This entry pertains only to the misdemeanor offense of battery. Battery is the unwanted touching or striking of another. While felony variations of battery exist, such as aggravated battery, simple misdemeanor battery only requires the state to prove that the defendant touched or struck the victim. No harm or injury is required. The touching or striking can be as minor as a light push.
Battery can be domestic or non-domestic. Domestic battery is a form of domestic violence. Domestic violence, even at the misdemeanor level, is treated very differently than non-domestic battery.
In order for a domestic battery to occur, there must be a domestic relationship. Florida law defines a domestic relationship as a family relationship or a relationship between members of the same household.
This can mean spouses and former spouses, relatives through blood and marriage, and people who are not related by blood or marriage but who reside together as if a family, or who have resided together in the past. Also, the domestic relationship definition always includes people who have children in common, despite their present or past living arrangements.
Non-domestic battery occurs when a person touches or strikes another person who is not a family member or member of the same household. Domestic battery is the same crime but it occurs against a family member or member of the same household.
Same crime, very different consequences.
For non-domestic batteries occurring in Miami-Dade and Broward, your case will go before a regular County Court judge. Penalties can range from diversion all the way to jail.
For domestic batteries occuring in Miami-Dade and Broward, your case will go to a County Court judge assigned to the Domestic Violence Division. These judges only handle domestic violence cases. There, your penalties can range from diversion all the way to probation to even jail. If on probation, you must complete about twenty-six weeks of batterers' intervention classes. This is not a requirement of your sentence if charged with non-domestic battery.
If you plead guilty or non contest to a domestic battery and receive a withhold of adjudication, you cannot, under any circumstances, seal your record. The Florida Legislature has made it crystal clear that those who plead guilty or no contest to any domestic violence crime cannot clean their records.
So there you have it. Same exact crime, same exact elements. Very different consequences.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney handling domestic violence cases in Miami-Dade and Broward.