Death And Domestic Violence
In 2018, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement cataloged over 200 instances of criminal homicide and manslaughter that were linked to domestic violence. While injuries are the much more likely outcome of domestic violence than death, the fact remains that homicides do happen, and the penalties are justifiably stiff. If you have found yourself in the unenviable situation of being charged with an instance of domestic violence homicide or manslaughter, you face some of the most serious charges possible under Florida law.
Defining Domestic Violence
Domestic violence in Florida is defined as any criminal offense that results in injury or death to a family or household member, committed by another family or household member. In turn, ‘family or household member’ is defined not only as spouses, but also former spouses, anyone related by blood or marriage, people who live together or have lived together ‘as a family,’ and co-parents (regardless of whether or not they are married).
Domestic violence is not technically an offense in Florida; rather, it functions as a sentence enhancement of sorts. For example, if someone is arrested for assault against a family or household member, they will be tried for assault, not domestic violence – but if they are convicted, their sentence will reflect penalties for domestic violence in addition to the jail time and fines imposed for assault.
Homicide May Not Always Be Criminal
If your alleged victim loses their life during an incident of domestic violence, you might immediately think you will be charged with murder, but in reality, homicide is not always a crime. Murder and manslaughter are obviously criminal offenses, but some homicides are referred to as ‘justifiable’ or ‘excusable’ homicide. Self-defense is the primary reason why a homicide may be deemed to not be a crime, but the law also characterizes homicide as “excusable” if it occurs “via accident or misfortune,” without any unlawful intent.
Depending on the facts of your situation, you may be able to allege either self-defense or argue that the death was ‘excusable.’ For example, if your family or household member was the first to use force in your altercation, you may be able to say that you were ‘standing your ground’ if you reasonably feared being attacked, or you were being attacked at the time you used force against the person. Even if you believe you have a defense, however, do not make the mistake of taking these charges lightly.
Contact A Domestic Violence Attorney
Death in a domestic violence situation is treated extremely seriously, and if you are in a position where you are facing these charges, it is crucial to consult an experienced attorney who can guide you in the legal process. The West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can help answer your questions during what can be a frightening time. Call our offices today at 561-721-0552 to speak to an attorney.