Domestic violence is a serious charge that carries a social stigma that few other offenses do. Even if you are convicted on a first-time domestic violence charge, the consequences could follow you for the rest of your life.
Common penalties for domestic violence include incarceration, fines, probation, community service, and compulsory counseling.
What Is Domestic Violence in Florida?
In Florida, the term “domestic violence” is an umbrella term that does not refer to a single offense. Instead, it refers to a category of related offenses. According to Florida’s definition of domestic violence, some of these offenses include:
- Assault & battery,
- Sexual assault,
- False imprisonment,
- Sexual battery, and
- Any other offense resulting in injury or death.
To qualify as domestic violence, the crime must be committed by one family or household member against another family or household member.
The risk of a domestic violence conviction is one problem. In addition, you will have several concerns to deal with before a trial even occurs (if it ever does).
The standard bail bond is $500, but that can vary depending on your criminal history and other factors the judge may consider. With a skilled lawyer, however, you might obtain a Release on Recognizance (ROR) which wouldn’t require you to pay any money.
The “No Contact” Order
Once you are charged with domestic violence, the court will automatically issue a “no contact” order that prevents you from contacting your accuser in any way. This could represent a huge problem. For example, suppose that the accuser is your spouse. Your spouse may want to contact you regarding important custody or financial issues that arose because of your domestic violence charge. But speaking with them can violate the no contact order.
We can help you resolve such difficulties by petitioning the court to modify the order for the sake of you and your accuser. Meanwhile, you are going to need to strictly observe the no contact order. Even a slight deviation could result in serious negative consequences — regardless of the validity of the reason. A violation could also jeopardize your defense. The no contact order might expire once your charges are resolved.
For a first-time offense of domestic violence, seeking counseling on your own is one way to soften the prosecutor. In response, the prosecutor might offer a favorable plea bargain or even drop first-time domestic violence charges. Seeking counseling is a move that should be made, if at all, soon after the prosecutor charges you with domestic violence.
Your lawyer may be able to negotiate a favorable plea bargain for you. The prosecutor can make the plea bargain favorable in a number of ways. They can offer you a light sentence in exchange for taking classes, for instance. They can even agree to let you plea to a lesser charge without the domestic violence enhancement if they feel the facts warrant such diversion. Prosecutors often agree to a plea bargain to save the time and expense of a trial, or as a reflection of an evidentiary weakness in their case against you.
The Domestic Violence Diversion Program
The prosecutor might offer you a plea bargain in which you avoid incarceration and a permanent criminal record in favor of completion of the Domestic Violence Diversion Program. The advantage of this program is that if you complete it within the allotted time, Florida will dismiss the charges against you.
For some defendants, completing the Diversion Program might be the best option. It is not likely to be the best option, however, if you are innocent, or if the prosecutor lacks the evidence to convict you of domestic violence. The disadvantages of accepting such a plea deal may include:
- The program is expensive and time-consuming;
- Some professionals, such as teachers, must still notify their professional associations of their participation in a diversion program; and
- Florida can reject your application to participate in the diversion program. In this case you will end up right back where you started.
Seeking an acquittal might be the better option under certain circumstances. Your lawyer can assess your chances of winning at trial and advise you as to the best course of action.
Penalties for First-Offense Domestic Violence
The penalties for domestic violence vary depending on the type of offense committed, the underlying circumstances, and your criminal history. The prosecutor can charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
In the typical scenario, the prosecutor charges a first-time domestic violence offender with first-degree misdemeanor battery. Conviction of first-degree misdemeanor battery carries a sentence of:
- Up to one year of jail time (with a minimum period of incarceration of 10 days if you intentionally injured the victim);
- A $500 fine; and
- Participation in a 26-week course called the “Batterers Intervention Program.”
If the prosecutor charges you with a felony, you could face up to five years in prison. Your sentence could increase if your accuser already had a restraining order or an injunction issued against you.
The federal government might charge you with domestic violence if multi-state activity was involved. This might happen, for example, if you lock someone in your car and carry them across a state line.
The Florida criminal defense attorneys at Moses and Rooth have worked as prosecutors. That means we understand how prosecutors think and how they are likely to react. There is very little that can happen in a criminal prosecution that would surprise us. We’ve seen it all before. Telephone us at (407) 439-1762 or contact us online for a risk free consultation.