Fort Lauderdale Domestic Violence Lawyer
Florida Domestic Violence Laws
As stated by the Florida Statues website, domestic violence in Florida means, “any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.”
This definition surprises people because many believe domestic violence is what Florida calls battery, defined as “actually and intentionally touching or striking another person against the will of the other.” However, as you can see, battery is only one of the many charges that fit under the definition of domestic violence.
Additionally under Florida law, domestic battery is defined as the intentional touching or harming of a member of one’s family or household, including spouses, siblings, and others in domestic relationships. According to Florida Statute § 741.28, domestic violence can be classified as physical or emotional abuse between parties involved in a domestic relationship (which includes anyone involved in a family or "household" relationship).
Domestic Violence Charges in Florida
Domestic violence most commonly occurs between spouses, couples who cohabitate, and family members, and can include any of the following behaviors or actions:
It is important to remember that domestic violence does not always include physical abuse.
Domestic Assault in Broward County
Assault is the “intentional, unlawful threat by word or acts to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.”
Under Florida domestic assault law, assault charges are credible threats made against a family or household member that are seemingly going to happen. When a plausible threat is made with a deadly weapon, the domestic violence charge is increased to an aggravated assault charge.
Assault charges are second-degree misdemeanors under Florida law.
Domestic Battery in Broward County
A battery charge is defined as “actually and intentionally touching or striking another person against the will of the other.”
When a deadly weapon is used to execute the battery, or if the battery causes the victim great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement; it becomes an aggravated battery charge.
Battery charges are first-degree misdemeanors, but aggravated battery charges are second-degree felonies.
Domestic Sexual Battery Charges
Sexual battery (rape) is defined as oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object.
The severity of a sexual battery charge is dependent on the age of the victim. For example, sexual battery against someone who is younger than 12 is charged as a capital felony, while sexual battery against someone older than 18 is a first-degree felony.
Stalking is defined as, “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing, or cyberstalking someone else. You may be surprised to learn that stalking between family members is possible and that family members make most restraining orders against family members. Stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida law.
When someone stalks someone else and makes a credible threat against that person, then the stalker can be charged with aggravated stalking. Aggravated stalking is a third-degree felony under Florida law.
One of the more serious domestic violence sub crimes, kidnapping is defined as “forcibly, secretly, or by threat confining, abducting, or imprisoning another person against her or his will and without lawful authority, with intent to:
- Hold for ransom or reward or as a shield or hostage.
- Commit or facilitate the commission of any felony.
- Inflict bodily harm upon or to terrorize the victim or another person.
- Interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function.
Kidnapping is a first-degree felony under Florida law.
Interestingly, false imprisonment is considered a case of domestic violence if a family member causes the other family member’s imprisonment. False imprisonment is defined as, “forcibly, by threat, or secretly confining, abducting, imprisoning, or restraining another person without lawful authority and against her or his will.”
False imprisonment is a third-degree felony under Florida law.
Examples of Domestic Abuse in Broward County, FL
The following actions can also be examples of domestic abuse:
- Destroying the victim’s property
- Stalking the victim in person, on the internet, or using tracking devices
- Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s loved ones, friends, or pets
- Pressuring the victim to have sex when they don’t want to
- Embarrassing or shaming the victim
- Preventing the victim from making their own decisions
- Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing family members or friends
All of these actions can be prosecuted under the law as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. With domestic violence offenses, there are many factors that can result in elevated charges and penalties, including serious injury, injuries to minors, sexual assaults, and prior convictions. If these elements are involved in your case, the need for experienced legal representation becomes crucially important.
Contact our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyers as soon as possible for a case evaluation. Time can make the difference in your case.
Domestic Violence Penalties in Broward County
Florida enforces strict penalties when it comes to domestic violence. When an arrest is made and charges of domestic battery are brought against a defendant, it can create a number of consequences that impact nearly all facets of a person’s personal and professional life, as well as their future. Although cases will always vary based on the charge involved and the unique facts and circumstances at play, the following penalties are commonly associated with domestic violence convictions:
- Imprisonment - Imprisonment is a common penalty in these cases. Even in misdemeanor cases, guilty parties could face up to one year in jail. Florida imposes a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 5 days in cases where domestic violence resulted in an injury to the victim.
- Fines and fees - A domestic violence conviction may also result in fines. The amount of the fine will depend on the nature and severity of the offense.
- Enhancements - Prosecutors look closely at the circumstances of an alleged crime and the background of the defendant in order to impose enhancements that can elevate charges and penalties. For example, if you have a previous conviction for domestic violence or simple, aggravated, or felony battery, new domestic violence charges may be treated as felonies.
- Restraining orders - A domestic violence conviction may result in the issuance of a restraining order. This can prohibit the offender from contacting the victim or going near the victim's home or workplace.
- Probation - Probation is a possibility for some domestic violence offenders in Broward County. The length of the probation period will depend on the offense and its severity.
- Loss of civil rights, including firearm restrictions - Under federal law, individuals who have been convicted of domestic violence are prohibited from owning, using, or possessing a firearm
- Court-ordered classes / counseling - As part of sentencing, convicted individuals are often required to attend counseling. This can include anger management, substance abuse, and domestic violence counseling at their own expense.
- Community service - Domestic violence offenders may be required to perform community service as part of their sentence.
- Immigration or professional repercussions
Additional Statutory Requirements
In Florida, an individual isn’t actually charged with “domestic violence.” Instead, “domestic violence” is used to add on to existing criminal charges such as assault or battery as a way to trigger additional requirements.
Following a domestic violence arrest, your case will be labeled as “no bond” until you make a court appearance. It often takes up to 72 hours after your arrest to secure a court date. After your appearance, you can be released on bond.
After being released on bond, the prosecutor will almost always issue you a no-contact order. Meaning that you are barred from coming into contact with the alleged victim, wherever they are.
Knowing that the stakes are high, our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyers always work toward securing the best outcome possible, whether that means a case dismissal or a reduction of charges and penalties.
Defenses for Domestic Violence in Fort Lauderdale
As we mentioned above, facing domestic violence charges can have a significant negative impact on your life. Because every criminal case and allegation is unique, defense strategies should always be tailored to the unique facts and circumstances involved. When reviewing our client’s cases, our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyers pay particular attention to the nature of the allegations, law enforcement conduct, and all facts involved in the government’s complaint.
By leveraging our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence attorneys’ experience as former Florida prosecutors who have handled domestic violence cases from the “other side,” we are able to effectively determine the most appropriate defense strategy to mitigate charges and penalties or disprove allegations entirely in order to secure a case dismissal.
Depending on the nature of your case, possible defense strategies may focus on:
- Factual discrepancies about the incident (what happened, when, how, and why)
- The absence of injuries or questionable injuries and how they may have been sustained
- Allegations not corroborated by physical evidence or other forms of evidence
- The nature of a relationship between alleged victims and defendants (false accusations)
- Self-defense, defense of others, or defense of property
Common Legal Defenses
The most common legal defenses for domestic violence charges in Broward County:
- False allegations – It is not uncommon for alleged victims to make false accusations out of spite. This typically occurs in divorce and child custody cases. Your lawyer may be able to find holes and weaknesses in the accuser’s story in comparison to witness accounts and the police report.
- Self-defense – In order to protect themselves and/or their children, a defendant could claim they were acting in self-defense after perceiving an imminent threat and wasn’t the original aggressor. Your Fort Lauderdale domestic violence attorney can check the police report to see if the alleged victim admitted to using violence and the reason for doing so, as well as look for inconsistencies.
- Wrong suspect – A defendant may claim that the alleged aggressor was another person. Your lawyer may present a valid alibi on your behalf or evidence that you were nowhere near the scene of the crime.
- Insufficient evidence – A defendant may claim there is not enough proof of the allegations. Without any evidence of domestic violence, state prosecutors cannot bring criminal charges.
- It was an accident – Although the defendant doesn’t deny the injuries sustained by the victim, they may claim that the act was unintentional. Your lawyer can confirm if your claim is consistent with what transpired.
Why are False Allegations Made?
At Hager & Schwartz, our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyers have been handling Broward County domestic violence cases for countless years. Over the years of dealing with many different domestic violence cases, we have seen the same few reasons behind the false allegations made against our clients. They include:
- Gaining the upper hand in child custody cases - When it comes to prosecuting domestic violence cases, the judge’s job is to ensure the safety of the victims. It’s extremely common for individuals who are going through messy child custody cases to use domestic violence as a tool to gain the upper hand. The judge will very rarely allow an individual who harmed their spouse or children to have visitation rights.
- Getting back at their ex - When break-ups get messy, one party is typically more upset than the other. When this happens, it often leads to the other spouse filing false domestic violence charges. This is common following a relationship that ended from cheating or infidelity.
A Life of Strife
Even though you’re innocent, you will have to prove your innocence. The phrase “Innocent until proven guilty” unfortunately, doesn’t apply to the majority of domestic violence cases. In order to have the best shot at fighting your false charges, you need to gather evidence to support your story.
Painting a Picture for Dismissal
The judge’s job is to take the information they are given and make a decision based on the story it tells. Evidence in domestic violence cases can come in numerous forms and the better of a story it can tell, the better for your chances of freedom.
Some of the evidence that we believe to be the most important in Florida domestic violence cases include:
- Social media posts, videos, and images
- Audio recordings or phone recordings
It’s also important to note that specific evidence holds much more value in court than memory does. For example, if you have video proof that supports your statements and the alleged victim is going based on memory, the judge will be much more willing to take your side.
Dropping Domestic Violence Charges Florida
Can domestic violence victims from the charges? Many of these disputes occur in the heat of the moment, which is why both parties may experience instant regret as soon as law enforcement arrives on the scene. Therefore, many alleged victims find themselves wondering if they can simply drop the charges against the alleged aggressor.
Unfortunately, criminal charges are brought by state prosecutors. So, even if the victim called the police to make an arrest, that doesn’t mean he or she is the one bringing charges against the accused.
Since victims are often emotionally—and financially—tied to their abusers, it's easy to explain away bad behavior once they understand the gravity of the situation. Since alleged abusers may also threaten or pressure a victim to reverse the charges, no one but the state has the power to drop the charges.
However, there are also many situations where law enforcement makes errors during the investigation and both parties want to move past the incident and obtain counseling and rehabilitation. The victim’s lack of power to dismiss charges can make it difficult not to involve the courts.
If a victim does want to drop the charges, they will need to hire an attorney. Keep in mind, their lawyer cannot be the same one as the defendant. With the help of a lawyer, the prosecution may decide to reduce the charges originally brought by offering a favorable plea agreement for a more lenient sentence. On the other hand, dismissing the case altogether rarely happens.
If a victim wishes to recant his/her original statements, it is important to understand that doing so could lead to charges for falsifying information to the police and the court. A lawyer can determine which is the best way to replace a negative statement with a positive one.
Lastly, a victim’s psychiatric assessment can be used as evidence in court. So, he/she must demonstrate that the incident didn’t negatively impact the victim’s emotional stability.
Benefits of Having a Former Prosecutor on Your Side
Domestic violence has become a hot button issue across Florida and the entire country. Today, the statistics, social, and economic impact of domestic violence are well known, and they motivate prosecutors to gain convictions and impose tough penalties. As former state prosecutors, Attorneys John Hager and Brett Schwartz know the tactics prosecutors use and leverage this insider information when defending our clients. You have the edge when you have former prosecutors on your side.
Let Our Broward County Domestic Violence Lawyers Review Your Case
Hager & Schwartz, P.A. is passionate about protecting the rights of clients who have been thrown into the criminal justice system, including those facing all types of domestic violence allegations in Fort Lauderdale. Because time is an important factor, we encourage you to reach to our firm as soon as possible. We represent clients throughout Broward County.
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“I hired John Hager, because my teen son got into a dispute in Ft. Lauderdale, and needed legal help. John turned out to be as advertised, he is smart, competent, detailed, and responsive to the client and his or her needs.”
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“Due to his hard work, the charges were never filed and case was dropped which is truly a miracle and we are so grateful for all his dedication. Should you ever need a defense attorney he is the person to contact, I guarantee he will not disappoint.”
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