According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were nearly 105,000 reported incidents of domestic violence in Florida in 2018. Domestic violence is a serious crime in the state of Florida that is aggressively prosecuted by authorities.

What constitutes domestic violence? Is domestic violence a misdemeanor or felony crime? The laws regarding this crime are complex, which is why it’s best to discuss your charges with an experienced Clearwater domestic violence attorney. But for now, keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.

What is Domestic Violence in Florida?

Many different criminal offenses fall under the “domestic violence” category in the state of Florida, including:

  • Assault
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Battery
  • Aggravated Battery
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Battery
  • Stalking
  • Aggravated Stalking
  • Kidnapping
  • False Imprisonment
  • Any other criminal offense that results in injury or death of the victim

The criminal offenses listed above may or may not be considered domestic violence. This classification will depend on whether or not the victim and defendant were “family or household members.” Florida law states that “family or household members” are:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Family members related by either blood or marriage
  • People who currently live together in the same house as a family
  • People who have previously lived together in the same house as a family
  • Co-parents of a child

If a family or household member commits one of the crimes listed above against another family or household member, it is considered domestic violence in Clearwater.

Is Domestic Violence A Misdemeanor or Felony in Florida?

The answer to this question will vary on a case-by-case basis. Why? Some of the crimes that are considered domestic violence are misdemeanor offenses, whereas others are felony offenses, so it will depend on the nature of the crime that was committed.

For example, the crimes of assault and aggravated assault can both be considered domestic violence if they are committed by a family or household member against another family or household member.

Assault occurs when a person uses threatening words or actions to make another person fear that they are in physical danger. This crime is a misdemeanor of the second degree. Aggravated assault, on the other hand, is an assault that either involves a deadly weapon without the intent to kill or involves the intent to commit a felony crime. This crime is a felony of the third degree.

So, if you are charged with domestic violence for committing assault, you will face misdemeanor charges. But if you are charged with domestic violence for committing aggravated assault, you will face felony charges. Both crimes are domestic violence, but one is more serious than the other.

Can Your Prior Criminal Record Affect the Charges You Face?

The nature of the crime isn’t the only factor that can impact whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges. Your prior record can play a role in this decision, too.

For instance, say you are accused of committing battery against a family or household member, which means the crime is considered domestic violence. Battery occurs when someone intentionally touches or strikes another person or intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.

This crime is typically charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree. But if you have a prior conviction for battery, aggravated battery, or felony battery, you will not face misdemeanor charges if you accused of committing this crime for the second time. Instead, you will face felony of the third degree charges for committing battery.

This is one example that illustrates how your prior criminal record could impact the charges you face if you are accused of domestic violence.

What Penalties Will You Face If You Are Convicted of Domestic Violence?

The penalties you will face for a domestic violence conviction will vary depending on a number of factors, including the nature of the crime and your prior criminal record. Every domestic violence offense carries serious penalties. But in general, felony charges will carry far more severe penalties than misdemeanor charges.

For example, battery is a misdemeanor of the first degree that can lead to up to one year in jail in addition to up to $1,000 in fines. But aggravated battery is a felony of the second degree that can lead to up to 15 years in prison in addition to thousands of dollars in fines.

Anyone who is convicted of domestic violence will face mandatory jail time if they intentionally harmed the victim. First-time offenders will face at least 10 days in jail, whereas second-time offenders will face a minimum of 15 days in jail. If this is your third or subsequent offense, the mandatory jail sentence increases to 20 days.

The mandatory jail sentence increases even further for domestic violence offenders who intentionally harmed their victim in the presence of a minor child. First-time offenders will face a minimum of 15 days in jail. If this is your second offense, you will face at least 20 days in jail, and if this is your third or subsequent offense, you will face at least 30 days in jail.

The court will also order anyone who is convicted of domestic violence to complete a batterers’ intervention program. The purpose of this program is to help domestic violence offenders learn healthier habits and develop better relationships with their loved ones.

These are some of the many penalties that the court can impose on anyone who is convicted of domestic violence crimes in the state of Florida.

Seek Legal Representation From A Domestic Violence Attorney in Clearwater

Do not face domestic violence charges alone. If you are accused of committing this crime, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from an experienced domestic violence attorney at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible.

Our attorneys have over 125 years of combined legal experience. We know what it takes to defend your rights and reach the best possible outcome in your case. Let us fight for you.