Domestic violence (DV) charges in Florida criminal courts differ from other crimes because of the sensitive and personal nature of the allegations. In Broward County, for example, there are 2 courts that see only DV cases, 1 for misdemeanors and 1 for felonies, because these cases require the Court to examine the relationship between the defendant and alleged victim, and determine whether future violence is likely. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence attorney Mark Lowry is a former domestic violence prosecutor and experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you understand your charges and determine the best way to fight them.
Domestic violence is defined, in short, crime of violence against someone you currently live with, are related to, or have a child in common with, it will be classified as domestic violence. Most police departments require, when officers are called to the scene of a DV complaint, that at least one person be removed from the home, or even arrested. This is because, unless one person is bleeding heavily and the other has bloody knuckles, its often hard for the officers to know who hit whom. So to be safe, they will at least remove one person from the home for the night and have them stay at a friends to let everything cool down. Unfortunately, the officer usually goes beyond this step and arrests the person they believe responsible.
After being arrested, the defendant will be seen by the Court within 24 hours at a First Appearance hearing. The Court will decide whether to allow contact with the alleged victim at this time, so having he or she at this hearing can make a huge difference going forward. If the alleged victim wants contact with the defendant, this must be stated to the Court in person for the judge to consider it. If hired before this hearing, Fort Lauderdale domestice violence attorney Mark Lowry can be at the First Appearance hearing and explain to the Court how the alleged victim wants contact with the defendant, and how, for example, the entire incident was a misunderstanding (many times officers are called because neighbors heard shouting, yet no violence had occurred, but still someone still gets arrested).
After the First Appearance hearing, and if the alleged victim wishes, Mr. Lowry can file what’s called a “waiver of prosecution”, meaning an affidavit signed by the alleged victim stating either that the arrest report is wrong or that no violence occurred, and that he or she wishes not to prosecute the defendant. Because its the State of Florida v. John Doe and not the alleged victim v. John Doe, its ultimately the State’s decision whether to prosecute, or “press charges”, against the defendant. But by swearing under oath that the alleged victim will not testify against the defendant, the State will have a very hard time prosecuting the case, and will often drop the charges unless the crimes charged are so serious, like aggravated battery or sexual battery, that the alleged victim will be forced to testify by court order. Otherwise, by filing this waiver of prosecution, criminal attorney Mark Lowry has had excellent success in either getting the State to not file charges at all, called a “no-file”, or “no Information”, or getting them to drop charges after being filed, called a “nolle pros”.What is “Domestic Violence?”
Domestic violence is defined by Florida Statute 741.28 as the commission of any criminal offense by a family or household member against a family or household member that results in physical injury or death. The statute specifically includes these crimes: assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense.
Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence does not have to be between a husband and a wife. A family or household member under the statute includes any family members living together or non-family members living together as if they were a family. Thus, domestic violence charges can result from a fight between two brothers living together in the same dwelling.Additional Penalties
In addition to the punishment prescribed by Florida law for the underlying crime (assault, battery, etc.), those convicted of domestic violence are subject to additional punishments. For one, if bodily harm resulted and the person is adjudicated guilty, jail time of at least five days is mandatory under Florida Statute 741.283. Further, in most cases, including those involving a no contest plea, batterers’ intervention courses must be taken as a condition of probation. Domestic violence charges cannot be sealed or expunged from a criminal record. Gun rights will also be removed during probation and the right to carry a concealed weapon revoked.Defend Yourself
A domestic violence charge is not hopeless. There are viable defenses available. For one, any defenses to the underlying crime (assault, battery) can be asserted because if that crime wasn’t committed, no domestic violence charges can result. Sometimes domestic violence charges result after a neighbor calls law enforcement to report yelling and screaming; yelling and screaming alone are not crimes and cannot support a domestic violence charge. False accusations, self-defense, no injury, and demonstrating that the state cannot prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt are all potential defense strategies.
If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, the stakes are too high to roll the dice. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence attorney Mark S. Lowry can help you understand and defend your case.