Michael R. Ohle, Esq.
According to statistics compiled by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, law enforcement officers responded to more than 106,000 cases of domestic violence in 2014. Out of all those cases, nearly 65,000 resulted in arrests.
The legal definition of “domestic violence” in Florida is set forth by statutes 741.28 through 741.31. A cursory glance at the statute reveals that domestic violence in the Sunshine State is a multidimensional criminal offense that extends beyond the purview and jurisdiction of family court. Assault and battery are just two of the actions associated with domestic violence in Florida; other acts to consider include false imprisonment, kidnapping and stalking. In fact, any criminal offense that ends up with an injured member of a household may be considered domestic violence.
Similar to other crimes in Florida, domestic violence is also defined by degrees of seriousness. For example, aggravated assault and battery is an enhancement that may result in more serious charges and harsher punishment, and the same can be said about stalking.
It is important to note that the intent of the domestic violence legislation in Florida is to avoid treating these cases as private matters. Instead, they are treated as offenses that merit arrest and criminal prosecution. In other words, domestic violence cases can be treated as serious crimes and can be handled by special prosecutors who can move comfortably between the realms of the family and criminal justice court divisions.
Although domestic violence is often associated with marital discord, it can be perpetrated by and against various persons who share a roof; these may include relatives, former spouses, romantic partners, and unmarried couples.
Experienced Fort Pierce domestic violence lawyers can represent defendants or victims in domestic violence cases. In many situations, a family dispute may escalate into a situation that forces a household member to face domestic violence accusations; at the same time, victims may need assistance in obtaining certain legal protections such as injunctions or custody orders.
An interesting aspect of domestic violence cases in Florida is that they can have very serious consequences even if they are not prosecuted as criminal offenses. A single complaint of domestic violence can quickly escalate into a situation that can challenge the custody of a child; it may also result in an order to vacate a home and a restraining order. A court record that suggests domestic violence may prompt employers to seek other job seekers whom they do not consider to be troublesome.
When domestic violence cases affect marital relations, marriage dissolutions often follow; this is part of the multidimensional nature of these offenses. Ideally, domestic violence cases can be resolved prior to moving on to divorce planning and hearings; however, this is not always the case. When domestic violence permeates divorce proceedings, issues of child custody and division of marital property can get complicated. For this reason, it is essential for defendants and victims to retain experienced counsel in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Okeechobee or Port St. Lucie as soon as the first signs of violence are detected.
Related: Is domestic violence a specific crime?
Related: Domestic violence and criminal charges