There is a distinction between discord and violence. Domestic violence is an abusive act, usually involving battery or assault. Discord is often loud and emotional, but discord causes no physical harm. Unfortunately, all too often, well-meaning neighbors or bystanders report any loud altercation to law enforcement agencies as possible violence. When the wheels of suspicion are activated they can be difficult to stop. All too often, in the court of public opinion, the accused is presumed guilty until proven innocent. A domestic violence charge is not always a felony, but it is always serious.
A charge of violence or abuse can be life-changing. In Florida, pleading guilty to a domestic violence charge will result in a lifetime permanent record. When a lapse in judgment or knee-jerk reaction morphs into a threat of costly fines, damage to your reputation, or incarceration, it is vital to seek legal representation as soon as possible
The basics of domestic violence
Florida statute 741.28 details examples of domestic violence against one family (or household)member by another family(or household)member, to include:
- Assault and aggravated assault
- Battery and aggravated battery
- Sexual assault and battery
- Stalking or cyberstalking
- False imprisonment
- Any criminal offense causing injury or death
Although the above actions do not always fall into the domestic violence category, under certain specific instances, they can. Touching or hitting a spouse, domestic partner, or household member against their will can result in an arrest for probable cause. Threatening a member of your household is domestic assault; doing so while holding anything considered a weapon is aggravated assault. In Florida, it does not take much for a misdemeanor to rapidly turn into a felony. The whole scenario escalates if the defendant physically harms the accuser or has a prior history of domestic abuse charges.
The consequences of a domestic violence charge
Florida’s criminal laws are ever-changing and complex. The bottom line is, domestic violence charges can easily become a vicious circle of he said, she said and may rely heavily on eyewitness statements. Domestic battery is a first-degree misdemeanor and may result in imprisonment for up to one year, possible probation, and a $1,000 fine. Penalties for second and third-degree felony offenses are proportional to the context and specific circumstances of the offense. Additionally, convicted offenders may face:
- Mandatory intervention program
- Required evaluation and treatment for substance abuse
- A psychological assessment
- Forced anger management classes
- Community service
- Loss of civil liberties, including the right to own a gun
- A permanent criminal record
- Difficulty finding employment
- Problems with immigration status
- Possibility of losing custody of children
The legal team at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. has years of experience and proven results in helping those facing legal action for domestic violence crimes in Miami and throughout the state of Florida. One of our founding partners, Lawrence Meltzer, is a former prosecutor with a unique perspective of the criminal justice system. He fully understands the coercive tactics frequently used in these cases and knows how to negotiate with the prosecution.
Defenses to Domestic Violence in Florida
An experienced criminal defense lawyer is a problem solver. Understandably, any domestic violence issue is embarrassing at best and terrifying considering the possibility of losing your freedom, your family, and your career. A defense attorney can evaluate your case and explain your best course of action based on your particular circumstances.
Some questions we may ask during a consultation are:
- Were you acting in self-defense?
- Were you attempting to defend another person or your property?
- Did you believe you were “Standing Your Ground?
- Was the altercation mutual or consensual?
- Are these allegations false?
- Did you intend to cause harm?
- Were there any injuries?
A seasoned criminal defense attorney intuitively understands mitigating circumstances can have a powerful effect in determining the outcome of domestic violence cases. Some of the issues that may come into focus during plea bargains, negotiations, or a trial include:
- Ongoing or a history of substance abuse
- Child custody considerations
- Restraining orders in place
- A history of mental health diagnosis
- Impending or recent divorce
- Angry and retaliatory family members
Domestic violence vs. discord
All too often, life gets in the way of harmony. People involved in a domestic relationship often disagree and argue. Common culprits are finances, jealous partners, lifestyle choices, parenting skills, and the desire to end the relationship. To prove domestic violence, the prosecution must prove the defendant intentionally touched the accuser against their will, or the defendant intentionally caused harm to the accuser. The court will also consider the duration and nature of the relationship between the two parties. The state will examine text messages and e-mails for threatening communications. Witness statements and medical records that support and document abuse can and will be used against the defendant.
Anytime law enforcement officials are summoned to investigate a household dispute, what may have started as a private family matter becomes a criminal act. Once the moment’s immediate impact passes, the accuser will frequently take a step back and recant the charges. In Florida, the decision to press charges in domestic cases does not belong to the alleged victim. The State Attorney’s office has the final say.
Protect your freedom
Do not try to resolve a domestic violence case without an experienced attorney. Our legal team was formed based on a shared vision of a firm dedicated to a stellar work ethic and above reproach legal professionalism. Collectively we have honed our talents as criminal defense lawyers. We think outside the box and explore all alternative theories in representing our clients. We understand that the quality of evidence presented gives perspective and balance to a jury attempting to weigh both sides of a case. We never underestimate the power of presenting our client’s story to prosecutors, judges, and the jury. If you or a family member is facing domestic violence allegations in the Miami area, call us at (305) 874-0279.