Florida’s Domestic Violence Criminal Statutes Versus the State’s Assault/Battery Laws

The peculiar details of some domestic disturbances can generate less-than-serious coverage in the media. However, a domestic incident is always a serious legal matter in Florida, as it can potentially impact the lives of both the accused and the alleged victim in a myriad of ways. If you’re the accused, swiftly obtaining representation from an experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer can greatly help you in the pursuit of a fair outcome.

An incident to our north is an example. According to a report by The Smoking Gun, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office responded to a home in The Villages earlier this month where the husband allegedly had battered his wife. According to the wife, the husband, who had been drinking, became upset about offensive content on a television show and declared “I’m not having that in my house.”

When the wife stood up from her chair, the husband grabbed her by both arms, forced her back down into the recliner, and refused to let her go. The police report indicated that the wife “had a minor injury of broken skin on her left inner forearm.”

The officers discovered that the husband had no prior history of battery. The wife signed a statement indicating that both had been drinking, that alcohol impaired the husband’s judgment, and that she didn’t want the state to charge the husband.

The husband was ultimately arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge.

Based on the police report, it appears that the husband potentially could have faced a charge under the state’s domestic violence statute (Florida Statutes, Section 741.28,) as opposed to battery (Florida Statutes, Section 784.03.) The domestic violence law is broad. It can encompass cases of “assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, [or] false imprisonment.” It can apply as long as the alleged victim suffers a physical injury and is a spouse, former spouse, blood relative (or relative by marriage,) or housemate (among others.)

In this case, the police report alleged a battery, committed by a husband on his wife, that inflicted a physical injury (albeit a minor one.) That addresses each of the three essential elements of the statute. (As noted above, though, the police only charged this Sumter County husband with simple battery.)

First-offense domestic violence typically is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, one year of probation, and a $1,000 fine. First-offense battery generally also is a first-degree misdemeanor, but the collateral effects of a domestic violence conviction often are more damaging. Domestic violence convictions cannot be sealed and they cannot be expunged. A domestic violence conviction often can impair a person’s ability to get a job, own/possess firearms, or spend time with their minor children.

What Legal Counsel Can Do

If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, there are several ways a skilled attorney can help. First, your attorney can advocate for you at your bond hearing, enhancing your chances of obtaining a reasonable bond or “ROR” (released on your own recognizance.) Your attorney can also advocate for the removal of any “no contact” order with the alleged victim, thereby allowing you to return to your home.

If the state won’t drop the charges, your attorney may be able to persuade the state to reduce the charges. This reduction may help in terms of getting into a pretrial diversion program, as well as opening the possibility of sealing or expunging the conviction.

If you’re facing a domestic violence charge, quick action is crucial and the experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten P.A. are here to help. Once retained, we can get started right away working for you, including at the vitally important “first appearance”/”advisory hearing.” Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your free initial consultation.

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