domestic violence laws in florida

There were more than 106,000 cases of domestic violence filed in Florida in 2014, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, it’s important to inform yourself of the laws in your state so you know what steps you can take to make sure the victim and his or her family is kept safe.

Filing a petition can be a difficult and dangerous process for the victim. He or she risks putting themselves, their children and even their pets in increased danger by filing a petition. This is because abusers often become angry and violent when they discover that their victim has taken legal action against them or has left them.

Domestic violence laws in Florida are meant to protect the victim, but unfortunately people don’t always follow the law.

How is Domestic Violence in Florida Defined?

Domestic violence, as defined by the state of Florida, includes the following acts committed by one family or household member (defined here) against another family or household member:

  • Assault, including aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery
  • Stalking, including cyber-stalking and aggravated stalking
  • Kidnapping
  • False imprisonment
  • Any other criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death

What Will Happen if I Call the Police During a Domestic Dispute?

When you call the police during a domestic dispute, an arrest will often take place—even if once the police show up you decide that you don’t want to press charges. This is because the police are there to protect the safety of the victim who might be afraid to take legal action.

Once the alleged abuser is arrested for domestic battery or domestic violence, he or she will have to appear before a judge before being released from jail. Oftentimes, the judge will order that the alleged abuser have no contact with the alleged victim and any children who are involved. If the victim and the abuser live together, this means the alleged abuser will not be able to go back home. If the alleged victim or abuser’s children were present during the domestic dispute, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) may be required to get involved.

If the alleged abuser is arrested, the victim has the right to know when he or she is released from jail and of any future court dates. If you are a victim of domestic violence in Florida, you may want to hire an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. You can also file for a civil injunction (restraining order) so that the alleged abuser is legally obligated to stay away from you.

Filing for a Civil Injunction in Florida

An individual can file a petition for a civil injunction if he or she is currently a victim of domestic violence or is in imminent danger or becoming a victim of domestic violence. In order for the court to decide whether or not the individual filing the petition (called the petitioner) is in imminent danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence, many factors will be taken into consideration.

Whether or not the alleged abuser has ever stalked or threatened the petitioner, whether or not the alleged abuser has physically abused or harassed the petitioner in the past, and whether or not the alleged abuser has a criminal history involving violence or threats of violence are just a few of the factors that will be considered. More factors can be found on page 0-8 of Florida’s Domestic Violence Benchbook.

Does the Victim Have to be a Resident of the State of Florida to File for a Civil Injunction?

No. A victim can file a petition in the circuit where he or she is currently or temporarily living, where the alleged abuser (called the respondent) lives, or where the domestic violence occurred. There isn’t a minimum residency requirement to be able to file for a civil injunction.

Who You Can Contact if You Are a Victim

In addition to contacting your local Clerk’s office or an attorney for advice on how you can begin your petition for an injunction, if you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, there are hotlines you can call for advice 24 hours a day.

  • The Family Life Center 24-Hour Hotline, (386) 437-3505
  • Florida Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-500-1119

If you have been accused of domestic violence, it is equally important to understand domestic violence laws in Florida. Violating a civil injunction or committing additional acts of violence, including stalking, can increase the jail or prison time or fines you already face.

The article above is intended for education purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact an attorney regarding your situation.