Charges of domestic violence are extremely serious and can lead to severe consequences both within the criminal justice system and collaterally. The criminal consequences of a domestic violence charge can include arrest, jail time, fines and community service. The potential collateral consequences can be even more far reaching, including personal protection and no-contact orders, family estrangement, embarrassment, employment difficulties, and expensive legal fees.
All too often, defendants are surprised by a charge of domestic violence because they never even realized that the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves fell within the broad definition of domestic violence under Florida law.
For most people, the term calls to mind situations in which a spouse or member of a cohabiting couple strikes or somehow causes physical injury to their relationship counterpart. But domestic violence is much broader than simply that.
It can include any number of criminal offenses against a family or household member whether or not there is any physical injury. Some of the included offenses are obvious, but others are not so obvious, including stalking and false imprisonment.
Also not immediately obvious is who can qualify as a “family or household member” under the law. The definition is extremely broad and includes:
- Spouses and former spouses
- People who have a child in common (whether or not they were ever married)
- People who are related in any way by blood or marriage
- People who currently reside together as a household unit or have done so at any time in the past
As with any criminal situation, the best defense to criminal charges is prevention. Understanding the law is a good way to protect yourself from being charged with a crime you didn’t realize existed.
For those who find themselves facing domestic violence charges, it is highly advisable to seek the advice and assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.