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Florida Domestic Violence Laws

Overview of Florida Domestic Violence Laws

Many states have enacted criminal law and family law statutes related to the prevention and prosecution of domestic violence incidents. In Florida, the state offers legal options through both the criminal and civil court systems. For example, state residents can request injunctions, also known as restraining orders, through the Florida family courts.

Florida's crime laws define domestic violence as specified types of violence committed against a family or household member. In particular, an individual can commit domestic violence against a spouse, ex-spouse, the co-parent of the individual's child, or a relative related to the individual by blood or marriage. Florida laws also protect against domestic violence occurring between individuals who currently cohabitate or who formerly cohabitated together in the same household.

The types of crimes qualifying as domestic violence under Florida law include assault and aggravated assault, battery and aggravated battery, sexual assault and sexual battery, stalking and aggravated stalking, kidnapping, and others. The criminal offense charged for a domestic violence incident depends on the specific circumstances and events. For example, a threat of physical harm might become an assault charge, while physical contact or injury might become a battery charge. If a prosecutor can establish one of the aggravating factors set by Florida state laws, the state may pursue a charge such as aggravated assault or aggravated battery, which results in prosecution of the offense as a felony and entails a more severe punishment.

In addition, Florida recognizes the issue of violence committed between two persons in a current or former dating relationship. To meet the state's definition of a dating relationship, the two people must have participated in a romantic, intimate, or sexual relationship. The state issues injunctions to individuals who can prove an immediate danger or injury within a dating relationship. The state may prosecute a defendant who violates an injunction.

Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges

  • Self-defense

Penalties and Sentences

Florida domestic violence laws specifically include a minimum punishment of five days served in county jail. The court can also sentence a convicted offender to a period of imprisonment in Florida state prison. Alternatively, state laws permit the court to decide on a sentence of probation or community service.

Additionally, a state prosecutor can charge a perpetrator of domestic violence with other criminal offenses established by Florida law. For example, a domestic violence incident may result in charges of assault and battery. Domestic violence may be charged as an assault, which is a second degree misdemeanor, or aggravated assault, which is a third degree felony. Battery may be charged as a first degree misdemeanor or as a third degree felony. Misdemeanor sentences range from a maximum of sixty days to one year, while a third degree felony conviction may result in a sentence of imprisonment for a term lasting up to five years. A domestic violence incident charged as a second degree felony can lead to a sentence of imprisonment for up to fifteen years.

If a victim of domestic violence had an injunction or restraining order in place against the defendant, the state may prosecute a violation of the order as a first degree misdemeanor. A conviction for a first degree misdemeanor may result in a sentence of imprisonment for up to one year.

Florida Domestic Violence Statute

Florida Statutes Sections 741.28-741.31 (scroll down for sections)
Florida Statutes Section 784.046

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Florida criminal attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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