Domestic battery charges in Pinellas County are very common but often misunderstood. Domestic battery arrests happen to both men and women across all economic and social backgrounds. They usually involve people who have never had contact with law enforcement before and have no idea what to expect. In Pinellas County, all misdemeanor domestic battery charges are heard in Division R located in Courtroom 19 on the 3rd floor of the Pinellas County Justice Center. All domestic related felony charges are spread among the felony divisions located on the 4th floor of the Pinellas County Justice Center. Unlike other types of charges, there is common confusion about how the process works, the penalties and the consequences of the domestic battery.
MYTH: If the police are called, it is possible that they will not arrest.
As mentioned above, most people who have domestic issues have no prior involvement with the police or the legal system. Most mistakenly believe that when they call the police out to their home, the police will simply diffuse the situation and fix the problem. However, what people do not understand is that the law in Florida states that if either person alleges an unwanted touching (battery), then someone has to go to jail. This law applies regardless if the accuser asks not to arrest. Thus, many people who simply want the police to issue a warning wind up putting the other person into the criminal justice system.
MYTH: If the victim doesn’t cooperate, the domestic battery charge will be dismissed.
The lack of cooperation by a victim is the most commonly misunderstood aspect of any domestic battery case. Most defendants believe that if the victim simply does not want to prosecute, then the charge will automatically be dismissed. While this is true in some circumstances, it is certainly not the general rule and not how the system works. Following an arrest for domestic battery, no contact with the victim will be ordered. The case will then be assigned to a prosecutor. This is the point when criminal defense attorneys are most effective at influencing the situation. The prosecutor will investigate the ability to prove the charges without considering whether the victim wishes to prosecute. Then, the prosecutor will speak to the victim about what he or she wishes to happen. One of the biggest hurdles when defending domestic battery charges occurs when there are written statements by the victim taken by the police the night of the arrest. These written statements usually incriminate the defendant and make it very difficult for a victim to change his or her story. The prosecutor will also look to see if there are any other witnesses to the domestic. I often see children become witnesses over the objection of the parents simply because the police overreach. But, after considering the evidence, any injuries, the criminal history and the desires of the victim, the decision of whether to prosecute is made. Contrary to popular belief, the wishes of the victim not to prosecute are only a small part of the decision making process.
MYTH: The penalties for domestic battery aren’t severe.
Many people believe that because a domestic battery charge may only be a misdemeanor, there isn’t much to worry about. They often learn the hard way that they are mistaken. Misdemeanor domestic battery charges carry some of the most stringent penalties of any crime in Pinellas County. Because domestic battery charges are so common, there is a specialized division that deals only with domestic-related charges. The penalties in this division are far greater than they would be in other courtrooms. In addition to the higher fine for a battery, the periods of probation are much longer. The most severe penalty is that a minimum of 26 weeks of domestic battery counseling is required on every case. Thus, those defendants who believe they can get away with a slap on the wrist often end up in a quagmire of draining probation, fines, drug screens, and counseling expenses.
MYTH: A misdemeanor domestic battery won’t affect me in the future.
The penalties for being arrested or charged with domestic battery go far beyond what happens in the courtroom. Domestic battery charges carry a negative stigma unlike DUIs or other crimes commonly committed by first-time offenders. Domestic battery arrests may appear on the internet forever and continue to follow a person. For people who depend on their reputation, domestic battery charges greatly impact how others see you. I have had clients in service industries tell me that they lost out on job bids after a potential customer google searched their name and found the domestic battery arrest record. Domestic battery arrests also are permanently visible on background searches. If you have applied for a job, it is certain that the domestic battery arrest will appear in some fashion. Additionally, most people do not appreciate how often their backgrounds are being searched throughout their lives. I have had many clients rejected from apartment rentals after background checks revealed a domestic battery. Thus, a domestic battery arrest and/or charge is not something to be taken lightly.
If you have been involved in a domestic battery case or a domestic battery injunction, it is wise to consult with a domestic battery attorney immediately. A defense attorney is exempted from the no-contact order and is legally permitted to speak to the victim in any criminal proceeding. There are many options available to a defendant in a domestic battery case if you speak to an experienced and reputable defense lawyer. I have have found that if you can take steps to ensure the prosecutor that this situation is under control and will not happen again, your chances at getting the charges dropped or reduced increase greatly.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
St Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Sean McQuaid has been successfully defending people charged with crimes and traffic offenses in Pinellas County since 2000. Given his vast experience and substantial connections, Mr. McQuaid is reasonably priced for the quality of legal services that he provides. Mr. McQuaid is highly respected by the State Attorney’s Office and the Judges at the Pinellas Justice Center. He has received preeminent rankings from many legal review sources that research feedback from his peers, the judges he practices in front of, and his clients. Mr. McQuaid is a named partner at Battaglia Ross Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., which for over 60 years has been providing the Tampa Bay area with exceptional legal service.
5858 Central Ave suite c, St Petersburg, FL (727) 381-2300