Family Disputes Over the Holiday Season

Question: What will happen if I lose my cool with that one annoying relative during the holidays?

Answer: Every family has that one annoying relative with whom everyone has to bite their tongues, at least until the holiday drink of choice leads to the truth of feelings being spoken. Then, let the drama begin. Unfortunately, domestic violence and alcohol related offenses always increase during the holidays, as families come together and all the resentments that have built up between siblings or ex-spouses always seem to surface again. So, what are the consequences of domestic violence?

Domestic violence, in the general sense, is the intentional touching of another against the victim’s will, where there is a family, household member, or dating relationship between the Defendant and the victim. Domestic violence is classified as a first misdemeanor offense. Thus, it is punishable by up to one year in jail, or a mandatory 12 months of probation, including complete a batter’s intervention program. If one intentionally causes actual bodily harm during the domestic violence action, there is a mandatory minimum of five days in the jail.

Having said, domestic violence can be prosecuted as a felony as well, such as if the offense occurs by strangulation. If the person intentionally impedes the normal breathing or circulation of blood within the victim, the offense will be a 3rd Degree Felony, punishable by up to five years in prison or five years of felony probation and up to a $5,000 fine. Such is true regardless of whether the person has any prior criminal history. Of course, a prior misdemeanor battery will make any subsequent battery a felony as well.

If there is significant bodily harm, such as permanent disability or disfigurement, or if a deadly weapon is used, then it becomes a 2nd Degree Felony. If the deadly weapon happens to be a firearm, then one has to be concerned with Florida’s 10-20-Life statute, which we have discussed in prior Legal Columns. Simply put, a 10-20-Life firearm offense is one in which a firearm was used during the commission of an enumerated offense listed within the 10-20-Life sentencing enhancement statute, whereby pulling a firearm during the commission of the enumerated offense is punishable by at least 10 years in prison, discharging the firearm is by at least 20 years in prison, and actually harming someone (i.e. the Aggravated Battery with a Firearm) is at least 25 years in prison up to Life.

Additionally, domestic violence leaves a stigma to one’s future, whether it be in the social sense or even within the criminal Court system. Simply put, it is not worth it, so do not let the spiked eggnog and other holiday spirits taint your sensible thinking. Bite your tongue, and keep those hands to yourself. However, if you happen to lose your cool, or become falsely accused by someone during the holiday season, call my office immediately at (850) 250-3426.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

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