When is Fort Lauderdale Domestic Violence a Felony? Broward Defense Lawyer Explains.

When it comes to Fort Lauderdale domestic violence offenses, there is not a single charge that encompasses all. Domestic violence incidents are not a monolith. Neither are the potential criminal charges they carry. As a longtime Broward domestic violence defense lawyer, I can explain in a bit more detail the different types of Florida domestic violence charges, and when they cross the line from misdemeanor into felony territory. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyer

Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony

Felonies and misdemeanors are two classifications of crimes that differ in severity, procedure, and punishment.

In general, misdemeanors are less serious (but that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious or worth the investment of a vigorous defense). It carries a maximum incarceration of one year, to be served at a city or county jail. You may have heard that you are entitled to a defense lawyer if you cannot afford one, but that is not true in Florida unless you are facing the possibility of incarceration. But jail time isn’t the only penalty that matters – particularly when we’re talking about a domestic violence conviction. You could lose your right to own a firearm, be excluded from certain employment and housing opportunities, and have the permanent stain of a violent crime on your record.

Felony offenses are considered more serious. They involve the potential for more than one year of incarceration, to be served at a state prison. That doesn’t mean you absolutely will be sentenced to a year or more, but the possibility is there, particularly with crimes of violence. Additionally, felony convictions may permanently bar you from ever owning a gun, voting, job and housing opportunities, some federal assistance programs, and more.

If the offense, misdemeanor or felony, involved an element of sexual violence, those convicted may have post-incarceration and post-probation/parole requirements, such as registering their residence with the government – information that will be available to the public.

Understanding Domestic Violence Laws

Domestic violence offenses are typically charged at the state level, though they can sometimes become federal matters under the Violence Against Women Act.

Per 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(33)A) and 18 U.S.C.A. 2266(7), misdemeanor domestic violence under federal, state, or tribal law involves a crime that involved the use or attempted use of physical force or threat with a deadly weapon committed by a current or former spouse, parent or guardian of the victim OR by someone with whom the victim shares a child in common or with whom the alleged victim is cohabitating with as a spose, parent, or guardian.

Interstate domestic violence offenses are the ones most typically prosecuted at the federal level. These usually involve travel across state lines with intent to harm or causing travel of the victim by force, coercion, duress, or fraud and in the process commits or attempts to commit a crime of violence against them.

But for the most part, Fort Lauderdale domestic violence cases are going to be handled at the state level. Injunctions for domestic violence are are secured in accordance with Chapter 741 of Florida Statutes. Other types available under Chapter 784 are dating violence injunctions, sexual violence injunctions, repeat violence injunctions, and stalking injunctions. There are also juvenile dependency injunctions against violence in Chapter 39, as well as a risk protection injunction in Chapter 790 and a protection for vulnerable adults in Chapter 825.

Which Fort Lauderdale Domestic Violence Offenses are Felonies?

At the state level, domestic violence is defined in F.S. 741.28(2) as any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any other criminal offense that results in the physical injury or death of one family or household member by another.

Some of those offenses are inherently more serious than others. For example, any assault is generally going to be considered a misdemeanor. It rises to the level of felony if the accused used a deadly weapon or caused some serious harm to the alleged victim.

Not all felonies are the same. These two are categorized by severity:

  • Felony of the Third Degree – maximum 5 years in prison and $5,000 fine
  • Felony of the Second Degree – maximum 15 years in prison and $10,000 fine
  • Felony of the First Degree – maximum 30 years in prison and $10,000 fine
  • Life Felony – maximum 40 years to life in prison and $15,000 fine
  • Capital Felony – punishable by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole

If a domestic violence offense is charged as a felony, it will most likely be a third-degree felony. Second-degree felonies are on the table if the offense involved aggravated battery with a deadly weapon (particularly if it resulted in serious injury to the alleged victim), serious child abuse, or sexual battery. First-degree felonies and life felonies can be charged in cases involving kidnapping (holding someone against their will with intent to inflict bodily harm, terrorize, or commit or facilitate any felony) and homicide.

Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence charge, the best way to protect your freedom and other rights is to contact a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer immediately. Refrain from talking to police – or anyone else – about what happened until you have consulted with your attorney.

Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward County.

Additional Resources:

Investigating Domestic Violence, December 10, 2013, By Eric L. Nelson, M.S., M.A., M.A., FBI

More Blog Entries:

Fort Lauderdale Defense Lawyer Explains Why You Should Contest a Domestic Violence Injunction, May 6, 2024, Fort Lauderdale Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Blog

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