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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / The “Reasonable Person” Standard in Florida Domestic Violence Cases

The “Reasonable Person” Standard in Florida Domestic Violence Cases


Domestic violence is seen as a serious crime in Florida, but not every allegation will lead to a protection order and charges. The average person may think that the victim’s testimony is enough to obtain a domestic violence injunction against their alleged abuser, but Florida (and most other jurisdictions) observe what is known as the reasonable person standard. The reasonable person standard holds that fear of future assault must be objective and rooted in reality.

Injunctions Require Evidence

Domestic violence in Florida is defined as any criminal offense that results in physical injury or death to a member of the alleged perpetrator’s family or household (which can include only spouses, but also unmarried co-parents, former spouses, people related by blood or marriage, and anyone that is or was residing with the alleged perpetrator “as a family). In addition to criminal charges, a victim of domestic violence may also be able to obtain a restraining order (in Florida, called a domestic violence injunction (DVI)).

The movies and TV tend to show an alleged victim of domestic violence getting a DVI almost immediately, with very little evidence offered. In reality, Florida law requires a person to have “reasonable cause to believe” that they are in “imminent danger” of becoming a victim of domestic violence before an injunction will be issued. The key word in this statement is “reasonable;” and while it can have many meanings in law, it has an objective meaning here.

Must Have “Reasonable” Fear

Every person on the planet has the capacity to perceive a situation in a different manner, however slight. That said, this creates problems in a legal capacity, when a plaintiff’s version of a story may be drastically different than that of the defendant. Some kind of objective standard is necessary, and this is where the concept of “reasonableness” comes in. Legal dictionaries define it as appropriate or ordinary within a certain set of circumstances – for example, a reasonable standard of care for doctors is the level of care that the average medical professional would provide under the same circumstances.

In a domestic violence context, this means that an alleged victim must have an objectively reasonable fear of future abuse in order for a DVI to be granted, at least long-term. Time may also be a factor – while there is no specific rule as to how recent a domestic violence event must be in order to lead to “reasonable” fear, there will come a point at which a court will say an event is too far removed.

Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney

If you have been accused of domestic violence in Florida, be aware that your alleged victim may seek an injunction against you – but their fear must be “reasonable” in order for it to be granted. If you have questions or concerns about the process, contacting a West Palm Beach criminal attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can help to get them managed. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.



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