Domestic violence is a hard issue for state lawmakers, judges, and law enforcement authorities, says Broward criminal lawyer William Moore. For centuries, violence within the home was regarded as a personal issue – too private for the courts to foray into. This was reinforced by the relatively low status of women in society. Now, domestic violence awareness advocates have changed the legal landscape of the crimes, says Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer Moore.
The Florida domestic violence statute is broad and does not criminalize a single behavior, such as a husband hitting his wife. Instead, it is primarily the relationship between the attacker and the victim that is of utmost importance in the law. Domestic violence includes “any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.” Common crimes within the realm of domestic violence include assault, battery, stalking, sexual assault, kidnapping, and even false imprisonment. The definition of a household member is inclusive: “spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married.” However, the perpetrator and the victim must now or in the past have lived in the same home, except in the case of parents who have a child together. (See Florida Statute 741.28.)
This broad definition means that a girlfriend who shares an apartment with her boyfriend could be arrested and convicted of domestic battery if she slaps him in the middle of a heated argument. Likewise, lesbian and gay couples have domestic violence problems, as well as married couples who have been together for many years, says Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Moore. Domestic violence occurs in all types of relationships and is perpetrated by members of both sexes.
Police may have a difficult time determining who is more at fault when they respond. If one person has visible injuries while the other does not, they may arrest the person who emerged unscathed from the conflict. If both have injuries, they may try to determine if one household or family member suffered more “defensive” injuries. For example, scratches from a woman’s fingernails on her husband’s arms may support her claim that he tried to choke her.
Almost everyone who takes a plea offer or who is convicted of a domestic violence crime in Florida must attend a special batterers intervention program, which is comprised of state-mandated classes. The topics covered include the cycle of abuse. However, studies have shown that these programs, including the one in place in Broward County, have minimal impact on behavior.
Broward criminal lawyer William Moore has years of experience in criminal defense, including sex crimes and DUI. A felony or misdemeanor conviction of any type can have far-reaching consequences on your freedom, your employment, and your personal life. If you have been arrested in south Florida, contact William Moore, P.A., with offices in Fort Lauderdale-Dade, Broward, and Fort Lauderdale Counties.
Article contributed by Mallory Shipman, Esq.