If you have been arrested for domestic battery in Pinellas County, you most likely have been ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim, have been forced to move out of your home, and even ordered to stay away from your children. This no-contact provision is ordered is virtually every type of domestic violence case regardless if it is a misdemeanor or a felony. The consequences of this no-contact order can be devastating and create a time urgency for your domestic battery attorney to get the issue resolved. The following article is an effort to provide you information should you be charged with domestic battery in Pinellas County and have a no-contact order.
What Does No Contact with the Victim Mean?
As a condition of your release from jail, it is standard in every case to order a defendant to have no contact with the victim. This means that you cannot have any direct or indirect contact with that person. The court will also order you to stay at least 500 feet away from the person and their residence. If you and the victim live together, that means that you are forbidden from continuing to live at that address until the order is lifted. This provision can be enforced even if the victim allows you to stay there. The definition of direct versus indirect contact also confuses many people. Direct contact is usually easier to understand. Direct contact means any communication directly to the victim. This means you cannot meet the person, get within 500 feet, call, text, email, leave a note, direct message, or have any form of communication directly to the victim. Indirect contact means you cannot have someone contact the victim on your behalf. This means you cannot pass messages through friends or family members.
Can My Domestic Battery Lawyer Contact the Victim?
Yes. A domestic battery lawyer is exempt from the no-contact order as long as the communication is about the case and there are no messages being passed from the defendant to the lawyer. The reasoning behind this exemption is simple. The victim in a domestic violence case is a witness. Not a witness that belongs to the state and not a witness that belongs to the defense-just a witness. Just as the prosecutor can contact a witness, so can the defense attorney. However, a victim in a domestic violence case is under no obligation to speak to the lawyer unless he or she is in court or under subpoena.
What If the Victim Contacts Me?
When you are out on bond for a domestic battery charge and the court orders no contact, most people assume that when a victim contacts you, that means the victim can be arrested. However, as odd as it may seem, a no-contact order only applies to a defendant, not the victim. It is common in domestic battery cases for a victim to try and contact the defendant. However, if the victim responds to the attempted contact, that is a violation of the no-contact order. I know this seems unfair, but it is the law. I advise my clients that if the victim calls their phone, they may answer, but to inform the victim that there is a no-contact and to call the criminal defense attorney. I advise that under no circumstance should a defendant ever respond to a text, direct message, snap chat, email, or return the phone call.
However, if a victim continues to contact a defendant, always notify your domestic battery attorney. The lawyer can either bring up this conduct to the judge as reasons for lifting the no contact or provide the evidence to the state in order to request a dismissal or reduction of the charge.
What Are the Penalties for Violating a No Contact Order?
If you are reported to law enforcement for violating the no contact, you will be arrested on the spot. The criminal charge is called a violation of pretrial conditions. The crime is a misdemeanor and a bond will normally be given on the charge. However, the bond from the domestic violence charge will normally be revoked. This effectively means that you will be confined to the Pinellas County Jail until the domestic charge is resolved. Therefore, the consequences of violating a no-contact condition of bond or ROR is severe.
How Do I Get the No Contact Order Lifted?
Getting the no contact order lifted is often a strategic decision between you and your criminal defense lawyer. It can be extremely difficult to be away from home, not be able to see your children or have contact with the victim. However, there is a risk and reward analysis that every defendant needs to be aware of before arranging for contact.
First, the contact request always comes from the victim. If the victim does not want contact with you, it is useless to try. But, if the victim has expressed a desire for contact at either the advisory hearing, at a subsequent court date, to you or to your lawyer, a motion for contact can be arranged. Prior to the court hearing, the victim is required to attend a class for victims of domestic violence at the courthouse on 49th St. This is normally done in the morning before the hearing. Then the Motion for contact is heard by the judge. During the motion, the victim will be placed under oath in the open courtroom and asked questions about the incident by the judge, the prosecutor, and your defense lawyer. I often advise clients to be very careful about motions for contact because the state is less concerned about whether contact is given and more concerned about proving their case. If the victim swears under oath that an act of domestic violence occurred, but that he or she still wants contact, the State now has testimony under oath to use in their case against the defendant. So, a defendant can win the battle but lose the war.
After testimony and reasons for contact are given, the judge will decide whether to allow the contact or modify the conditions. In cases where there are minor children involved, the court will often require the defendant to undergo some counseling before ordering contact. The judge may also allow supervised contact with the children. Supervised contact means that someone else must be present with you and your children at all times during the contact.
Speak to a Domestic Violence Lawyer About No Contact Issues
If you have been arrested for domestic battery or any form of domestic violence, it is important to speak to a lawyer. Many defendants believe that if the victim does not want to prosecute, the case will automatically be dismissed. This thinking is outdated and simply not the case in Pinellas County. While the wishes of the victim about whether to prosecute are a factor that is considered by the State Attorney, it is not controlling over their decision. The State Attorney is more interested in determining whether the case can be proven, the severity of the incident and whether the defendant and victim need some sort of intervention by the court system to prevent future issues. So, while all domestic battery cases are serious, you need to make more of an effort than to simply rely on the wishes of the victim. If you retain the services of a domestic battery attorney, you will certainly increase your chances to have the charges dropped or reduced.