What happens at a domestic violence hearing in Florida depends on why you’re in court. Florida courts recognize two court actions that involve domestic violence. The first is a criminal case where the prosecutor charges someone with a crime involving domestic violence. The other is a domestic violence injunction hearing. These are separate cases, even though they might be based on the same conduct.
No matter what allegations you face, you need a tough, aggressive, and accomplished lawyer to protect your rights. In central Florida, the criminal defense lawyers with Moses & Rooth have nearly 40 years of combined legal experience you can rely on to safeguard your future.
Domestic Violence Injunction Hearing
Florida law allows judges to issue an injunction to protect people against domestic violence. An injunction hearing is a civil case rather than a criminal case—but violating a domestic violence injunction could lead to criminal charges. Injunctions in Florida can be issued even if the alleged victim only fears violence but has not experienced it yet.
A court can only issue a domestic violence injunction if the relationship between the petitioner and the respondent meets the definition of a domestic relationship, which includes family or household members.
What Happens at a Court Hearing for Domestic Violence Injunctive Relief?
At a full injunction hearing, the judge will hear from both sides. The petitioner has the burden to prove the court should issue the injunction. You, as the respondent, have the right to speak as well. However, you should be aware that not taking a lawyer with you to this hearing could be dangerous.
Allegations that support the issuance of a domestic violence injunction could also support probable cause to charge you with a crime. Therefore, you have a right to remain silent to avoid incriminating yourself. A skilled lawyer fighting to protect your rights can cross-examine the petitioner, admit evidence that strengthens your case, and argue on your behalf—all without you having to take the witness stand. The judge will issue a ruling after hearing from both sides.
What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing for Domestic Violence Criminal Charges?
The overall purpose of a preliminary hearing is for the judge to look at the evidence that the prosecution has against you and decide if they have enough evidence to proceed with the case. So essentially, at the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor must present enough evidence against you to establish probable cause that you committed the crime. If they cannot, the judge might dismiss your case.
Although some refer to preliminary hearings as a “mini-trial,” the rules of evidence are much less stringent in this hearing. The hearing is adversarial in nature, and both sides are allowed to present evidence and participate. However, the State does not have to present all of its evidence. They only have to present enough to show the judge that there is probable cause to proceed against you. Often, they do this by calling the arresting officer and introducing other testimonial or tangible evidence to support probable cause.
Your attorney can challenge this evidence. And many defense attorneys use this hearing to gain information about the State’s evidence and theory of the case. Your attorney can essentially use this hearing as a preview of the State’s case that can help you strategize your defense if the case proceeds. And if the State fails to provide enough evidence to establish probable cause (admittedly a low standard that is not difficult to meet), the judge can dismiss your case.
Preliminary Hearings Are Optional
However, there are reasons that your attorney might not advise requesting a preliminary hearing. For instance, suppose you want to plead guilty and work on getting a lighter sentence. If that is the case, your attorney might not want to inflame the judge by allowing them to hear from angry witnesses. It is best to discuss your options with a seasoned defense attorney before requesting such a hearing.
What Happens at a Pretrial Hearing for Domestic Violence?
After your arraignment and before a jury trial, you will have a pretrial conference for your domestic violence or any other criminal case. Before your pretrial conference, you should meet with your attorney and review all the evidence against you so far. Before the pretrial conference, your attorney will typically speak to the prosecutor to try to negotiate a plea bargain. When you meet with your attorney, you can discuss the pros and cons of accepting the offer based on the evidence against you.
The pretrial conference is a joint conference that includes the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense. At or before the pretrial conference, your attorney can file any motions they feel need to be heard prior to trial. They can file after pretrial, but usually, these motions are filed beforehand. At pretrial, the judge can set those motions for a hearing date. Your attorney or the State can also ask the judge for a continuance if there is good cause.
If you have agreed to take the plea bargain offered by the State, you can do so at the pretrial conference, essentially resolving your active criminal case. The judge will look over the plea bargain and either accept it or reject it and sentence you accordingly. Judges typically accept negotiated plea agreements unless they violate public policy or otherwise appear to be unjust.
If you choose to reject the plea offer, your case will be set for a jury trial.
Moses & Rooth: Protecting Your Rights
Every stage of a domestic violence case is important. Whether you face an injunction hearing, criminal charges, or both, our experienced criminal trial lawyers are ready to meet every challenge head-on. Call us today at 407-377-0150 to make a free consultation.