If things get out of hand with your partner or one of your relatives, you may be facing domestic violence charges.
These types of charges don’t just come from a physical altercation or an injury, though. In fact, you don’t have to touch someone in order to be arrested for domestic assault.
That may sound crazy, but it comes down to the legal definition of assault in our state.
What Does “Assault” Really Mean?
Assault, according to Florida law, is committed when someone threatens another person and gives the victim reason to fear imminent harm. (Actual physical violence or harm is considered battery.)
Assault could be a written threat, a verbal threat, or a violent action that is carried out to scare the victim. Having and displaying a weapon, for example, could be considered a threat, even if the perpetrator doesn’t literally tell the person that they plan to harm them.
Just last month, a teenager in Florida was arrested for aggravated assault due to a threat that was sent out via text message. The teenager was also caught carrying a knife, although he claimed to carry the knife every day, and did not intend to use it on the alleged victim.
Assault charges in Florida are a second degree misdemeanor. Penalties include up to 60 days in jail and up to $500 in fines. Aggravated assault is a third degree felony. Penalties include up to 5 years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. Having a deadly weapon like a knife or a gun on your person, even if you did not intend to use it, may increase charges to a felony assault.
The Consequences of Domestic Assault
All it takes is a threatening text message indicating imminent harm to warrant an assault arrest. When this type of threat is sent or given to an ex, family member, or partner, one may face increased penalties and charges for domestic violence. Threats and domestic violence are very closely linked, so prosecutors take assault accusations seriously.
A violent crime becomes domestic violence when it is committed against a romantic partner, spouse, blood relative, or roommate. Domestic violence charges come with additional penalties that may not be given to someone who is convicted of assault or violent crimes against a stranger. These penalties include:
- A minimum of five days in county jail (with the possibility of being put in state prison)
- Loss of right to own a firearm (federal ban, applies to both felonies and misdemeanors)
- Restraining order placed on the offender
A restraining order may include terms like the loss of child custody or staying within a certain distance from the alleged victim. Additional charges may be added if the offender violates a restraining order or is convicted of domestic violence for a second or third time.
Defending Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence cases are not always easy to investigate. Many criminal acts are committed in private. Stories may turn into a “he said, she said,” and victims of long-term domestic violence may have suffered damage that will negatively affect the case. Even if someone has a text message to show prosecutors and judges, these messages can be construed and put a victim, rather than an abuser, in jail.
There are many ways to defend against domestic assault and related charges including:
- Self defense
- Defense of property or defense of others
- Lack of proof
- False accusation
If you have been accused of domestic violence, it is time to reach out to a Florida defense lawyer who can fight for your rights and help you get your charges dropped.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.