In Florida, the term “domestic violence” refers not to any single crime, but to a class of crimes with a common thread. Domestic violence means violence within a family or household relationship.
More specifically, “domestic violence” refers to any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, etc., that is committed within a domestic relationship.
Florida verbal assault law fits into the framework of domestic violence law.
Most people make a distinction between words and actual violence, as recognized in the children’s nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
Nevertheless, under the Florida verbal assault definition, it is possible to commit a crime of domestic violence through the use of words, even in the absence of physical contact.
What Is “Assault” and Why Is It Important?
What is verbal assault? To understand verbal assault, you must first understand the term assault.
Under Florida law, to assault someone:
- You must intentionally issue a threat of violence through words or action;
- You must have the apparent ability to carry out that threat; and
- That threat must create a justifiable apprehension in the victim’s mind that such violence is imminent.
For example, threatening to put a loaded gun to someone’s head and actually putting a loaded gun to someone’s head both constitute an assault.
What Is the Definition of “Verbal Assault”?
Exactly what constitutes verbal assault? Putting a loaded gun to someone’s head is not verbal assault because it is not verbal. Picking up a loaded gun, pointing it to the floor, and telling someone, “I’m going to blow your head off,” almost certainly constitutes verbal assault.
The Florida verbal assault definition requires the speaker to intend to damage the emotional well-being of the target. So is verbal assault a crime in Florida? Absolutely yes.
Remember that the Florida verbal assault definition also includes the written word. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, an abuser often uses written words to abuse their victim.
Second, neither the abuser nor the victim typically has the presence of mind to record verbal assaults.
This leaves the court with a “he said, she said” situation where it is difficult to prove who is telling the truth. However, threats made through a note, email, or over text can still be considered criminal and are easier to prove.
Penalties for Verbal Assault
Florida makes a huge distinction between spoken and written threats. Verbal assault using spoken words is a second-degree misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail.
If you commit verbal assault by sending a written threat, by contrast, you could be convicted of a second-degree felony and spend up to 15 years in prison. If you send your threat by mail across state lines, the FBI might even charge you with a federal offense.
Orlando Defense Can Fight for Your Rights and Preserve Your Good Name
Orlando Defense lawyer Jeffery Higgins is a Florida native who has been fighting for the rights of people accused of domestic violence for nearly 25 years now.
Jeffery always sees to it that his clients understand the Florida legal system, know their rights, and are fully aware of their choices before they make any decisions on their case. He also enjoys long relationships with local judges and prosecutors.
Start defending your rights today.