If you have been accused of domestic violence, you are facing jail time, fines, loss of your gun rights, and a no-contact order against the alleged victims. A domestic violence charge can adversely affect your ability to find a job and housing. You may even be forced to move out of your home and lose custody of your children.
Domestic Violence Definitions
Domestic violence involves the use of unlawful force committed against a family or household member. The difference between domestic violence and other violent crimes is the relationship between the victim and the accused.
Domestic violence laws have become more strict over the years because of serious high-profile cases that resulted in the death of the victim.
Types of Domestic Violence
Domestic abuse includes not only domestic violence but also psychological, emotional, and mental abuse. An abuser may use not only violence but also verbal threats to control a victim. Domestic violence includes:
- Destroying objects
- Verbal threats
- Use of a deadly weapon
- Destroying or damaging property
- Sexual battery
- Aggravated assault
You may be charged with domestic assault even if you did not strike the victim, if you acted as if you were going to do so, destroyed objects, or acted in a manner that made the victim feel afraid of violence. Aggravated assault involves the use of a deadly weapon to threaten the victim.
If you have been charged with domestic violence, the state must prove that you committed the crime alleged to sustain a conviction. A common misconception about criminal charges is that there must be evidence other than the victim’s testimony, such as photos of bruises or medical records to demonstrate that the victim was actually injured.
While this type of proof can support a conviction, testimony is also evidence. Some cases are based almost entirely on victim testimony. While it may seem unfair to base a conviction on one person’s word against yours, many people are convicted on this basis alone.
Domestic Violence Statistics
Domestic violence is a common problem in Florida. In 2016, there were 105,668 incidents of domestic violence reported to law enforcement, leading to 63,193 arrests.
Experts believe that domestic violence is even more common than reported because many people are afraid to contact law enforcement due to a victim’s fear, shame, or shared parenting responsibilities or finances with the abuser.
A sentence for domestic abuse will depend on the seriousness level of the offense. Offenses involving use of a deadly weapon, threats of death or great bodily harm, and serious injuries are typically charged as felonies.
If the victim only sustained minor injuries or your case involves threats to use non-lethal force, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. The penalty for domestic violence will be enhanced if the victim is an elderly person or a young child.
As part of your sentence, you may be ordered to pay restitution or to attend counseling, anger management classes, or parenting classes. Restitution is a payment intended to compensate the victim for losses related to the crime such as lost wages and medical bills.
A domestic violence conviction can make it more difficult to obtain a job or to lease an apartment due to background checks. If you are in the military, you can be punished for committing domestic violence in a military court. Prior domestic violence convictions can result in a subsequent offense being charged as a felony.
No Contact Orders
If you are charged with domestic violence, you will be ordered to refrain from contacting the victim either directly or through a third party. You may also be required to stay away from the victim’s home or place of work.
If you contact a person named in a no-contact order, your bond can be revoked for violating the conditions of your bond and be held in jail until your trial. Violations of no-contact orders are taken very seriously.
If you spoke to a victim about your case and attempted to get them not to testify or to change their testimony, you may be charged with witness tampering.
Even if the victim in your case contacts you, you should avoid responding. While many people believe that a no-contact order applies to the victim as well, it only applies to the person who was ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim. If the victim or any other person is harassing you about the charge, you should contact the police instead of responding.
In rare circumstances, no contact orders may be lifted. If you share the same household with the victim and the prosecutor agrees that there is not a substantial risk of further violence, a judge may allow you to contact the victim as long as you do not commit further acts of violence.
Your defense will depend on the nature of your charges. Your attorney will present a defense that supports your innocence and raises a reasonable doubt about your guilt. Some of the most common defenses to domestic violence include the following:
If you reasonably believed that the victim intended to use or threatened to use unlawful force against you, you may be able to allege self-defense.
If the state cannot prove its case with testimony and other evidence, you may be found not guilty.
Impeachment of Witness Credibility
If the victim alleges that you committed assault or battery, but a judge or jury finds that their testimony is not credible, you may be found not guilty. For example, your attorney may be able to impeach their testimony if they have multiple prior convictions for a crime involving dishonesty such as theft or fraud. If the victim alleges that they were afraid of you, your defense attorney may be able to prove that their fear was unreasonable.
If the victim or other witnesses testify that the victim consented to a violent act, you may allege consent as a defense. If two people agree to fight each other, for example, one possible defense is that the victim consented to the violent act.
Lack of Intent
If you caused an injury to the victim but it was merely by accident and you had no intention of harming them, you may be found not guilty because you did not have the intent to commit battery. However, if you intended to commit assault and harmed the victim or the injuries were worse than you intended, a judge will likely find that you had the intent to commit the crime.
If the victim does not want to press charges, the prosecution may still proceed with the case. However, a prosecutor who believes that the case cannot be proven without cooperation from the victim may decide to dismiss all charges rather than proceeding with a trial.
If there is other evidence that can be used, such as testimony from other witnesses, photos, and medical records, the prosecution may decide to proceed with a trial even if the victim wants the charges dismissed. This is especially true if law enforcement has visited a home on multiple occasions.
Domestic Violence FAQs
Will I be arrested if there are no injuries?
A victim doesn’t need to suffer physical injuries for you to be arrested for domestic violence in Tampa. Domestic violence includes assault, aggravated assault, sexual assault, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, and false imprisonment under state statute. None of these crimes require the victim to be injured.
Must you live with the alleged victim to be charged with domestic violence?
No, it is not required that you have to have lived with the alleged victim in the past or at the time of the arrest. Domestic violence charges can be based on the nature of your relationship, whether or not you lived together.
Will I be allowed to return home?
If you lived with the victim and are charged with domestic violence, you will be ordered not to contact the victim and possibly stay away from your home. You’ll be allowed to return when these orders change, or the court ends them. We frequently assist in avoiding no contact orders or modifying those orders to permit a return to your home.
The allegations are false. How can I avoid jail?
The prosecution has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney will conduct an independent investigation to show the allegations are false or misinterpreted. Once presented with this evidence, the prosecutor should drop the charges.
How long do domestic violence cases take to resolve?
Each case is unique. If charges are dropped, or there’s a plea agreement, it could take weeks. If the case goes to trial, it could take many months. If the trial court’s decision is appealed, it may take years to conclude.
Can the victim decide not to press charges?
In a domestic violence case, the alleged victim may or may not have filed a police report and cooperated with the investigation. Once a police investigation starts, the alleged victim doesn’t have the power to stop or prevent charges from being filed or prosecuted. The victim’s opinion matters to the prosecutor, but it’s up to the state to decide whether or not to file or withdraw criminal charges.
But a victim may refuse to cooperate with the prosecution. The person could be subpoenaed and forced to take the stand, but it’s highly unlikely the prosecution would want an uncooperative alleged victim as part of the case. If the prosecution thinks it could succeed based on evidence other than the victim’s testimony, it may prosecute the case.
How do I get domestic violence charges dismissed?
Suppose we can show that the police violated your rights during the investigation or insufficient evidence to support the domestic violence charges. In that case, the prosecutor may withdraw the case, or a judge may dismiss the charges.
The charges could also be dismissed as part of a plea agreement with the prosecution. You could plead guilty to another charge, and the domestic violence charge would be withdrawn.
How a Tampa Domestic Violence Attorney Can Help You
If you are accused of a domestic violence charge, you are in danger of losing important rights. Contact Brett Metcalf, Criminal Defense Attorney, P.C., right away to learn more about the charge you are facing and your options.
If we can’t get the charges dismissed, we can often get felonies reduced to misdemeanor charges. We can also present evidence that could result in a much lesser sentence than you could have received otherwise, such as witness testimony that the victim was violent.
Call (813) 258-4800 to schedule a consultation.