An Overview of Domestic Violence charges, defenses, etc. in Florida.
What is the Florida Family Protection Act?
Yearly there are over 100,000 cases of domestic violence reported in Florida. Unfortunately, many incidents go unreported. One in four women and one in nine men nationwide have reported severe domestic violence, with even more suffering less dangerous events. A substantial portion of the law surrounding domestic violence stems from the 2001 Family Protection act, this act serves to:
Requiring those conducting child protective investigations receive training on removing a domestic violence perpetrator from the home by use of injunction
Creating a minimum sentence in Domestic Violence cases
Requiring a surcharge be paid upon certain convictions to the Domestic Violence Trust Fund
Stipulating that a batterers’ intervention program be paid for and taken by Domestic Violence offenders ; requiring that the offender pay the cost of attending the program; amending s. 741.01, F.S.; authorizing the Executive Office of the Governor to use a specified amount from the Domestic Violence Trust Fund to fund a public-awareness campaign on domestic violence; amending s. 741.281, F.S.; requiring the court to impose the batterers’ intervention program as a condition of probation; providing for an exception; requiring that the batterers’ intervention program be certified; providing an effective date.
The Family Protection Act goes on to create a “preferred filing” as a directive for police upon contact with potential domestic violence. First, an officer is directed to determine who is the primary aggressor. Second, the preferred response is one arrest and only one arrest. The purpose is to arrest that primary aggressor and file charges against him or her, and not arrest the individual defending, even if their actions could sustain a charge. This is very different from normal criminal episodes where it is the police’s directive to arrest all those whom probable cause exists to arrest.
What is Domestic Violence in Florida?
Domestic Violence in Florida is defined by Florida Statutes 741.28. Most people understand that domestic violence occurs when there is a crime committed against a domestic partner, the definition and actions are far more nuanced than that though.
First, a specific set of relationship between the perpetrator and the victim must exist. In Florida, they must live together, have lived together or have a child together. If they do not have a child together, they must be: spouses, former spouses, related by blood, related by marriage, residing together as if a family, or have resided together in the past as if a family.
Second, even if the relationship requirement is met, not all crimes constitute domestic violence. Domestic violence crimes consist of:
False Imprisonment, or
Any other criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death.
Is Domestic Violence a Felony?
Crimes of domestic violence in Florida are completely varied. Generally speaking, a domestic violence case is going to be a felony, or a misdemeanor based on the level of the underlying crime. Domestic violence is not a separate offense, but rather a sentence enhancer if an individual is found guilty. It is important that if you have been accused of domestic violence and you are unsure of the penalties that you speak to a qualified domestic violence attorney who can help you navigate this potentially life changing case.
If a crime is charged as domestic violence, whether a felony or a misdemeanor, it does create some special circumstances.
What are the Penalties?
If you are found guilty of a domestic violence charge, there is a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 10 days (first), 15 days (second), or 20 days (third or subsequent). These are increased to 15 days, 20 days, or 30 days respectively, if a child under sixteen years old witnesses the incident. The only way to avoid these minimum jail sentences are to commit a crime serious enough to warrant prison or beat the charges through trial or dismissal. If convicted, even for a minor offense, a jail sentence far past this minimum is a very substantial possibility. This is why it is crucial to speak to an attorney as soon as possible if accused.
Are Domestic Violence Records Public? Will they Show up on a Background Check?
Criminal records in the State of Florida are public record and can be obtained online for a nominal fee. This includes convictions for Domestic Violence. It does exclude juvenile offenses if they would have been an adult misdemeanor, but these are unlikely to be domestic violence in nature. In addition to being publicly available, they will be obtainable and be visible during a background check. Domestic Violence offenses, unlike many other charges in the State of Florida, are not able to be sealed or expunged. This means they will remain on your record forever, and can be seen by housing, employers, education institutions, or any other organization authorized to perform a background check. This is another reason why it can be so important to seek the assistance of a qualified domestic violence attorney who can protect your rights. There are many ways a criminal defense attorney may be able to assist you, through diversion programs, or getting cases dropped completely. These options may not be available if you enter a plea of any kind before seeking an attorney, a consultation is crucial to making sure your record does not end up with a lifetime entry of domestic violence.
Where are Domestic Violence Cases Filed?
Criminal Domestic Violence cases, as addressed in the rest of this article are filed by the police in the county court where the allegations are alleged to have occurred. This process is very similar to other criminal offenses that rise to a misdemeanor or felony level.
Domestic Violence cases can also be filed in civil court to protect the victim from further abuse or threats of abuse. Domestic Violence attorneys like the lawyers at Pumphrey law are dedicated to assisting clients in any way possible, and knowledge of domestic violence law can help on both sides. If you are the victim of domestic violence, speak to an attorney about filing an injunction. A temporary injunction can be filed VERY quickly, often within days, even during COVID-limited court. This allows a small amount of testimony to be presented to obtain a temporary protection order that will limit contact and prevent the perpetrator from hurting you. A longer hearing can later be requested where more evidence is presented to meet a higher burden, and a permanent injunction can be obtained.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, do not hesitate to reach out for help, not just from a domestic violence attorney, but also from the countless agencies who are there to help you. Some include:
Florida Department of Children and Families – Domestic Violence
Formerly the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV), but DCF has absorbed their resources
Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-500-1119
Provides information that is relevant to people of all genders, not just women.
They have an Email Hotline to reach out for help
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Nationwide resource, not exclusive to Florida
1-800-787-3224 (TTY) (for deaf or hard-of hearing users)
Online chat is also available if phone calls are monitored
Domestic Violence Lawyer near me
The reality of the criminal justice system is that countless individuals are not represented effectively and can end up with shattered lives, this includes those accused of domestic violence and those who are victims. It is important that if you are involved with a domestic violence situation that you contact an attorney with decades of domestic violence experience who can protect you and your rights. Don Pumphrey and the firm have years of experience representing those who have been accused of domestic violence and those seeking injunctions to stop the cycle. They are dedicated to defending the rights of clients in any circumstance and will fight for the best possible result. Call (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today to discuss your rights during an open and free consultation with a domestic violence attorney in our legal team.
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