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A look at domestic violence charges in Florida

Although most people have a general understanding of the law, there are some areas of criminal law that most residents know very little about. Take for example domestic violence. Most people have a general idea of what domestic violence is, but few can recite specific laws that pertain to residents in our state. Fewer still can explain what rights you have when facing criminal charges -- unless, of course, they have the right legal background.

Because we don't want our Melbourne readers to ever be blindsided by a domestic violence charge down the road, we wanted to take time this week to point out some things about Florida's laws that all of our readers should be aware of, especially because of how our laws define domestic violence as a whole.

In our state, domestic violence is defined very broadly as violence committed against a family or household member, spouse, ex-spouse, relative, or significant other in a dating relationship. Most people assume that domestic violence only includes assault or battery, but Florida expands the definition to include sexual assault and battery, kidnapping and even stalking.

Just like in other states, law enforcement here in Florida take claims of domestic violence very seriously. The law allows an alleged victim to request an injunction for protection, which is a court order that bars the respondent -- the person being accused of committing domestic violence -- from committing further acts of violence. The court order may limit contact with the petitioner or the petitioner's immediate family as well.

It's important to point out that if the injunction is a temporary one, then it shall be effective for no more than 15 days, unless certain circumstances are met such as release from incarceration. A temporary injunction may also be extended by the courts if "good cause [is] shown by any party."

Although it may not seem this way, you do have rights when facing a domestic violence injunction. For starters, you do have the right to an attorney and are encouraged to exercise this right, especially if you want to make sure that all of your rights are protected if accusations eventually lead to prosecution.

Sources: FindLaw, "Florida Domestic Violence Laws," Accessed Nov. 3, 2014, "Title XLIII, Chapter 741, Section 741.30," Accessed Nov. 3, 2014

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