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Felony Domestic Battery Charges

As a criminal defense lawyer, I often defend charges of domestic battery.  Typically, I receive a call from either the person arrested in a domestic battery case or the alleged victim calling on behalf of the person arrested, usually her boyfriend, who is in jail.  If it’s the latter, they usually inform me they would like to have the case dropped.  Unfortunately, many times the State will proceed with the prosecution regardless of the alleged victim’s desires.

Many domestic battery cases result in misdemeanor charges where the range of penalties include up to one year in the county jail. Some domestic battery situations, however, result in felony charges.  This article will discuss the four most common felonies I typically encounter while representing people involved in a domestic dispute.

The first of these charges is felony battery.  Felony battery is defined by Florida Statute section 784.041(1) as intentionally touching or striking another person against their will which causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.  The crime of Felony Battery is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine. 

The primary distinction between misdemeanor battery and felony battery is the amount of harm inflicted. While no injury is necessary for the crime of misdemeanor battery, a significant injury must occur before felony battery can be charged.  Thus, if the victim suffers serious cuts, bruises or broken bones, the charge most likely will be felony battery.

The second felony charge I frequently encounter in domestic disputes is domestic battery by strangulation.  Under Florida Statute section 784.041(2), the crime of domestic battery by strangulation is defined as knowingly and intentionally impeding the normal breathing or blood circulation of a family member, household member, or significant other by applying pressure on the throat or neck, or by blocking the nose or mouth, in a manner that creates a risk of, or actually causes, great bodily harm.

Thus, if your domestic battery incident involved choking, or placing your hands or any object over the mouth or nose of the alleged victim, your charges will likely include domestic battery by strangulation.  Domestic battery by strangulation is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.

The third frequently encountered felony in a domestic arguments is aggravated battery on a pregnant person.  The crime of aggravated battery on a pregnant person is defined by Florida Statute section 784.045(1)(b) as the intentional and unlawful touching of a person known to be pregnant against their will.

Aggravated battery on a pregnant person is unique in that it is considered an aggravated crime simply because of the victim is pregnant, irrespective of whether any serious injury was actually inflicted.  The crime of aggravated battery on a pregnant person is a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, fifteen years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.  And, a judge generally is required to sentence a person convicted of aggravated battery on a pregnant person to a minimum sentence of 21 months in prison.

Therefore, because the crime focuses on the victim’s pregnant status, conduct as simple as merely grabbing a pregnant woman by the arm during an argument can trigger a 21 month prison sentence.  Therefore, if you’re charged with aggravated battery on a pregnant person you should retain counsel highly experienced with this charge.

The final felony charge I frequently see arising out of an incident of domestic battery is false imprisonment.  Under Florida Statute section 787.02, the crime of false imprisonment is committed when a person: (1) forcibly, by threat, confines, abducts, imprisons, or restrains another person without lawful authority against their will; or (2) secretly confines, abducts, imprisons, or restrains another person without lawful authority against their will.

Therefore, the critical element of the crime of false imprisonment is the act of depriving another person of personal liberty or freedom of movement for any length of time.  Even briefly depriving another person of their ability to leave a room or the dwelling area during a domestic dispute can be sufficient to constitute the crime of false imprisonment.  The crime of false imprisonment is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and $5,000 in fines.

As you can see, domestic disputes can result in quite serious felony charges.  If you’ve been charged with felony battery, domestic battery by strangulation, battery on a pregnant person, or false imprisonment, you should speak with a Jacksonville criminal attorney highly experienced with these crimes.  Doing so can give you the best chance of avoiding substantial prison time, probation and fines.