Tampa Domestic Violence Lawyer

Domestic Violence

Tampa Attorney for Domestic Violence Charges

If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, it’s crucial to consult an experienced Tampa domestic violence lawyer immediately. Allegations can arise from a variety of situations—anything from a heated family argument to a minor disagreement between live-in partners. Individuals from all walks of life may find themselves under scrutiny when domestic violence allegations surface.

Domestic violence charges carry a social stigma that can lead to embarrassment and humiliation. A conviction can have severe repercussions on your life and family. While some domestic violence allegations stem from misunderstandings, others are the result of serious abuse. Abuse in familial relationships varies, including physical, emotional, verbal, or mental forms. Frequently, victims don’t report the abuse, often due to manipulation by the abuser, leading to an escalation of violence over time.

Understanding Domestic Violence Charges in Florida

Criminal offenses involving domestic violence are enumerated in section 741.28, Florida Statutes (2023). Section 741.28 specifically identifies several domestic violence offenses including 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. § 741.28, Fla. Stat. (2023). The familial relationship is defined as “spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married.” Id.

Due to high-profile cases and the potential for injury or death, Florida law has become increasingly strict concerning domestic violence. Law enforcement officers frequently make arrests following complaints, even without visible physical injuries. The state employs specialized prosecutors trained to handle the complexities of domestic violence cases. An experienced Tampa domestic violence lawyer can be equally, if not more, proficient in these issues, advocating fiercely for your rights and interests.

Types of Domestic Violence Charges in Florida

In Florida, domestic violence can encompass a range of criminal activities, each with its own legal implications and potential penalties. Below are some of the most commonly charged types of domestic violence offenses:

  • Domestic Battery
  • Domestic Assault
  • Domestic Battery by Strangulation
  • Sexual Assault
  • False Imprisonment 
  • Stalking
  • Restraining Order Violations

First Appearance and “No-Contact Orders”: A Tampa Domestic Violence Lawyer Can Help

Unlike many other crimes, individuals charged with domestic violence are held without bond until a “first appearance” hearing before a judge. Depending on the timing of the arrest, you could be held for up to 24 hours or longer in some instances. At this hearing, a judge will address the matter of bond, and issue an order prohibiting the defendant from having any contact with the alleged victim. This is known as a “no-contact,” order. This means that the defendant can be prevented from returning to his own home. A defendant who violates this order, can have his or her bond revoked, and be held in jail until the resolution of their case.

Having an experienced Tampa domestic violence lawyer present at this critical hearing can offer you several advantages. For instance, your attorney can argue for a reduced bond or even a release on your own recognizance (ROR). Moreover, if the victim wants to lift or modify the “no-contact” order—for example, if you share children or the victim desires for you to return home—your attorney can present these facts to the judge. This can sometimes result in the court issuing a “no violent contact” order instead of a full “no-contact” order or inserting special provisions for child custody exchanges.

Even if you haven’t retained an attorney before this hearing, it’s not too late. A skilled Tampa domestic violence lawyer can later petition the court to revise or set aside these initial orders, although such action will require a separate hearing and the participation of all involved parties.

Legal Defenses and the Role of Evidence in Domestic Violence Cases

In navigating the complex landscape of domestic violence cases, two key elements often play a decisive role: the defenses employed, and the evidence presented. These two aspects are deeply interconnected and are pivotal in shaping the outcome of your case. The right defense strategy can make a significant difference in the case’s resolution, while the appropriate use of evidence can either bolster these defenses or, conversely, undermine them. Below, we explore common defenses used in domestic violence cases and the types of evidence that can be critical for both the prosecution and the defense.

A. Common Defenses in Domestic Violence Cases

Domestic violence cases are often complex and multi-faceted, but there are some defense strategies that recur frequently in the courtroom, such as self-defense, and victim non-participation. Self-defense is a commonly invoked legal strategy. Within the self-defense claim, different facets like “reasonable fear” of an imminent threat or disproportional use of force by the alleged victim can be argued. To establish the credibility of such a claim, evidence such as medical reports, corroborative witnesses, or other substantiating forms can be vital.

Another defense strategy focuses on the likelihood that the victim may not appear for trial or hearings. Under Florida law, the absence of the victim can create complications for the prosecution, especially if their case heavily relies on the victim’s testimony. Although risky and not to be solely relied upon, this strategy can provide negotiation opportunities that may lead to a lesser charge or even case dismissal.

B. The Role of Evidence in Domestic Violence Cases

In domestic violence cases, collecting and presenting compelling evidence is essential for both the prosecution and defense. The intimate nature of these offenses often limits the availability of independent witnesses, making other forms of evidence particularly crucial. Victim testimony frequently serves as the cornerstone of the prosecution’s case, especially when other evidence types are limited.

Physical injuries, when present, are a potent form of evidence but can be leveraged by both sides. Properly documented injuries through medical reports or photographs can support the prosecution’s case by providing tangible proof of violence. However, the same documentation can be invaluable to the defense if it indicates inconsistencies with the alleged victim’s account or supports a claim of self-defense. Given the nuanced role of such evidence, the expertise of a skilled lawyer is essential for its appropriate handling, as they must often navigate strict evidentiary rules.

Emergency 911 calls and police body camera footage can provide objective, real-time accounts of alleged incidents and are often admissible in court under specific conditions. In some cases, prior testimonies from other proceedings, such as civil injunction hearings, can be introduced. Digital evidence, including text messages, emails, and even social media posts, can also play a critical role, particularly when physical evidence is ambiguous or lacking.

The Persistence of Prosecution: Why Victims Can’t Simply Drop Charges

Contrary to a widespread misconception, the decision to drop domestic violence charges doesn’t rest with the victim. This authority is exclusively vested in the prosecuting attorney. As a result, even if the alleged victim decides to withdraw their initial complaint or even recants their testimony, prosecutors often proceed with the charges.

Given the complexity and sensitivity surrounding domestic violence cases, prosecutors are trained to be particularly zealous in pursuing these charges. This aggressive approach often applies even when the alleged victim requests the dismissal of charges or chooses not to participate in the legal proceedings. It’s not uncommon for the state to press forward with a case regardless of the victim’s wishes, using other evidence to attempt to secure a conviction.

The Long-Lasting Impact of Domestic Violence Convictions

As previously emphasized, facing domestic violence charges can have far-reaching ramifications that extend beyond potential jail time or fines. Under Florida statutes, a conviction for domestic violence will irrevocably deprive you of the right to purchase or possess firearms.

Additionally, if you’re convicted of domestic violence or plead either “guilty” or “no contest” to such charges, Florida law precludes you from ever having the conviction sealed or expunged from your criminal record. This lasting blemish can adversely impact your employment opportunities, housing applications, and even social relationships for the rest of your life.

However, it’s worth noting that if you’re fortunate enough to have the charges against you dropped or dismissed, you might still qualify for the expungement or sealing of your record, provided you meet certain legal criteria. This can be a significant relief and a reason to aggressively contest any charges with qualified legal assistance.

The Necessity of Skilled Legal Defense

The defense of domestic violence charges isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. It requires a multi-faceted approach that includes in-depth investigation, nuanced legal strategy, and tailored guidance for each unique situation. Given the complexities and the high stakes involved, the expertise of an experienced Tampa domestic violence lawyer is not merely optional—it’s essential. A skilled attorney can significantly reduce your odds of conviction and help minimize the severe, long-lasting repercussions a domestic violence charge could have on your life and future.

Contact a Tampa Domestic Violence Lawyer

Attorney William B. Wynne is an experienced Tampa Domestic Violence Lawyer. Consultations are free of charge, and we offer payment plans to those who qualify. Call today for your free consultation! (813) 532-5057

Tampa Attorney for Domestic Violence Charges

Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Violence in Florida

Dealing with domestic violence charges can be a daunting and bewildering ordeal, especially if you’ve never encountered the legal system before. To help ease your apprehensions, we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions and their answers.

1. What should I do If I get arrested?

Contact an experienced domestic violence attorney as soon as possible. A skilled legal advocate can help you navigate the intricate nuances of the legal system and safeguard your constitutional rights. Should you be subjected to an investigation or questioning, remember to assert your legal rights and insist on legal representation.

2. Can the victim drop the charges?

Contrary to popular belief, once the legal proceedings have commenced, it is solely within the purview of the prosecuting attorney to dismiss the charges. The state retains this authority even if the alleged victim expresses a wish to retract their initial complaint. It is worth mentioning that the state takes a stringent approach to the prosecution of domestic violence cases and may continue the case irrespective of the victim’s later objections or retractions.

3. What happens at a First Appearance Hearing?

During the first appearance hearing, a presiding judge will evaluate various factors, including your criminal background and the extent of injuries inflicted upon the victim, to set the terms of your bail. Moreover, the judge may impose a “no-contact” order, which could prohibit you from interacting with the alleged victim and may even prevent you from returning to your residence. Given these severe implications, legal representation at this juncture is absolutely vital.

4. Will a conviction affect gun ownership?

Yes. A guilty verdict in a domestic violence case in Florida will irrevocably forfeit your entitlement to own or acquire firearms. Therefore, it becomes critically important to focus on either absolving yourself of the charges or seeking their modification to a lesser offense that may allow for withholding of adjudication.

5. Can domestic violence charges be expunged?

Under Florida law, domestic violence convictions cannot be expunged or sealed if a formal conviction is rendered or if adjudication is withheld. However, if the charges are dismissed, expungement is an option. Furthermore, if the original domestic violence charges are reduced to a lesser offense that is not explicitly ineligible for sealing — for example, from domestic battery to simple battery — and adjudication is withheld, then sealing the record may become a viable option.

6. Can a “No-Contact” order be modified?

Modification of a “no-contact” order is indeed possible, particularly when both involved parties consent to the change. Nevertheless, amending the order usually necessitates a separate legal hearing, during which the judge often seeks input from the victim prior to making a decision.

7. What if the victim doesn’t show up to court?

If the victim doesn’t appear in court, it may complicate the prosecution’s case, particularly if there are no independent witnesses and the charges heavily rely on the victim’s testimony. However, it’s risky to rely on this, as prosecutors are adept at using other forms of evidence to proceed in the absence of the victim testimony. Legal counsel is essential in such complex scenarios.

8. Do I need a lawyer for domestic violence charges?

While you technically have the option to represent yourself, retaining an attorney well-versed in domestic violence law is essential. These cases often involve complex evidence and emotional factors, and an experienced lawyer can navigate these challenges effectively.

9. What are the chances of a case going to trial?

Every case is unique. Some are resolved quickly through plea agreements, while others may proceed to trial. Factors influencing this outcome include the alleged victim’s level of cooperation, the strength of the evidence against the Defendant, the defendant’s criminal history, the defendant’s ultimate objectives for the case, and many others. Some cases may culminate in plea agreements, while others might proceed all the way to a courtroom trial.

10. Are diversion programs available for domestic violence?

In some jurisdictions within Florida, diversion programs may be available that allow the accused to partake in counseling and educational initiatives as an alternative to conventional criminal prosecution. However, eligibility for these programs is generally dictated by the gravity of the charges and the accused’s past criminal behavior. Diversion programs are generally more accessible for less severe cases involving first-time offenders, and the victim’s viewpoint is often considered in determining eligibility.

Take Control of Your Future Today

Navigating the complexities of domestic violence charges can be overwhelming and fraught with risks. Remember, each case is unique and requires specialized legal advice. Don’t leave your future to chance. Attorney William B. Wynne is experienced in handling domestic violence cases in the Tampa area. Consultations are free of charge, and flexible payment plans are available for those who qualify. Take the first step toward protecting your rights and your future. Call today for your free consultation at (813) 532-5057.