Battered Spouse Syndrome

The cycle of domestic abuse is incredibly hard to escape. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 20 people per minute are abused by their intimate partner in the United States. Yearly, this equates to more than 10 million abused men and women.

Florida has recognized the severe impact a domestic violent setting can create by allowing the battered spouse syndrome defense. Battered spouse syndrome, also known as battered women’s syndrome, is one of the few admissible defenses for the violent assault or death of another person. The defense states that the defendant was in such a vulnerable and desperate state because of the abuse, so their only option at the time was to injure or kill their partner.

If you or someone you know may qualify for a battered spouse syndrome defense, then it’s imperative you contact an experienced domestic violence attorney.

Attorney for Battered Women’s Syndrome in Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Florida takes into account how debilitating and terrifying a violent domestic relationship can be. That is why the state allows the battered women’s syndrome defense for victims of domestic violence who had to defend themselves against their aggressor. However, this defense isn’t easy to implement or prove to a jury.

It’s recommended you gain legal representation before moving forward with the trial. We highly advise you get in contact with one of our attorneys at Meltzer & Bell. The defense lawyers at Meltzer & Bell understand the incredible amount of stress you’ve endured because of your significant other. We approach each client with compassion and understanding but are aggressive when needed in the courtroom.

Call us now at (754) 755-8554 to set up your first consultation free. We accept clients throughout the greater Broward County area including Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, and Hollywood.

Overview of Battered Women’s Syndrome in Florida


What is Battered Spouse Syndrome?

Battered women’s syndrome or battered spouse syndrome emerged in the 1990s from several murder cases in England. The defendants in these cases claimed that they had killed their partners in response to years of domestic abuse. The defense didn’t make its way to the United States until 1994 as part of the Violence Against Women Act. Congress as a result ordered an investigation into battered women syndrome and discovered its validity in a 1997 report.

The syndrome is a psychological condition, which stems from the cycle of domestic abuse. It’s incredibly dangerous because the abuse can cause some victims to revert to a state known as “learned helplessness.” This is a state of psychological paralysis where the victim is so depressed, defeated and passive they believe they are incapable of leaving their abuser.

The gripping fear of eventual abuse is the victim’s whole reality. It can hinder any attempts to escape the situation since the victim may be afraid of the consequences if they leave or they are hoping that the preparator will change their ways.  In either scenario, the cycle of domestic violence continues, and this progression eventually leads to battered spouse syndrome.


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The Three Stages of Battered Spouse Syndrome

Battered spouse syndrome normally commences in three stages according to psychology. The first stage consists of the abuser engaging in certain behaviors that create immense tension within the relationship. In the second stage, the abuser explodes from anger and commits some sort of violent abuse including assault, battery, sexual battery or other criminal acts.

The third stage is often referred to as the “honeymoon” stage, where the abuser goes out of their way to amend their bad behavior. During this stage the abuser is forgiven, and the cycle begins again. As the cycle continues, the victim reverts to the “learned helplessness” stage mentioned earlier. The victim is sometimes convinced the abuse is their own fault but can’t understand why the abuse continues even when they try to remedy it.

This state of psychosis can cause the defendant to believe that the abuse cannot be escaped. It can create extreme anxiety and depression within the victim, which can alter their rational thought process. People who have battered spouse syndrome can have unreasonable solutions to their problems because they are not in the right state of mind.

Due to all these factors and more, the victim may lash out in response to the abuser. It could even cause serious injury or death if the victim is unleashing years of repressed emotions.


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Battered Spouse Syndrome as a Defense in Florida

Florida allows defendants to utilize the battered spouse syndrome defense if they are a victim of domestic abuse. However, it’s important to know the burden of proof for battered spouse syndrome is high. You must prove that you were subjected to a cycle of abuse at the hands of your spouse and that abuse caused you to respond violently in one singular act.

It can be difficult to collect evidence for a battered spouse syndrome defense. In many cases, people with battered spouse syndrome experienced both emotional and physical abuse. If the abuse was consistently violent, then a jury may have a hard time accepting the defense.

Additionally, Florida has distinct criminal procedure rules concerning battered spouse syndrome. As the defendant, you must give notice of intent to rely on the defense of battered-spouse syndrome no later than 30 days prior to the trial.

It must contain a statement of particulars showing the nature of your defense and what you expect to prove as well as addresses of witnesses you intend to call to the stand. If this notice isn’t sent before trial, then the court will bar you from utilizing the battered spouse defense.


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Signs of Battered Spouse Syndrome

People suffering from battered spouse syndrome usually share certain characteristics. Assessing your experiences by looking at these signs may help you identify whether you suffer with battered spouse syndrome or not. Some common characteristics of battered spouses include:

  • Taking full responsibility for the abuse and issues with the relationship;
  • Finding it difficult to accuse the abuse or blame them;
  • Fearing for you or someone you love’s safety because of the abuser;
  • Being afraid to speak in fear of getting your abuser upset;
  • Not having close ties to friends or family;
  • Finding yourself isolated from people you love by your abuser;
  • Irrationally believing how powerful your abuse is;
  • Distrust of authorities instilled in you by your abuser; and
  • Fearing what will happen if you leave the relationship

Victims of battered spouse syndrome also face mental trauma. Many are known to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some victims turn to substance or alcohol abuse to escape their reality.


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Additional Resources

The Toothless Tiger Can Now Roar | FL Bar Journal – Visit the official website for the Florida Bar Journal to read an article published by Douglas A. Orr regarding a Supreme Court case. The article features information regarding Weiand v. State, which was for a case where a woman named Kathleen Weiand shot and killed her husband Todd because she feared for her life. Visit the article to read about how she utilized the battered woman’s syndrome as a defense and how the court interpreted that into a verdict.

Battered Spouse Syndrome Defense FL – Visit the official website of the Florida Court Procedure Rules to learn more about the battered women’s defense. Access the site to read when you can file a notice, the standard of proof and other related rules for Florida’s Court Procedures.


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Lawyer for Battered Women’s Syndrome in Broward County, FL

People who are victims of domestic violence should be assisted by the state not criminally charged. If you have been arrested and believe you meet the standards for battered spouse syndrome, then it’s important you gain representation immediately. Having a skilled attorney on your side can be the difference between spending years behind bars or not.

Call us at Meltzer & Bell if you need experienced legal counsel. We have been providing defenses for victims of domestic violence for years. We want to utilize our strengths to ensure you aren’t punished for the years your abuser harmed you. Meltzer & Bell accepts clients throughout the greater Broward County area including Hollywood, Miramar, Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs.


This article was last updated on September 4, 2019.

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