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Justice is Blind

Attorney Q&A: Domestic Battery

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West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Kelly V. Landers answers questions about domestic battery charges. Mr. Landers has more than 23 years of experience in handling domestic violence cases.

What is “battery”?
In legal circles, “battery” is defined as the unlawful touching or striking another against his or her will.   Examples of battery include hair pulling, slapping, pushing, or any offensive touching of a person.  Accidental physical contact is not criminal battery, but may be subject to civil damages if harm results.

What is “domestic battery”?
When battery occurs between two individuals living together, it is termed “domestic battery.”  Traditionally, domestic battery occurs between husband and wife — but the law extends to family and household members including children, stepparents, boyfriends/girlfriends, roommates, and individuals who “allegedly” have a child in common.

If the police are called to a domestic incident, are they required to make an arrest?
There is no statutory requirement that an arrest be made.  However, the police operate under the pressure of a pro-arrest policy.  They are not going to leave a scene without making an arrest if there is any chance that harm will occur.  Therefore, if the police are called for any reason — including a neighbor who is concerned about shouting — an arrest is likely.

Can the “victim” in a domestic violence case simply drop the charges?
Criminal battery charges are not easily dropped.  Police reports are made under oath, and making a false police report is a crime.  Therefore, if the victim of an act of domestic violence tells the police about it and later changes his or her mind, that person can be subpoenaed — or compelled — to appear at the trial and give testimony against the accused.  If the victim tells a different story at trial than was told to the police, that person can be charged with a criminal act.  Moreover, a pro-prosecution policy requires 6 months of counseling in order for a domestic battery case to be dropped.

What should I do if I am charged with domestic battery?
If you are the alleged perpetrator, it is critical that you know your rights to prevent charges from escalating.  When the police arrive, be polite and don’t argue – and use your right to remain silent.  Every case is different, so consult a criminal defense attorney promptly so that you understand your rights and responsibilities, given the circumstances of your case.

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