In Valentine’s Day-themed e-mails to the public and in local newspaper columns, Pinellas sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s provided a definition of “domestic violence” which conflicts with the definition in Florida law. Questions to the sheriff and his public information office about his definition of “domestic violence” went unanswered.
Gualtieri’s definition includes “emotional degradation” and “economic manipulation” as actions that could be qualify as “domestic violence” if used “to establish power and control over an intimate partner.” Under that theory, a spouse emptying a joint bank account of funds ahead of a divorce filing (a common practice) could be charged with domestic violence.
We asked the sheriff if he intends to arrest and seek prosecution of people for “emotional degradation” or “economic manipulation.” We received no response. However, there is no case law to support prosecution for the vague and decidedly non-violent behaviors that the sheriff found to be evidence of domestic violence.
Perhaps Gualtieri subscribes to the “words are violence” view of economically sheltered yet emotionally fragile college girls of all genders and emotional ages. If so, it would be quite the departure from the “sticks and bones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” sentiment that the law enshrines. And not just Florida’s domestic violence law, but the free speech right secured by both the US and all state constitutions.
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