Domestic battery is a serious offense under Florida criminal law. Persons convicted of domestic battery may face incarceration, a tarnished reputation, significant harm to future employment prospects, and other serious consequences.
If you are facing criminal charges for domestic battery, the first and most important step is to retain the services of an experienced criminal lawyer. In this blog, West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Ronald S. Chapman shares seven things about domestic battery charges in Florida.
1. Domestic Battery Defined
According to Florida law, not all types of domestic violence count as domestic battery. “Domestic violence” also encompasses non-physical assault like threats and stalking, while “domestic battery” always involves unlawful and intentional physical contact.
Battery is defined by Florida Statute 784.03 as the intentional striking or touching of another person against that person's will. When someone intentionally harms another person's body, that behavior is also considered battery.
Persons who can file a domestic battery charge include the defendant’s family or household members, like a spouse, an ex-spouse, an intimate partner, a co-parent, or anybody related by marriage or blood.
2. Domestic Battery Charges Can be Misdemeanors
Domestic battery usually counts as a misdemeanor, but defendants may face felony charges if:
- They have a prior domestic violence conviction
- They used a deadly weapon
- The incident led to significant bodily harm for the victim
Sometimes, the prosecutor will work with your criminal attorney to discuss the possibility of reduced charges. It is usually in your best interest to have the charge lowered whenever possible.
3. Your Plea Matters
You have three main options when entering your plea in court. These include guilty, not guilty, and no contest. A guilty plea means you admit wrongdoing and will face sentencing for the crime. A not guilty plea means you formally deny the charges, and a no contest plea means you do not contest the charges against you but are not admitting guilt. If you plead guilty or no contest to a domestic battery charge, you cannot have the charge expunged from your record. Your plea will become a matter of public record. It is always best to consult a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer before deciding how to plead.
Additionally, if you plead guilty or no contest or are found guilty of domestic battery, you will likely have a no-contact order. The no-contact order will restrict you from having any type of contact with the victim.
4. Penalties Might Include Jail Time
The penalties for a domestic battery conviction depend on factors such as whether the crime was charged as a misdemeanor or felony and whether you have a criminal history of similar offenses. As a first-degree misdemeanor, the penalties include up to a year in jail, a year of probation, and fines of up to $1,000.
You may also be ordered to perform community service and might be restricted from owning a firearm. If charged as a felony, the penalties increase, including up to five years in prison. If you ignore a no-contact order, you will face separate charges and will likely have the conditions of your release changed, which could result in additional jail time.
5. You Might Need to Participate in a Batterer’s Intervention Program
Part of your release will often require you to participate in a batterer’s intervention program (BIP). Florida Statute 741.281 states that any person found guilty or pleaded no contest to a crime of domestic violence must complete this type of intervention program. The BIP is an intensive program that guides you through resolving issues that have contributed to domestic violence. The program includes at least 26 weeks of group therapy sessions. Discuss this with your criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
6. Many Domestic Battery Claims Are False
According to a YouGov national survey, over 20 million Americans have faced false abuse or domestic violence accusations. In many cases, such fabricated accusations occur in the context of high-conflict divorces or intense child custody disputes.
If a false domestic battery accusation disrupted your life and harmed your reputation, you may choose to sue your accuser for libel, slander, or malicious prosecution. If you have been falsely accused of domestic battery, it is essential to seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney without delay.
7. You Can Fight Domestic Battery Charges with the Help of an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
Choosing the right criminal defense attorney can determine the outcome of your domestic battery case. Your attorney may:
- Look for any inconsistencies or reasonable doubt in the charges against you
- Present any mitigating circumstances, such as evidence that proves you were acting in self-defense
- Work with you to build a solid defense strategy
- Cooperate with the prosecution to reduce your charges—e.g., from a felony to a misdemeanor
- Represent you in the courtroom if your case goes to trial
Attorney Ronald S. Chapman has successfully represented many people accused of domestic battery in Palm Beach County. Our legal team can provide the legal support you need during this critical time.
Ronald S. Chapman, P.A.: Experienced Criminal Attorney in West Palm Beach, Florida
A domestic battery charge can derail your whole life. The potential consequences of a domestic battery conviction include jail time, fines, a permanent criminal record, loss of employment, loss of child custody, and irrevocable harm to your reputation.
With so much at stake, you need assertive representation by a criminal defense attorney who will protect your rights. Ron Chapman, a West Palm Beach criminal attorney with over 30 years of experience representing criminal cases of all types, offers trusted legal advice to people arrested for domestic battery in Florida. Call for a meeting at (561) 832-4348.
Copyright © 2022. Ronald S. Chapman, P.A. All rights reserved.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
Ronald S. Chapman, P.A.
400 Clematis St., Suite 206
West Palm Beach, FL 33401