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Children Can Be Victims Of Domestic Violence
In early 2022, a judge in the Federal District of Maryland sentenced an Orlando woman to 16 years in federal prison for committing ‘interstate domestic violence’ against a minor. The woman confessed to kidnapping a 17-year old female at gunpoint, as well as duct taping the hands of the teenager’s grandmother and threatening and intimidating another teenager, among other criminal acts. While most domestic violence occurs between adults, it would be remiss to ignore the fact that often, those under age 18 can be victims as well, at least under Florida’s fairly expansive definition of domestic violence. If you have been accused of harming your children via domestic violence, be aware that you will likely be judged harshly.
Broad Definition Of Domestic Violence
Florida’s domestic violence definition is much more broad than the definitions used in most other states. It defines domestic violence as any criminal offense which causes physical injury or death to a “family or household member,” which was committed by another family or household member. The statute goes on to define “family or household member” not only as a spouse, but including spouses, former spouses, unmarried co-parents, “persons related by blood or marriage,” and people who are either currently residing, or formerly used to reside, together as a family.
The reason that the definition is so wide-ranging is because in Florida, there is no singular crime of domestic violence; rather, it is used as a sentence enhancement of sorts against offenders who are charged with the underlying crime. For example, if you lay hands on your spouse, you would not be charged with ‘domestic violence;’ rather, you would be charged with assault or domestic battery, and the ‘domestic violence’ part would be factored in at sentencing.
The Underlying Crime Matters
Following the logic of the legislature, it is possible, though somewhat rare, for a person to be charged with child abuse or child endangerment in Florida – and then to be sentenced as someone who has committed domestic violence. Minor children can be “family or household members,” of course – and the statute explicitly states that any criminal offense that can cause physical injury or death may qualify under the domestic violence umbrella. Child abuse or endangerment can do that. The Orlando woman was charged with ‘interstate domestic violence’ under a federal statute, but in Florida, the relevant law is broader.
Even if you have not harmed your children physically, it is a long-established fact that children who witness intimate partner violence are harmed in the long-term. Florida law actually holds that if domestic violence is committed in the presence of a child 16 years of age or under, the sentencing ‘points’ (used to determine how many years a convicted offender should spend in jail) should be multiplied by 1.5. The welfare of children is one of the primary concerns of the state of Florida (and its legislature), and even if you do not cause physical harm to your children, you will be punished for causing them other types of harm if you are convicted.
Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney
Society does not look with favor on people who have been convicted of domestic violence, but domestic violence against a minor is seen as particularly depraved and unprincipled. If you have been charged with domestic violence, and your children were involved, you need an experienced West Palm Beach criminal attorney who will work hard to give you your day in court. Call the offices of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. today to speak to an attorney.