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Ask a Miami Criminal Defense Attorney: How Does Florida Handle Domestic Violence Charges?

December 20, 2018

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It seems that several law enforcement and corrections officers have been recently arrested on domestic violence charges stemming from a variety of domestic relationships. The relationships in these cases including husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend and parent/child. The Miami criminal defense lawyers at Donet, McMillan & Trontz have represented hundreds of defendants, as well as victims, involved in all different types of domestic violence situations.

Domestic Violence

What Courts Deal with Domestic Violence Cases?

There are two forums where criminal domestic violence cases are heard in Miami-Dade County. Domestic violence cases are either heard at the Metro-Justice Building next to Jackson Memorial Hospital (Circuit Court/felony cases) and the Thomas Lawson Courthouse (County Court/misdemeanor cases). The procedural process for felony and misdemeanor domestic violence cases are similar with the main difference being the potential penalties for each.

What Happens when Someone Is Arrested for Domestic Violence?

Anyone arrested for domestic violence will be booked into the county jail (TGK) just like anyone else being arrested for a criminal offense, with one significant difference. For example, individuals arrested for drug possession or theft will be entitled to post a standard bond and will be released with 8 to 12 hours after the bond paperwork has been submitted. Individuals arrested for domestic violence cannot post a bond once booked into the jail.

The State of Florida requires that anyone arrested for domestic violence appear before a judge before being released from the correctional facility. The main purpose for the mandatory appearance exists so the judge can enter a stay away order from the victim and personally issue it to the defendant in open court. A stay away order is similar to a domestic violence injunction in that it prevents the defendant from having contact with the victim. It is different than an injunction in that a hearing is not required, and the judge will enter the order as a matter of course.

What Is a Stay Order?

Stay orders direct the defendant to not have any contact with the victim. This not only includes personal contact, but telephone contact via calls or texts. E-mailing the victim is likewise prohibited. Even third party contact occurring at the defendant's request is violation of the court's stay away order. Many of our clients do not follow our advice and continue to have contact with the victims in their cases. While this usually never becomes an issue, in some instances tempers flare up and cops are called. If the police determine that a stay away order exists and the defendant has violated its terms, you can rest assure that he or she will be toted back to jail. The presiding judge will most likely hold the defendant without bail and have a contempt hearing for violating the court's stay way order.

Stay Order

You Can Get Your Stay Order Modified!

To avoid the aforementioned situation, our defense attorneys can and have appeared before the pressing judge to have the stay away order modified to allow contact between the defendant and victim. The judge will usually want to wait a couple weeks to address the matter. The judge will require that the alleged victim appear in court and provide sworn testimony that he or she is not in fear of violence from the defendant. If the victim's testimony is credible, the judge, even over the prosecutor's objection, will modify the stay away order.

The Case Is Not Over Yet...

Keep in mind, this is only the beginning of the case. Just because the stay away order has been modified, prosecutors will continue to move forward with the case. In the majority of the cases, if the victim is seeking to modify the stay order, the defendant will usually have a better chance of including a possible dismissal of the charges or a pre-trial diversion program if the defendant has no prior contacts with the criminal justice system.

Are you dealing with domestic violence charges? Contact Donet, McMillan & Trontz at (305) 444-0030 for experienced representation in court.

References: WSVN
Categories: Domestic Violence
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