- Aggravated assault: An assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill or with the intention to commit a felony. A “deadly weapon” is any object that can inflict mortal or great bodily harm. Aggravated assault is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, and up to a $5,000.00 fine. Up to five years of probation is also a sentencing possibility.
- Battery: A battery occurs when a person intentionally strikes or touches another person against her will or intentionally causing bodily harm to the other person. Battery is a misdemeanor of the first degree (punishable by up to one year in jail, and up to a $1,000.00 fine).
- Aggravated Battery: A person commits aggravated battery when she or he intentionally strikes another person intentionally causing great bodily harm, or when she uses a deadly weapon. An aggravated battery constitutes a second degree felony (punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and by up a $5,000.00 fine).
- Sexual assault or sexual battery: Sexual battery, also called rape, is a violent crime that uses sex as a weapon. Under Florida Law sexual battery can be perpetrated with either the sexual organ of a person or with an object. As with other sex crimes sexual battery charges are very serious and carry severe penalties.
- Stalking or aggravated stalking: Aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree, occurs when a person willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses threatening another person. Aggravated stalking is punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000.00 and/or 5 years in state prison.
Other domestic violence crimes under Florida law include criminal trespass, false imprisonment, harassment, spousal rape, kidnapping and restraining order violations.
Are Domestic Violence Cases in Florida Misdemeanors or Felonies?
A domestic violence crime in Florida may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony crime, depending on the circumstances of the incident, evidence compiled against the accused, and in some cases the accused criminal history.
Bond / Bail Issues
If you or someone you know has been arrested for domestic violence it is important to realize that courts handle these types of offenses differently than other crimes. Courts will not release a person arrested for domestic violence UNTIL THEY HAVE SEEN A JUDGE. So, if one is arrested for domestic violence one will have to stay in jail until bond and conditions of release are set at one’s Initial Appearance, which is scheduled within 24 hours of arrest. You cannot just post a bond upon arrest. It is important for friends or family to be aware of this so that the person arrested can make contact with employers to let them know the person will not be able to come to work until (at a minimum) the day after they see the judge.
Conditions that are usually set at Initial Appearance for domestic violence charges are, in addition to bond, that the person have no contact with the alleged victim while the case is pending, which includes no telephone, Internet, or 3rd party contact. Another common condition is that the person accused must find a separate residence while the case is pending, but usually the judge will give the person an opportunity, accompanied by a Sheriff’s Deputy, to go to the residence to get basic belongings.
Domestic Violence Penalties
Penalties for those charged with domestic violence in Florida vary depending on the type of the charges, their severity and previous criminal convictions. In general, they include:
- Mandatory Components of all domestic violence cases:
- Mandatory jail time of 5 days in the county jail
- Mandatory counseling – specifically a batterer’s intervention program. These typically last 26 weeks and involve weekly group and individual counseling sessions.
- Probation – a minimum of one year’s probation is ordered in any domestic violence case
- Other Possible Components of a Sentence can include:
- No contact with the victim(s) including spouse and/or children)
- Fines and court costs
- Community service
- Anger management class
- Loss of access to your home – a person sentenced for a domestic violence case can be ordered as a condition of probation to live in a separate residence from the alleged victim in his or her case
- Permanent criminal record – NOTE: domestic violence offenses are NOT eligible for statutory sealing or expunging of records if the case is not dismissed or dropped completely.
Alternatives to Jail for Those Convicted of Domestic Violence
Probation is often an option, and there are diversion programs for first time offenders. Either of these options would involve the prosecutor agreeing to these outcomes. As mentioned above, the 26 week Batterer’s Intervention Program (“BIP”) is almost always going to be part of either of these outcomes, though a skilled and experienced defense attorney can negotiate cases down to only include shorter anger management classes rather than the longer and more involved “BIP” classes. Diversion programs for first offenders are often a great option if the evidence against you is strong, since if you successfully complete these the charges are completely dropped and you can get your arrest and court records expunged.
Because there is the possibility of jail or prison with these types of charges, or even if incarceration is not part of the picture there is the high probability that extensive counseling will be ordered. There are also possible ramifications to gun owning rights (for those that are concerned about them), as well as to keeping a clean record: you cannot get your domestic violence/battery charge record sealed or expunged unless the charge is completely dropped.
Domestic Violence and Privacy: Can you Keep the Charges Private?
Because of the personal nature of these types of charges, and the fact they typically involve a spouse, partner, girlfriend or boyfriend, just the fact of the arrest can be of concern to those worried about their professional reputations or reputations in general. While arrests, even if the charges are later dropped, are recorded, if you can get the charges completely dropped you are eligible to get the records of them sealed or expunged so that no one can see your arrest or court records relating to the offense. The Law Offices of David Hill routinely handle expunging and sealing requests for individuals charged with domestic violence or battery charges.
Evidence in Domestic Violence Cases: Can you be Charged Without Evidence?
Most domestic violence charges start with a call to law enforcement by a person claiming they are the victim of domestic violence (some sort of physical violence without permission). When the police show up they will separate the parties to interview them individually. If the alleged victim claims they were pushed, or hit, there still may not be any physical evidence (bruises, marks, blood, wounds) to support that – especially if the alleged action was minor (a push or a poke during an argument). However, the police can still make an arrest if the testimony (spoken word or written statement) of the alleged victim supports a charge. In other words, just because the police show up and there is nothing in terms of injuries showing at that time (and bruises can show up later) it does not automatically mean that there is no case. Keep in mind that the testimony of an alleged victim is evidence, and just because that person doesn’t have an injury to show, or a video or tape recording to offer, they can supply evidence in the form of their statements.
It is important to know that these cases in Florida are aggressively prosecuted by especially trained prosecutors and by Domestic Violence Units, and that charges can only be dropped by the State Attorney. This means that you can be charged even if the alleged victim wants to drop the charges. That is why it is so important to seek counsel from a domestic violence attorney who knows how to handle, strategize and defend these cases.
Contact our Orlando Domestic Violence Lawyer
Domestic violence charges in Florida are very serious and their defense is very complex. They are often complicated by the fact that, because they occur within a family or relationship, that the person accused will have to move out of their home, and possibly be restricted from being able to visit other family members that may reside in that home. Divorce or separation is often a backdrop to domestic violence cases, and can complicate them. Counseling is oftentimes an important component of coming up with agreeable resolutions to some of these types of offenses.
Defense Attorney David Hill in Orlando has extensive experience handling these types of cases, whether at the early stages trying to get his client out of jail, negotiating with the State Attorney’s Office, or going to trial. He understands that because they involve family members or people in relationships that emotions can run very high. It is important to have someone that can see all the legal issues involved at a difficult time in people’s lives, which is generally the case where a family is torn apart by domestic violence or a domestic violence accusation. Mr. Hill also recognizes that while some cases will go to trial, others can be helped to resolve using the assistance of Domestic (divorce) attorneys and counselors.
If you have been arrested or charged in Orlando, Winter Park, Windermere or anywhere in Central Florida and Orange County, call us immediately. We offer a free initial consultation and will keep your information confidential. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us today at (407) 648-0006. We have an emergency service available 24 hours a day.
- What if the alleged victim has no visible physical injuries?
- My spouse filed a DV report against me because we got into a fight, but there was no violence. What do I do?
- What are the penalties?
- What do I do if I do not want to press charges any more?
- What happens after the police are called?
- My partner called the police on me because he/she was mad at me; can I see my children?
- Are children who witnessed the alleged violence interrogated or questioned by the police?