It’s an unfortunate but common occurrence. A husband and wife are arguing. Somebody calls 911. When law enforcement responds to the residence, somebody, usually the male, is determined to be the “primary aggressor.” He is arrested (without a warrant) on the spot for an offense of domestic violence. He is handcuffed and transported to the county jail where he will remain without a bond until he has his first appearance before a judge the next day. Perhaps the wife is there in court at the first appearance, explaining to the judge that she’s not pressing charges, that it was all just a big misunderstanding. Nonetheless, the case is not dismissed. In fact, the couple is surprised to learn that despite her wishes to drop the case, the case is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Situations like this call for an experienced Pensacola domestic violence defense attorney such as Valerie Prevatte.
The statutory definition of domestic violence is 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 member or household member by another family member or household member. Simply put, the term "domestic violence" characterizes a class of criminal offenses. The relationship between the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator is determinative of whether the offense is characterized as a crime of "domestic violence." If it is, there are many factors that come into play which affect whether an arrest will be made, how the case will be prosecuted, and what sentence will be imposed if the defendant is convicted.
Crimes characterized as domestic violence have many mandatory requirements that are unique to that class of alleged offenses. Most notably, persons alleged to have committed crimes of domestic violence are given no bond upon their arrest. That means that until the first appearance before a judge, the accused remains in jail. At the first appearance (often called "Video Court") the judge may grant a bond. Often the bond has conditions such as a requirement that the accused wear a GPS (Global Positioning System) device, that s/he have no contact with the alleged victim, that s/he check in weekly with an officer, that s/he not leave the county, and that s/he live some place other than the residence shared by the parties. There are some mandatory sentences that must be imposed upon a person adjudicated guilty of a crime of domestic violence. The court must sentence the person to a period of probation or community control with the special condition that s/he attend and successfully complete a batterer’s intervention program (usually 26 weeks long), unless the court determines that the person does not qualify for the program. If the person intentionally caused bodily harm to another person, the court must order the person to serve at least 5 days in the county jail as part of the sentence.
Florida law dictates that the state attorney in each circuit adopt a pro-prosecution policy for acts of domestic violence. Therefore, even if the alleged victim requests that the case be dismissed, the prosecutor usually will not drop the case. It is not uncommon for the prosecutor to proceed to trial on a case of domestic violence without the cooperation of the alleged victim.
While it might be tempting to enter a "no contest" plea to a case of domestic violence simply to resolve the case as quickly and inexpensively as possible, doing so can have serious implications. Let Valerie Prevatte assist you in determining the best plan of action for your specific situation.