What Constitutes Domestic Violence?

A recent Fourth District Court of appeal defined what is considered domestic violence and what is not. In Stone v. Stone,

The parties were married in January 2011. The former wife filed for divorce in June 2012. In October 2012, the former wife petitioned for an injunction for protection against domestic violence. The petition alleged that in May 2012 the former husband grabbed the former wife's arms, forced her onto the bed, and made unwanted sexual advances.
He stopped when he understood that his advances were unwelcome. The trial court did not enter a temporary injunction, and held a hearing on October 10, 2012. The former wife testified that the former husband grabbed her and tried to have sex, but she escaped. She introduced photos showing bruises on her arms. On cross-examination, she admitted that she was moving on the same day and that she may have gotten the bruises from carrying boxes.
The former husband testified that the bruises were not intentional if he caused them at all. If he caused the bruises, they came from “playing around.” On the day in question, the former wife tried to playfully throw him in the pool; he picked her up and carried her into the house, let the dogs lick her, and then let her go. The former wife further testified that the former husband constantly called and text messaged her.
None of his calls or messages was threatening in nature. He was simply trying to convince her not to divorce him. On one occasion, she saw him on a public beach with one of their dogs. She approached him, and had a friendly conversation for four hours. The former wife's daughter testified that she saw the former husband outside of her mother's residence one day. She opened the door and yelled at him, and he ran away.
The former husband testified that he was in the neighborhood to pay a neighbor, who did work for him. He ran when the daughter saw him because he did not want her to think he was spying. The neighbor confirmed the former husband's story. The trial court entered a Final Judgment of Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence. The former husband filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied. From these orders, the former husband appealed.

The appellate court found that it was not enough evidence to enter an injunction for protection against domestic violence.

Section 741.30(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2013), confers standing to seek an injunction against domestic violence on any person who has (1) actually been the victim of domestic violence, or (2) who on some other basis has reasonable cause to believe that he or she faces impending danger from such violence. “ ‘Domestic violence' means:

any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another.

The May 2012 incident was the only claim of past domestic violence. The former wife testified that her former husband grabbed her and tried to have sex, but he stopped when he saw that she was not interested. Even so, she claims to have sustained bruises on her arms. The former husband testified that the incident was a form of horseplay with no harmful intent. At the time it occurred, they had been together for six years and were still married.

“Battery” is the actual and intentional touching or striking of another person against their will. While the former husband admitted to touching the former wife, no one testified that he knew it was against her will. Here, the evidence did not establish that the former husband acted with the purpose of causing an offensive or harmful contact.

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