In 2017 in Florida, there were 106,979 reported domestic violence offenses across the State. Of this figure, 16,657 were aggravated assaults and 85,721 were simple domestic batteries or domestic assaults. The remaining cases are not pertinent to this article. Obviously, with such a high amount of reported domestic incidents, there is a constant stream of cases flooding the Pinellas/Pasco judicial system.
In fact, due to the volume of cases, Pinellas County established a domestic violence division. This division is called division R and is located in Courtroom 19 on the 3rd floor of the Pinellas County Justice Center in Clearwater. If a domestic-related misdemeanor is committed in Pinellas County, the case will be sent to this specialized division for investigation and prosecution. As of the date of this article, there is no comparable division for felonies. All domestic related felony crimes are distributed among the felony trial divisions. However, per Florida Statute, even the felony prosecutors in these divisions are specialists when it comes to domestic-related cases.
The Florida Legislature has contributed to the number of domestic cases through aggressive directives. Florida Statute 741.2901(2) states that it is the intent of Florida law to treat domestic violence as a crime rather than a private matter. The statute also directs the state attorney in each circuit to adopt a pro-prosecution policy for acts of domestic violence. Thus, there is vigorous prosecution of all domestic cases in Pinellas and Pasco counties.
The following is an effort to address many of the frequently asked questions that arise in Pinellas and Pasco counties following an arrest for a domestic incident, including domestic battery.
Can I Immediately Post Bond After Being Arrested for Domestic Battery?
If you have been arrested for any domestic-related crime, you will be held on a zero bond until you go before the court at a first appearance. So, you cannot immediately post bond because you do not have one. A first appearance, or advisory hearing, will be held the day after the arrest. If you are arrested on a Friday or Saturday night, your first appearance will be on Saturday or Sunday morning at 8:30. In Pinellas County, if you are arrested on a Sunday night-Thursday night and you are charged with a misdemeanor, then your first appearance will be at 10:30 AM in Division R; if you are arrested for a felony domestic, your first appearance will be at 1:30 PM in Courtroom 23 on the first floor.
What Happens at the First Appearance in a Domestic Case?
At the first appearance, the victim is invited to be present. Often, the victim does not appear but is contacted by the prosecutor before the hearing. The prosecutor will ask the victim if he/she is in fear, is injured, the history of prior incidents between the two and whether contact is desired. This information is then relayed to the judge. Per Florida Statute 741.2901(3), the prosecutor is also required to research the defendant’s prior arrests, history of violence against this victim and others, and history of injunctions for protection against violence. Once presented with this information, the judge sets an appropriate bond or recommends a Release on Own Recognizance (ROR). In virtually every domestic related case, the judge will impose no contact as a condition of release. This provision often causes defendants problems and even forbids them from seeing their children.
What happens after I bond out?
If you were arrested based on a probable cause arrest for a domestic, the case will then be assigned to a prosecutor for investigation. It is very rare that the prosecutor who handled your first appearance is the one who actually handles the rest of the case. During the investigation, the prosecutor will read the police reports, speak to the arresting officer, and interview the victim. After the prosecutor completes the investigation, the charge can be dropped, filed as charged or perhaps filed as a lesser charge.
What Happens After I Bond Out?
The wishes of the victim are factored into every decision by the prosecutor. However, a request not to prosecute by the victim does not need to be followed by the prosecutor, and often, is not. In fact, Florida Statute 741.2901(2) specifically states that the filing, nonfiling, diversion of criminal charges and the prosecution of violations of injunctions shall be determined over the objection of the victim, if necessary. Therefore, while it is helpful to the defense of a domestic violence charge that the victim does not wish to prosecute, if the case can still be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the case may still be filed. This is most common when there is an aggravated situation such as repeated arrests, repeated calls to the police or injuries. In these situations, if a victim tells the prosecutor that he/she does not wish to prosecute, but still confirms that the crime was committed, it is more likely that the prosecutor will step in to ensure that this does not happen again.
What Is the Typical Punishment for Domestic Battery?
Although we attempt to get every case dismissed or reduced, sometimes that is not possible. While a misdemeanor domestic battery is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, probation and counseling is the norm. In aggravated situations, jail and convictions can be required, however.
What is the Batterers’ Intervention Program?
The Batterers’ Intervention Program or BIP is a diversion program for first-time domestic battery offenders. For a misdemeanor, the case is considered to be diverted from the court system under a program run by the State Attorney’s Office. After the completion of 26 weeks of counseling and no violations, the charges will be dismissed. This program is rigorous but is sometimes the best option to resolve a case, eliminate risk and protect one’s criminal record.
Domestic Battery Lawyer
Misdemeanor domestic battery charges the most common charges we see for first-time offenders. With the appropriate steps toward rectifying the situation, we are often successful in getting the charges dismissed. If you have been arrested for domestic battery or any other domestic related charge, you should speak to a domestic batter lawyer immediately. Domestic charges are heavily reliant on the victim and the showing of remorse. If you have implemented a sound defense strategy, your goal will be to get leniency. The faster you start addressing the charges, the better your chances at getting a favorable resolution.