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Domestic Violence Felony Battery

A Florida felony battery charge, as codified in F.S. 784.041, is applicable in criminal cases where a person acts with intent to touch or strike a victim against their will and in so doing, causes the victim great harm, permanent disfigurement, or permanent disability.

Usually, significant injury must occur for felony battery to be charged in Florida. However, there is an exception if the defendant has a prior conviction for battery. In that case, a subsequent act of misdemeanor battery can be raised to the level of a felony battery - even if the alleged victim didn't suffer any great bodily harm.

Felony battery differs slightly from aggravated battery in that it does not require the element of a defendant's conscious intent to cause great bodily harm. This means that prosecutors don't have to prove you were in a relevant state of mind when the act was committed. Felony battery is more serious than misdemeanor battery, but less serious than aggravated battery.

Domestic violence isn't a required element in felony battery cases. However, these charges often arise in the context of domestic disputes, and thus there may be additional consequences and considerations. F.S. 741.28 specifies that acts of domestic violence in Florida can involve spouses, former spouses/household members, and those with a child in common.

Penalties for Domestic Violence Felony Battery in Florida

As our Broward domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, felony battery is a third-degree felony, which carries maximum penalties of up to 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a maximum $5,000 in fines. As a level 6 offense under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code, it does carry a minimum mandatory penalty of 19-36 months in prison, assuming there are no mitigating circumstances warranting a downward departure. Other factors like the severity of the victim's injury, an adult defendant vs. minor victim, or prior felony convictions can result in higher sentences.

If the incident in question did involve domestic violence, additional penalties may be applied - particularly if the offense was carried out in violation of a protective order, as outlined in F.S. 741.31. They could be charged with contempt or an additional first-degree misdemeanor charge. They could be ordered to complete a 26-week batterer's intervention program (for which the offender foots the bill). They might be ordered to pay restitution to the alleged victim, which may include court costs and attorney's fees. If they have two or more prior convictions for violating a domestic violence injunction, they may be charged with an additional third-degree felony. There are also potential adverse impacts to pending child custody cases, divorce matters, and child custody proceedings.

Can You Be Convicted of Felony Battery if Alleged Victim Can't or Won't Testify?

Felony battery is not, by definition, a victimless crime. But what if the alleged victim refuses to cooperate with prosecutors or testify? As our Broward criminal defense lawyers can explain, this happens a fair amount in domestic violence felony battery cases.

In cases of domestic violence, it is not up to the alleged victim to "press charges." That decision rests with the prosecutor. And while the testimony of the alleged victim is often a key piece of evidence in Florida felony battery cases, it is not the only piece of evidence, nor is it strictly required to secure a conviction. That said, prosecutors certainly will have a tougher time of it if the victim isn't cooperating.

Aside from the alleged victim's words, other evidence that may be used to convict someone of felony battery might include:

  • Statements about the incident or confessions made by the defendant to police or others.
  • Statements or testimony from witnesses who were there or in the vicinity of the incident when it occurred.
  • Electronic records - such as text messages, photos, cell phone video or voice recordings, social media posts, emails, instant messages, etc. Increasingly, electronic evidence is a common part of many criminal cases.
  • Video footage from business or home security cameras.

What's more, prosecutors pursuing felony battery charges in a domestic violence case may seek creative application of hearsay exceptions. In the legal context, hearsay is a statement made out-of-court (oral or written) by one person that is being relayed in-court by another. Hearsay typically is not allowed as evidence in Florida criminal cases. However, there are exceptions - and prosecutors in domestic violence cases with an uncooperative alleged victim may try to fight for these exceptions under a broader range of circumstances.

For example, courts will sometimes allow something called a "state of mind" exception. This was outlined in the 1985 Florida Supreme Court case of Peede v. State, wherein the court held that a murder victim's hearsay statements could be admitted where the victim's state of mind is a material element to the crime. Statements allowed under this exception are admissible when offered to rebut allegations that the defendant acted in self-defense, that the parties had a peaceful relationship, or that the injuries sustained were accidental.

Another possible hearsay exception that might be applied in a domestic violence felony battery case is the excited utterance exception. This is when a statement relating to a stressful or startling event in the midst of the excitement of the event, and before the individual has a chance to consciously reflect. To qualify for this exception, the statement usually must be made right after the incident. Some courts have generally made one-half-hour the cut-off, but there's no clear, bright line rule. In some instances, statements made within 24 hours have been admitted under the excited utterance exception.

And lastly, there's the possibility of a medical diagnosis exception. This is when someone makes a statement in order to receive medical treatment. We most typically see this applied to domestic violence cases involving minors, rather than adults, as the identity of the person who caused harm may be relevant in the medical treatment of children (so that the perpetrator will be kept away during treatment), where that is not usually the case when adults are receiving medical treatment, whether domestic violence is suspected or not.

If you have been accused of domestic violence felony battery in Florida, it is imperative that you hire a highly experienced Broward criminal defense lawyer with a successful track record in the specific legal realm of felony domestic violence cases.

If you have been charged with domestic violence aggravated battery in South Florida, call The Ansara Law Firm today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.

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