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Florida Appellate Court Reverses Felony Domestic Violence Conviction for Inappropriate Jury Instruction

Domestic violence allegations in Florida can be some of the toughest types of charges for judges and juries to evaluate. Often, domestic violence charges are based upon “he said-she said ” situations, and it is up to the judge to determine what types of evidence and argument a jury can hear in order to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. Generally, the final charges to the jury, in the form of jury instructions, can be used to frame the charges in a way that gives one side an advantage over the other. Because of this, there are strict requirements concerning how and what can be told to the jury in their instructions. A Florida appellate court recently determined that the jury was improperly instructed before deliberations and reversed the conviction of a man who was accused and convicted of a domestic violence crime after having an altercation with his then-romantic partner.

According to the facts discussed in the opinion, the defendant was charged with aggravated battery following a physical altercation with the alleged victim, his partner with whom he lived. Conflicting testimonies emerged between the alleged victim and the defendant. The alleged victim claimed that the defendant arrived home with another woman, leading to an argument. The defendant allegedly punched, kicked, and strangled the alleged victim, even attempting to drown her in a bowl of ice water. The alleged victim testified to sustaining various injuries.

The defendant, on the other hand, asserted that the alleged victim attacked him first, and a physical altercation ensued. He denied drowning her, using a firearm, or preventing her from leaving. The other woman’s testimony supported the defendant’s version, stating that the alleged victim initiated the violence, barricaded the door, and attacked both the defendant and herself.

The defendant argued self-defense, and the jury instructions included considerations for justifiable use of nondeadly force. However, the judge highlighted that non-deadly force wouldn’t be justified if the defendant was attempting, committing, or escaping after an aggravated battery. The case revolves around conflicting accounts of the altercation and the question of whether the defendant acted in self-defense. Based upon the given instructions, the jury found that the defendant was not justified in using force, and he was convicted.

The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the jury’s instruction concerning self-defense was flawed. Specifically, the defendant argued that the felony exemption upon which the jury based their decision was not valid. The appellate court agreed, finding that for the felony exception to apply, the felony in question needed to be different from the initial crime that was charged. Because the defendant was not alleged to have committed any other felony than the assault itself, the jury should have been instructed differently. Based on the appellate ruling, the defendant’s conviction has been reversed, and the state will need to try him again if they want to obtain a conviction.

Have You Been Arrested for a Florida DV Offense?

Domestic violence allegations in Florida are extremely serious and can result in lengthy jail sentences and the loss of civil rights. Jurors can be emotional and malleable creatures, and it is essential for defense attorneys to understand the role of jury instructions in each case. If you have been accused of domestic violence crime, finding an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney can help you to clear your name. The dedicated Florida criminal defense attorneys with the Mayberry Law Firm want to help you fight the charges against you. Our qualified criminal lawyers have successfully challenged inappropriate jury instructions, resulting in our clients being acquitted of the most serious charges brought against them. If you need an attorney, contact our office at 813-444-7435 or email me directly at to talk about your case.

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