Are Domestic Violence and Domestic Battery the Same Thing?

One of the questions that many clients ask us is whether domestic violence and domestic battery are “the same thing.” This question arises due to the rather casual manner in which the media and those without a legal background discuss situations where violence occurs between family members. As a result, all domestic violence and domestic battery are often used interchangeably, despite the criminal charge of domestic battery referring to a relatively narrow legal definition. Therefore, in this article, a Pinellas County domestic battery lawyer provides some clear answers about the difference between the two terms, as defined by Florida law.

Domestic Violence Is Not Just Against Spouses

Generally, scenarios involving spousal abuse are the first thing that comes to mind when  the term domestic violence is used. The truth is that domestic violence, under Florida Law, is specifically defined as the act of threatening, touching, or striking with the intent to harm a family or a household member physically. The law describes a family or household member as a:

  1. Spouses 
  2. Current or former boyfriend(s) or girlfriend(s)
  3. Children
  4. Family members related to the defendant by blood or marriage
  5. Those who live together as if a family
  6. Current or former fiancé(s)


Domestic Violence is a Broad Term – Battery Is Just One Crime

Domestic violence is an umbrella term for many types of offenses. The two most common crimes of domestic violence are domestic battery and domestic assault

Domestic Battery

Domestic battery is where an actual physical touching or striking occurs. It is when a family member is touched or struck against their will. You should note that there is NOT any requirement that an injury occur. While battery certainly includes unwanted physical contact such as slapping, punching, pushing, and choking, it may also encompass other forms of unwanted contact, such as holding a family by their arm, striking them with an object that is not a deadly weapon, or poking. What many people do not realize is that the law does not require the contact to necessarily be “violent.” As the law is written, the State is merely required to prove that the physical contact was “unwanted.” As such, mere touching can constitute a domestic battery.

A domestic battery can be an aggravated battery if it is alleged that there was an unwanted touching or striking with a deadly weapon (regardless of whether any injury occurred) or if the striking resulted in serious bodily injury (regardless of whether a weapon was involved)

Penalties for Domestic Battery:

  • Domestic Battery results in a first-degree misdemeanor on the record
  • Up to 1 year in prison
  • Up to $1,000 fine

Penalties for Aggravated Battery:

  • It is a second degree felony
  • Up to fifteen years in prison
  • Up to $15,000 fine


Domestic Assault

Now, this is the term that confuses many people in Florida. Assault is not battery; Instead, an assault is the threat to do physical violence coupled with the imminent ability to carry out the threat. Purely verbal arguing, insults, and name-calling are not assaults. Instead, an assault consists of some physical act that would place a reasonable person in fear that they were about to be struck or touched against their will . 

As with battery charges, an assault may be prosecuted as an Aggravated Assault, where the imminent threat involved the use of a deadly weapon. 

Penalties for Domestic Assault: 

  • Jail sentence of up to 60 days
  • Up to $500 fine

Penalties for Aggravated Assault:

  • Up to five years in prison
  • Up to $5,000 fine


Have You Been Charged with Domestic Violence?

If you’re charged with a crime involving domestic violence, time is of the essence. You should take action quickly and seek the advice of an experienced Pinellas County criminal defense attorney. For a free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced domestic battery or domestic assault attorney in Pinellas County, please contact Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.