Most people think about violence as physical actions that cause others harm, and understand domestic violence as physical violence that occurs between spouses or two people within a household. While physical violence is the most obvious type of violence, people can also suffer from emotional and verbal abuse.
Verbal abuse may consist of yelling, criticizing, name-calling, and making threats. It can also take more insidious forms like gaslighting, which abusers use to manipulate others by causing their victims to question their judgment and doubt what they know to be true. Verbal abuse may also include the silent treatment, in which a person tries to control and punish another by refusing to talk to them.
These forms of abuse may not be as apparent as physical violence, but they still cause lasting harm to victims. Does the State of Florida recognize verbal abuse as domestic violence?
Breaking Down the Definition of Domestic Violence in Florida
In Florida, domestic violence is defined in Statute 741.28 as any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injuries or the death of a family or household member by another family or household member.
While the statute doesn’t refer to the terms “verbal abuse” or “emotional abuse,” by definition, assault is defined as any act which threatens physical harm to a person, whether or not the aggressor follows through on the threat. A person can be charged with assault for threatening a victim in such a way that the victim reasonably believes she is in danger. Therefore, it may be possible to face domestic violence charges for assaulting someone through verbal abuse.
Why it is Difficult to Charge Someone with Domestic Violence Because of Verbal Abuse Alone
The problem with charging a person with domestic violence for threatening another person becomes apparent when the prosecution must establish the elements of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s not always clear when spoken words are threats.
In dating or marital relationships, it’s not uncommon for partners to joke around with each other, and for these jokes to occasionally contain violent content. Without the proper context, harmless comments could be interpreted as domestic violence. Thus, the prosecution faces the enormous challenge of persuading a jury that the defendant meant to harm the victim when he made these claims. Ultimately, verbal abuse is considered domestic violence in only rare circumstances in which the threat of harm can be substantiated with other evidence, like proof that the defendant intended to hurt the victim and had the means to do so.
Were You Charged with Domestic Violence for Making Threats?
Even though a domestic violence charge that lacks aggravating factors is usually a first-degree misdemeanor, it is a crime of violence for which you can face severe penalties. Being convicted of domestic violence in Florida could lead to jail time, fines, protective orders against you, and mandated counseling. By state law, your license to carry a concealed firearm will also be suspended. Under federal law, you may not own, possess, or use a firearm if you have a domestic violence conviction.
Brian Gabriel Fights Domestic Violence Charges in West Palm Beach
Your first move after finding out about a domestic violence charge in West Palm Beach is to contact a domestic violence defense lawyer. Because of the sensitive nature of these charges, and the fact that most of these cases contain little evidence outside of the testimonies of the two people involved, it’s necessary to show the prosecution that you plan to challenge the charges against you.
Attorney Brian P. Gabriel has more than 30 years of experience defending people accused of criminal offenses. Throughout his career, he has obtained countless successful results for clients facing domestic violence charges. A mere accusation of domestic violence can damage your reputation and strain your current relationships. Find out how Attorney Brian Gabriel can help you protect your reputation and vigorously defend the charges brought against you. Call (561) 622-5575 for a free consultation or complete a contact form.