What to expect when you are arrested for domestic violence in Palm Beach County, Florida
Do Police Have to Arrest Someone?
If police respond to your home for a domestic violence allegation, they will likely feel the need to arrest one of the people involved in the altercation. Under Florida law, an officer who investigates a domestic violence call must write a report and submit it to their supervisor. It is easier for the officer to make an arrest of one party involved in the altercation. This is because where (1) an officer either decides not to arrest anyone or (2) an officer decides to arrest two or more people involved in a domestic violence incident, the officer must write the reasons for doing so in his or her report. If the officer only arrests one person, there is no need to make any special justification in writing; the officer need only describe the basis for probable cause to believe the person arrested committed domestic violence. Florida public policy also strongly discourages an officer to arrest both parties to a domestic violence incident, even where both parties appear to be at fault in some way or the officer cannot tell who the initial aggressor was. (See Florida Statutes Section 901.15(8)). For practical reasons, an officer will likely arrest one party to the domestic altercation just to end the fight and make sure no further police response will be necessary for 24 hours or so.
When Will I Be Released From Jail?
Once arrested for domestic violence, a person will remain in jail until their first appearance before a judge. (Florida Statutes Section 741.2901(3)). That first appearance must occur within 24 hours of an arrest. The person arrested will not be able to post a bond prior to the first appearance hearing like they would be able to do for many other types of criminal charges. The judge at first appearance must hear from the prosecuting attorney about whether the arrestee's criminal history includes other domestic violence incidents and what measures should be taken to protect the victim of the violence.
Can I Go Back Home After Being Released from Jail?
An Order of No Contact between the arrestee and the alleged victim of violence is common. However, if the alleged victim wants to have contact with the arrestee and the parties are comfortable that an Order of No Contact is unnecessary, the arrestee may be able to return to his or her home after release from jail. If the arrestee does not live with the alleged victim, he or she could of course return to their own home with or Without a No Contact Order.
What if the Alleged Victim Wants to Have Contact With Me?
Once an Order of No Contact is issued by a judge, it can only be modified by a further court order. (See Florida Statutes Section 903.047). If the alleged victim initiates contact with you after your arrest, do not reply to their texts or phone calls while the No Contact Order is in effect. Only you can get in trouble for violating the No Contact Order, not the alleged victim. Violating the No Contact Order can result in an additional criminal charge against you for each instance of contact. You and the alleged victim may be on good terms for a time, but in volatile relationships things can change quickly. You do not want to violate the No Contact Order thinking no one will ever find out. If the alleged victim decides they want to have contact with you, call your lawyer right away. They can file a motion with the judge to ask to modify the No Contact Order.
What if the Alleged Victim of Domestic Violence Does Not Want to Press Charges?
If the person who accused you of domestic violence decides they do not want to press charges, call your lawyer right away. Do not assume the case will go away just because the alleged victim told police they did not want you arrested, or because he or she has called the prosecutor's office asking for charges to be dropped. Florida law takes domestic violence seriously and does not leave these decisions in the hands of victims. "The decision to arrest and charge shall not require consent of the victim or consideration of the relationship of the parties." (Florida Statutes Section 741.29(3)). Domestic violence allegations can be complicated by motives and biases to fabricate allegations. But there are also many real victims who will not or cannot stand up for themselves. Prosecutors and police officers do the best they can to determine who is who. A good criminal defense lawyer can investigate the case on your behalf to make sure the important facts are communicated to the prosecuting lawyer making the decision to pursue formal charges against you.
Does it Matter If There is No Domestic Relationship?
If a person is accused of a violent act against a family member, significant other, or person in which they have a child in common, the law treats the case differently from any other accusation of violence. For all domestic violence charges, the law requires a minimum sentence of one year probation with a condition to complete the batterer's intervention program. (Florida Statutes Section 741.281)). This is a 29-week long program designed to educate and counsel people in how to avoid acts of domestic violence. (Florida Statutes Section 741.325). If your lawyer can show that you do not have a relationship with the alleged victim that qualifies as "domestic," then it could mean a less complicated sentence in the event you decide to plead guilty or are found guilty at a trial.
First-Time Offenders of Domestic Violence
First-time offenders of misdemeanor domestic battery in Palm Beach County, Florida sometimes have a chance to keep their records clean with a deferred prosecution agreement or other diversion program. These programs give the accused a chance to complete certain conditions, like a 29-week long batterer's intervention program, in exchange for the case being dropped. The availability of these options depends on the facts and unique issues of each individual case. If felony charges are filed, such as domestic battery by strangulation, domestic assault or battery with a deadly weapon, or aggravated stalking, penalties can be harsh, even for first-time offenders. Nevertheless, a zealous and experienced lawyer can provide a good defense by investigating the case and challenging the accusing witnesses and evidence in court.
Violation of Injunction against Domestic Violence
A charge of violating an injunction against domestic violence (sometimes referred to as a restraining order), is taken very seriously by the courts as well as prosecutors. Such an injunction can be violated in several ways, including but not limited to: going within 500 feet of the protected person's residence or another place they frequent, making threats against that person, coming within 100 feet of that person's empty car, or vandalizing that person's property. The violation must be intentional or “willful,” however, in order to result in a criminal conviction. For a third conviction for violation of such an injunction against the same person, the crime becomes a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. The law requires completion of the batter's intervention program for any violation of injunction against domestic violence, unless the court decides this requirement would be inappropriate in the particular case.
I have tried numerous domestic violence cases, including misdemeanors as well as felonies. Often there are options available to a person without prior criminal history to avoid a life-altering criminal conviction. I can guide you through those options and be your zealous advocate in the court room when you need it the most.