Florida Domestic Violence Laws

The basics of Florida's laws prohibiting domestic and dating violence.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 23, 2024

In Florida, acts of domestic violence can result in arrests, criminal charges, injunctions, jail time, fines, and firearm restrictions.

What Is Domestic Violence in Florida?

Florida law defines domestic violence as any of the following crimes committed by or against a family or household member: assault, battery, sexual assault or battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or other criminal offense resulting in physical harm or death.

Family or household members include:

  • current and former spouses
  • persons who are or have resided together as a family
  • persons related by blood or marriage, and
  • persons who share a child.

A separate but similar definition applies to acts of "dating violence." Dating violence includes the same acts (listed above) but is committed against current or former dating partners. Dating partners are those who have or had (in the past 6 months) a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.

Many of the law's protections for victims of domestic violence also apply to victims of dating violence.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 741.28, 784.046 (2024).)

Domestic Violence Laws in Florida

Florida has a few crimes that are specific to domestic violence or dating violence. But, for the most part, acts of domestic violence are charged under general criminal laws (like assault and battery) and come with additional consequences when committed by a family or household member or dating partner.

Minimum Sentences for Domestic Violence Resulting in Bodily Harm

For instance, the law imposes minimum jail sentences for any domestic violence crime resulting in bodily harm to a victim. The minimum time behind bars is 10 days for a first offense, 15 days for a second offense, and 20 days for a third or subsequent offense. If the violence took place in the presence of a child younger than 16, the minimum jail sentences increase to 15, 20, and 30 days for a first, second, and third offense.

(Fla. Stat. § 741.283 (2024).)

Batterer's Intervention Program Required in Probation Sentences

Anytime a judge allows probation in a domestic violence case, it must require the defendant to attend a batterer intervention program.

(Fla. Stat. § 741.281 (2024).)

Injunctions Protecting Against Domestic and Dating Violence

Both domestic violence and dating violence victims can ask the court for injunctions (protective orders) that prohibit an abuser from contacting or harming the victim. If the defendant faces criminal charges, the judge can issue a no-contact order as a condition of bail or pretrial release. Violating an injunction or no-contact order can result in arrest and criminal charges.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 741.30, 784.046, 903.047 (2024).)

Domestic Violence Crimes and Penalties in Florida

Below are summaries of crimes commonly associated with domestic and dating violence and their penalties. Most of the misdemeanors listed carry up to a year in jail, while third-degree felonies can mean up to five years of prison time.

Assault and Aggravated Assault

A person commits assault in Florida by placing another in fear of imminent violence. To be convicted, the defendant must appear able to carry out the threatened violence.

Assault is a misdemeanor of the second degree. The crime becomes aggravated assault if the defendant used a deadly weapon or intended to commit a felony (such as sexual assault or robbery). Aggravated assault charges carry third-degree felony penalties.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 784.02, 784.021 (2024).)

Battery, Felony Battery, and Aggravated Battery

Battery is a completed assault. A person commits battery by intentionally touching or striking a person against their will or by causing another bodily harm. Examples of battery range from pushing and grabbing someone to punching, stabbing, or shooting another.

Acts of offensive touching or bodily harm carry first-degree misdemeanor penalties. But if the person has any prior battery convictions, the penalty increases to a third-degree felony. It's also a third-degree felony to commit a battery resulting in great bodily harm. Aggravated battery penalties apply if a person intentionally caused another great bodily harm, used a deadly weapon, or knew the victim was pregnant. An aggravated offense is a second-degree felony.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 784.03, 784.041, 784.045 (2024).)

Domestic Battery by Strangulation

A person who commits domestic battery by strangulation can face third-degree felony charges. Strangulation occurs when someone tries to impede another's normal breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure to their throat or neck or blocking their nose or mouth. The prosecution doesn't need to show any injuries for a conviction—only that there was a risk of great bodily harm. This section applies when a victim is a family or household member or dating partner.

(Fla. Stat. § 784.041 (2024).)

Stalking, Cyberstalking, and Aggravated Stalking

A person commits stalking or cyberstalking by repeatedly and maliciously harassing, following, monitoring, or sending electronic communications to another and causing the targeted person substantial emotional distress.

Stalking and cyberstalking crimes start as misdemeanors of the first degree. If the defendant also threatens the target victim with harm, the crime becomes aggravated stalking, punishable as a felony of the third degree. It's also an aggravated offense to stalk another in violation of an injunction (protection order).

(Fla. Stat. § 784.048 (2024).)

Violating an Injunction Against Domestic or Dating Violence

A person who's named in an injunction prohibiting domestic or dating violence can face criminal charges for violating the order. A violation carries first-degree misdemeanor penalties. However, the penalty increases to a felony of the third degree for a third violation against the same victim. These criminal penalties apply regardless of whether the injunction was ordered in civil or criminal court.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 784.31, 784.047 (2024).)

Arrest, Bail, and Firearm Restrictions in Florida Domestic Violence Cases

Florida law recognizes the high risk of harm in domestic violence cases. It allows for warrantless arrests, restrictions on firearms, and bail conditions when a defendant is suspected of domestic violence

Arrests in Domestic Violence Cases

Officers who have probable cause to believe a suspect committed domestic violence or dating violence can make a warrantless arrest. The same applies if the officer suspects a violation of an injunction prohibiting violence.

Defendants arrested on domestic violence charges cannot be released until going before a judge.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 741.2901, 901.15 (2024).)

Bail and Pretrial Release Conditions in Domestic Violence Cases

Judges who are reviewing domestic violence charges must consider the safety of the victim and the victim's children when making bail decisions. The law requires judges to "exercise caution in releasing defendants" in domestic violence cases.

The judge may issue a no-contact order as a condition of pretrial release. Among other restrictions, the no-contact order can prohibit the defendant from contacting the victim and possessing a firearm. If the defendant lives with the victim, the order can direct the defendant to move out.

Violating any of these pretrial release conditions can mean re-arrest, criminal charges, and pretrial detention.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 741.29, 741.2902, 903.047, 903.0471 (2024).)

Firearm Restrictions in Domestic Violence Cases

Every stage of a domestic violence case can result in firearm restrictions. In some cases, a judge can order a defendant to surrender any weapons in their possession.

  • If arrested for domestic violence, a judge can prohibit possession of firearms as a condition of bail or pretrial release.
  • Florida law makes it a crime for anyone subject to a final injunction prohibiting domestic violence to possess firearms or ammunition.
  • If convicted of a domestic violence crime, the person loses their right to possess a firearm under state and federal laws.

Depending on the circumstances, a violation can result in arrest and misdemeanor or felony criminal charges.

(Fla. Stat. § 790.233 (2024); 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2024).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you're facing criminal charges for domestic or dating violence or have been served with an injunction, talk to a criminal defense lawyer. Domestic violence charges, injunctions, and convictions carry significant consequences and should not be taken lightly.

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