Domestic Battery vs. Battery in Florida

In Florida, there are different types of battery crimes that have different ramifications for people charged with those crimes. A battery charge in Florida can be a misdemeanor, punishable by no more than one year in jail, or a felony, punishable by more than a year in prison, depending on the circumstances of the crime. A regular battery is very broadly defined. Technically, a battery can be committed by doing much less than actually striking a person. In Florida, a battery is simply defined as intentionally striking or even touching another person against his/her will. A regular battery is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. However, if a person has any kind of prior battery conviction, a second battery can be charged as a third degree felony that carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison. A first time regular battery can also be a felony if the battery causes serious harm to the victim.

A battery becomes a domestic battery if the victim has a certain relationship to the defendant. A domestic battery charge carries the same penalties as a regular battery, but prosecutors often take them more seriously and recommend harsher sentences that can include jail time and attendance in programs designed to teach people about domestic violence. A battery can become a domestic battery if the defendant and victim are related, live together or have children together.

One significant difference between a regular battery charge and a domestic battery charge is the effect it can have on a person’s criminal record. On a regular battery charge, if the defendant decides to plead guilty or no contest, the criminal defense lawyer can negotiate a sentence where the judge withholds adjudication. This is not considered a conviction under Florida law and the criminal defense attorney can file a motion to have the defendant’s criminal record sealed if he/she has no other convictions. However, Florida law does not allow a person to have a domestic battery charge sealed when the judge agrees to withhold adjudication on that charge. If a defendant pleads guilty or no contest to a domestic battery charge, it is likely to stay on his/her criminal record permanently.

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