Domestic violence is one of the most aggressively prosecuted crimes in the country. Each state has specific laws in place to protect alleged victims of family and household violence, assault, and stalking, and this can make things extremely difficult for any person who is accused of this type of offense—even for the first time.
In Florida, a person accused of domestic violence may face jail time, fines, and other penalties like the loss of firearm possession rights. Understanding what happens to first-time domestic violence offenders—and what rights you have if you’re arrested for or accused of this crime in Florida—can help you protect your interests.
Florida Statutes § 741.28: Domestic Violence Defined
Florida Statutes § 741.28 defines domestic violence as any “assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment” or any other crime causing injury or death committed against a family or household member. This includes crimes committed against a person the offender once lived with, who they share a child with, or who they currently live with. Crimes committed against spouses and ex-spouses are also considered domestic violence.
What Are the Penalties for a First Domestic Violence Offense?
A person who is accused of a first domestic violence offense may face the following maximum penalties under Florida law:
- 12 months in jail
- $500 fine
- 26-week batterer’s intervention course
- 12 months of probation
- Community service
Enhanced penalties will apply if the person is accused of aggravated assault, aggravated battery, or aggravated stalking. In cases involving serious injuries, first domestic violence offenses may be charged as felonies with extreme penalties upon conviction.
Many first-time domestic violence cases are resolved with plea bargains that allow defendants the opportunity to avoid jail time, but they’re still faced with a lifetime of consequences. After all, to secure a plea bargain the defendant pleads guilty, usually to a lesser charge and reduced penalties. Jail may be avoided, but the guilty plea is on the defendant’s record for life.
Why First Domestic Violence Cases Are So Serious
In addition to facing jail time, probation, fines, and community service, a person who pleads guilty or is found guilty of a first domestic violence offense will have to complete a rigorous 26-week Batterer’s Intervention Program, paid for by the defendant. A first domestic violence conviction will typically also result in a loss of concealed carry rights and other civil liberties (to learn more, read our blog: Can a Person with Domestic Violence Charges Own a Gun?)
A first-time domestic violence offender may also face a protective order that prohibits contact with the alleged victim. Child custody and visitation rights may be jeopardized in the face of a first domestic violence arrest, charge, or conviction. Obtaining professional licenses and getting employment in certain fields can be difficult or impossible with a domestic violence charge on one’s record.
Talk to a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney
The consequences of a domestic violence charge—even for a person with no criminal record—can be extreme. If you have been arrested for or accused of harming a member of your family or household, you need to move quickly to protect your interests. At Thomas & Paulk, P.A., we know the risks and lifelong challenges that domestic violence offenders face. Our attorneys have represented thousands of Floridians in a range of criminal matters, protecting their constitutional rights and fighting for outcomes that result in brighter futures—against the toughest odds.
Call (813) 321-7323 today for a free consultation and find out how our team can help you.