Coercive control in Florida: Signs, penalties and defenses to use

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2022 | Domestic Violence

Domestic abuse can manifest in several ways; one subtle and often overlooked but devastatingly impacts the victim is coercive control. Given its nature, one may not know they are abusing their partner in Florida until they have a lawsuit on their hands.

Understanding coercive control

At its core, coercive control is a pattern of behavior that seeks to strip away the victim’s autonomy and sense of self. The abuser exerts power over their partner through various means such as isolation, manipulation, intimidation, economic abuse, sexual coercion and emotional abuse. Coercive control spans all demographics and can happen in any kind of relationship – marital, dating, etc.

Warning signs that may indicate someone is being subjected to coercive control include:

  • Being very afraid of their partner or always walking on eggshells around them
  • Having little to no control over major aspects of their life such as finances, work or where they live
  • Constant monitoring by their partner through phone calls, texts, GPS tracking or other means
  • Being belittled, made to feel worthless, or told they’re “crazy” by their partner
  • Threats of physical abuse or any other signs of domestic violence

What to do when charged with coercive control in Florida

Florida statute 768.72 makes it a first-degree misdemeanor for a person to willfully, knowingly or recklessly engage in the course of conduct against another person that causes them substantial emotional distress and serves no legitimate purpose. Penalties for such a conviction can range from up to one year in jail to a fine not exceeding $1000. If the victim suffers from a mental illness, the offense is elevated to a third-degree felony.

If charged, you can minimize the damages or have the case thrown away using appropriate defenses. For example, you could argue that the accuser is lying about the claims they’ve made against you, i.e., when trying to win a custody battle or consented to the behavior.

Coercive control is a pernicious form of domestic abuse that can have lasting effects on the victim. Therefore, knowing how it occurs is crucial to avoid unknowingly committing it. However, if you’ve been charged already, there are steps you can take to defend yourself.


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