Understanding Florida domestic violence laws
Domestic violence in Florida is not simply a marital spat or disagreement that gets a “little” out of hand. As the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence explains, domestic violence encompasses all sorts of controlling behaviors used by someone against his or her intimate partner. While domestic violence can be actual physical violence such as slapping, punching, hitting, choking and other forms of intentional injury, it also can be such things as harming a pet, using the children against the other partner, threatening murder or suicide, and extreme possessiveness and/or jealousy.
Chapter 741 of the Florida Statutes covers all issues dealing with marriage and domestic violence. Section 741.28 defines domestic violence as a range of prohibited behaviors including the following:
- A physical assault or aggravated assault
- A sexual assault or aggravated assault
- A battery or aggravated battery
- False imprisonment
- Stalking or aggravated stalking
In fact, any criminal offense that results in the injury or death of a family or household member is considered to be domestic violence. Victims can include a spouse or former spouse, anyone related to the perpetrator by blood or marriage, anyone currently or formerly residing with the him or her, and the other parent(s) of the perpetrator’s child(ren), whether or not they are or were ever married to him or her.
Law enforcement responsibilities
Section 741.29 sets forth what a law enforcement officer must do when responding to a domestic violence call. Not only must the officer assist the victim in obtaining any needed medical care, (s)he also must advise them of their legal rights and of nearby domestic violence centers where they can receive services.
Officers have the choice of whether or not to arrest alleged perpetrators depending upon the sufficiency of probable cause to do so. In either case officers are required to file a written police report setting forth all aspects of the alleged domestic violence offense(s). When officers decide not to make an arrest, they must state their reasons for not doing so.
Florida has a statewide domestic abuse hotline. Victims can call 1-800-500-1119 at any hour of any day or night when they need help or advice.