Having a verbal argument with your spouse or your boyfriend or girlfriend is not illegal. However, if anyone calls law enforcement and reports that you hit, struck, grabbed, or pushed someone, the police will show up intending to take the primary aggressor to jail. Oftentimes, it's a neighbor or independent witness who hears the arguing and decides to call the police. Either way, once the allegation is made, there is nothing that can be done to prevent an arrest for domestic violence. If you have been arrested in this way, the Fort Walton Beach domestic violence defense lawyers with Flaherty & Merrifield are here to help you through this difficult time.

Providing the Legal Help You Need After a Domestic Violence Arrest

Getting arrested for domestic violence is bad enough, but being convicted is something that will affect you for the rest of your life.

My name is Tim Flaherty, and I've been a criminal defense attorney in Northwest Florida since 2001. My partner Brandy Merrifield joined me in 2007. Whether you are a Fort Walton Beach resident, a military member, or a vacationer facing the stress of an arrest, we can help you. Give Flaherty & Merrifield a call and let us take care of this for you. We've successfully defended hundreds of clients charged with domestic violence—and you could be next. Keep reading to learn more.

Whether you are a Fort Walton Beach resident, a military member, or a vacationer facing the stress of an arrest, we can help you. Give Flaherty & Merrifield a call and let us take care of this for you.

Working to Get Your Domestic Violence Charges Dismissed

We will contact the alleged victim with the goal of getting your no-contact order lifted. We will also find out from them whether they want to cooperate with us in getting your case dismissed. The state can still prosecute you for domestic violence even if the alleged victim doesn't want to press charges, but it definitely helps if they are on your side.

We will interview all witnesses in the case, examine any physical, photographic, or video evidence, and develop a strategy that either forces a dismissal, gets you into pretrial diversion, or prepares us for trial. Either way, we will be ready.

Understanding Florida Domestic Violence Cases

Domestic Violence is a form of battery, which under Florida Statute 784.03, is defined as "the offense of battery occurs when a person actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against their will."

In order for the offense to qualify as domestic violence, the crime must have taken place between family members or household members, which is defined under Florida Statute 741.28 as "spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married. With the exception of persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit."

Domestic Violence by Strangulation

A domestic violence charge is serious enough as it is, but if you are accused of choking someone or obstructing their breathing, the state can file an enhanced charge called domestic battery by strangulation. While domestic violence is normally charged as a misdemeanor, the strangulation element enhances the charge to a third-degree felony offense with a potential sentence of five years in prison and a felony conviction that will stay on your record for the rest of your life.

Pursuant to Florida Statute 784.041(2)(a), the state must prove that you impeded the alleged victim's normal circulation or breathing against their will, which caused a risk of great bodily harm.

In a strangulation case, the police are trained to examine the scene for evidence that would support the most serious crime possible. With that in mind, officers will look for the following when responding to an alleged domestic disturbance:

  • Flushing, redness, or bruising of the alleged victim's neck
  • Verbal confirmation from the alleged victim that a suspect touched their neck

Potential Penalties for Domestic Violence

In most cases, domestic violence is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail or 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine plus court costs, and the required completion of a 26-week anger management course.

If you are charged with domestic violence by strangulation, the potential penalty is five years in prison or five years of probation, a $5,000 fine, a 26-week anger management course, and a felony conviction on your record.

One important point to mention is that a domestic violence charge can never be expunged from your record unless the charge is dismissed. If the prosecutor makes a plea offer of probation, it may be tempting to accept the deal, but you must be careful! Unless the charge is dismissed, it will stay on your record forever.

How Domestic Violence (or Domestic Violence by Strangulation) Convictions Can Affect Your Military Career

There are special considerations to think about if you are in the military and charged with domestic violence. For that reason, we have written a page that deals specifically with military members facing these charges.

Entrust Your Defense to Florida Domestic Violence Attorneys Who Get Results

If you have looked at the case results on this website or read our Google reviews, you can see that we back up what we're talking about. I've been practicing criminal defense exclusively since 2001, and Brandy and I have a long track record of defending clients accused of these potentially devastating charges.

At Flaherty & Merrifield, we believe that everyone—no matter what they're accused of—deserves to have someone fighting for them. We will defend you the way we would want our loved ones to be defended if they were in trouble. Ready to find out how we can help with your domestic violence case? Call us today at (850) 243-6097 or complete our contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.