Criminal Defense LawyerLakeland, Tampa, FL

Is Domestic Violence a Felony in Florida?

book titled "Domestic Violence Law" on a table beside a gavel

Breaking down the legal consequences for a serious crime

It's no surprise that domestic violence is often in the news. Last month, for example, NFL running back Adrian Peterson made headlines when he was arrested for felony domestic violence in Los Angeles while in town for the Super Bowl. However, the district attorney ultimately decided not to charge him with a felony, but he may still face misdemeanor charges.

People who aren't familiar with the justice system might be confused by stories like these. Domestic violence is a serious crime, so isn't it a felony? The short answer is "usually no." In Florida, domestic violence can be charged as a felony if:

  • The alleged perpetrator has a prior domestic violence condition;
  • Great bodily harm is inflicted;
  • A deadly weapon is used; or
  • The victim is strangled.

Otherwise, domestic violence is charged as a misdemeanor — but that hardly means it's no big deal. Even misdemeanor domestic violence charges can have a massive effect on your future. Here's why.

Domestic violence charges can follow you for life, even if you aren't convicted

In Florida, domestic violence is a category of violent crimes committed against a "family or household member," which includes any spouse, ex-spouse, relative by blood or marriage, dating partner, co-parent of a child, or anyone else you currently or previously resided with as if family. The most common domestic violence charge is called domestic battery, which is any unlawful touching of a family or household member. This is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, 12 months probation, and a $1,000 fine.

However, even if you aren't convicted, just being arrested for a domestic violence crime can significantly affect your life. In addition to pressing charges, the alleged victim may file for a civil injunction or restraining order that forces you to stay away from that person. That could affect your ability to do your job or meet your personal responsibilities. The legal process for the injunction also moves much faster than the criminal charges, so you have to act fast to protect your rights.

Second, even having a domestic violence arrest on your record can make it harder for you to get a job or rent an apartment. Employers and landlords know they can be held liable if they hire or rent to a person with a history of domestic violence arrests and that person commits a violent crime on their premises. You may know that the charges were baseless, but why would someone who doesn't know you take that risk?

Domestic violence charges can also affect other rights, like your ability to own a gun, not to mention the social stigma that comes from being accused of domestic violence.

That's why you need to fight to get the charges dropped and the arrest expunged

You need a comprehensive legal strategy to fight back against the consequences of a domestic violence charge. You need to fight the injunction or restraining order in civil court — in addition to protecting your freedom, this can provide critical evidence for your criminal case. You need to fight to get your charges dropped or win an acquittal at trial. And then you need to go through the process to get the arrest expunged or the record sealed so that it doesn't follow you around for the rest of your life.

That's why you need a lawyer who knows the system and knows how to beat domestic violence charges. If you've been arrested for domestic violence in Polk, Pasco, or Hillsborough County, give me a call or use the online contact form today for a free consultation.

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