Violent crimes include a broad range of offenses, ranging from first-degree murder to assault to child neglect. Because these crimes can result in injury or death to others, they are treated seriously and persecuted aggressively. In the most serious cases, conviction can lead to a life sentence or even a death sentence. Thus, if you’re accused, you need to understand the charges against you and be sure to have an experienced criminal defense attorney in Gainesville at your side.
What Are Violent Crimes?
Violent crimes are often personal in nature, and Florida law considers violent crimes to be crimes against humanity. These crimes can involve physical violence (such as battery, sexual assault, or homicide) or even just the threat of physical violence (e.g., a home invasion robbery in which a gun is pulled to force the homeowner to stay still or open a safe).
According to Florida law, violent crimes fall into two basic types: those in which the act of violence is the end goal (such as first-degree murder or rape) and those in which violence is means to achieving another goal (for instance, the end goal of a carjacking is to acquire a car, not assault the driver).
Types Of Violent Crime
Florida considers a broad range of offenses to be violent crimes. Some of these include the following:
- Arson: Deliberate, unlawful destruction of structures or other property by fire or explosives.
- Homicide: Crimes involving the taking of human life vary in severity, depending on the presence or absence of intent, malice, planning, or need for self-defense.
- Murder is an intentional act of bodily harm (planned or unplanned) that results in the death of another.
- Manslaughter involves acts of homicide that don’t meet the definition of murder (for instance, a death caused by a drunk driver or careless hunter with no intent to kill).
- Sexual battery: Florida law defines sexual battery or rape as involuntary oral, anal, or vaginal penetration with an organ or object.
- Domestic violence: This is a blanket term for violent crimes (such as sexual battery or assault) committed by a family or household member that target another family or household member.
- Robbery: Florida law defines robbery as the taking by force of money or other property from another person with the intent of depriving this person of this money or property.
- Assault: Assault is legally defined as the intentional use of force or threat of force. Thus, no physical contact needs to occur for an act to be considered assault as long as actual physical force was possible.
- Battery: This is defined in Florida as intentionally touching or striking a person against his or her will or intentionally causing bodily harm to another person.
- Kidnapping: Kidnapping is defined in the 2018 Florida Statutes as imprisoning, confining, or abducting another person against his or her will “forcibly, secretly, or by threat” for the purposes of obtaining ransom, committing a crime, inflicting harm on the captured person, or interfering with governmental or political functions.
- Child abuse: Florida law defines child abuse as the intentional infliction of mental or physical injury upon a child, any act that could reasonably be expected to cause physical or mental harm to a child, or the encouragement of any act that could reasonably be expected to cause physical or mental harm to a child.
Penalties For Violent Crimes
Penalties for violent crimes vary, but can be severe. A number of factors are considered in determining the penalties for specific crimes, including the ages of the defendant and victim, the severity of the crime, the defendant’s past criminal record, and aggravating factors such as intent, the use of weapons during the crime, or whether the crime was committed during the course of another crime.
To give you an idea of how sentencing for violent crimes works, here are some examples of typical crimes and their possible sentences:
- First-degree murder is considered a capital felony, meaning a conviction can lead to either death or life imprisonment. The court’s choice of punishment is decided in a separate hearing following conviction. During this hearing, a jury will hear about any relevant aggravating factors as well as any relevant mitigating factors (such as extreme emotional duress or the absence of a previous criminal record) and determine the sentence accordingly.
- Assault is a second-degree misdemeanor. Penalties can include up to 60 days imprisonment along with a fine of $500.
- Sexual battery is a capital felony if the victim is under 12 years of age, and a life felony if the victim is over 12 years of age and physical force or weapons are used. Even after a sentence is completed, those convicted of sexual battery may have to register as a sex offender or sexual predator. This can severely restrict where they can live and work.
- Vehicular homicide is a second-degree felony with a prison sentence of up to 15 years. It becomes a first-degree felony with a sentence of up to 30 years, however, if the driver knew or should have known of the accident and failed to stop and seek help.
Felony Vs. Misdemeanor Violent Crimes
In Florida, felonies and misdemeanors carry different degrees of consequences. Violent crimes are serious offenses punishable by imprisonment in state prisons. Misdemeanor violent crimes are less serious offenses punishable by shorter sentences in county jails or fines.