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What Is Domestic Violence?

In years past, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and even the Florida Legislature refrained from inserting law enforcement into domestic issues. The then prevailing attitude was that the police had no reason to involve themselves in family problems and matters, and abusive spouses were not arrested and were told that the police would not interfere in their marital issues. This view extended to drunk driving situations as well, where drunk drivers were issued warnings and sent home.

With the passing of time, this has changed since then the Florida Legislature has created an entire body of laws dealing with domestic violence. In fact, the entire chapter, § 741, Fla. Stat. is dedicated to marriage laws and the laws dealing with domestic violence. § 741.28, Fla. Stat. begins with defining domestic violence and defines and designates the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) as the “department” that is charged with enforcing these laws.

Florida Legislature defined domestic violence in § 741.28, Fla. Stat. as any act which includes the following:

  • An assault (any act which puts one in fear of an unlawful touching); and
  • Any aggravated assault. An “aggravator” is a thing that is used in an assault or a battery which inflicts harm. For example, an aggravator is a stick or a club, and even a sidewalk or a floor if the victim is thrown to the ground or is pushed onto a hard surface.
  • Any battery (an unlawful touching);
  • Sexual assault;
  • Sexual battery
  • Stalking
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Kidnapping
  • False imprisonment and;
  • Any other criminal offense resulting in an injury or death of a family or household member, or someone in a domestic relationship.

The first question that must be addressed in any domestic violence situation is the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. § 741.28, Fla. Stat. define victims of domestic violence as any person who is in a domestic relation with the perpetrator. It includes not only the obvious and common sense concept of a family member (husband, wife, child, or someone related by birth) but it includes a former spouse, a person related by blood or marriage, people who are residing together as a family, or have lived together in the past (six months is a useful cut off, but sometimes does not apply in many situations). A victim of domestic violence also includes the parents of a child born outside of marriage. The definition of a domestic relation is a broad and increasingly broadening definition and your criminal lawyer will help you understand what relationships are included in the definition when discussing the domestic violence criminal laws.

In many Florida court districts, the local judges have created special courts to deal with domestic violence charges. The laws of Florida have enhanced penalties and restrictions upon anyone charged with domestic battery. These include limits on the availability of many pre-trial release programs, harsh limits on pre-trial release and bonds, severe restrictions on firearms, travel and contact with victims. In most domestic violence prosecutions, the defendant is removed from the dwelling and placed under strict no contact rules which include keep away orders, known in Florida Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) or as No Contact Orders.

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