Arrested for Florida Domestic Violence? Avoid These Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Case.
Anyone who’s ever been arrested for domestic violence can tell you it’s something of a traumatic experience in itself. You’ve just had a terrible argument with a loved one, suddenly you’re in handcuffs, your mugshot is public record, and there’s a crushing realization that - at least for a while - life isn’t going right back to the way it was before.
What often makes matters worse is when defendants panic and try to fix, deny, or explain - and ultimately end up making some very colossal mistakes that damage their case.
As Broward criminal defense lawyers, we’re fully prepared when we get calls from South Florida domestic violence defendants, scrambling for legal advice after these blunders. We launch into immediate damage control - no judgment - and take very seriously our commitment to fight for our clients’ rights, no matter how messy the situation has gotten. That said, we do often wish we could have spoken to some of these folks just a bit sooner, saving them from digging themselves into an even deeper hole.
We understand how overwhelming these situations are, but bear in mind: Anyone can claim to be a victim of domestic violence. Proving it is a different matter. Even if you are arrested, that’s not a guaranteed conviction. Keeping a cool head - and a quiet mouth - can go a long way toward minimizing the impact this is going to have on your life.Avoid Making Matters Worse in Your Domestic Violence Case
Defending yourself against a Fort Lauderdale domestic violence charge is something of an uphill battle as it is. The last thing you want to do is exacerbate that difficulty by making these common errors that can pain you into a corner.Trying to Communicate With the Accuser.
It is almost never a good idea for anyone accused of a violent crime to try to reach out on their own to the alleged victim before trial. Domestic violence cases make it a bit tricky because of the established relationship. This isn’t just someone you got into a bar fight with; it’s someone with whom you were building a life, or raising a child, or once loved. This degree of familiarity makes it seem like, “If only we could just talk, we could work this out between us.”
This is a bad idea for a few reasons. Firstly, in Florida, “No Contact” orders are routinely imposed in criminal cases that involve allegations of assault, battery, domestic violence, and other violent offenses. It’s similar to a civil restraining order, except imposed by the criminal case judge as opposed to requested by the alleged victim. In any case, these orders prohibit ANY contact - direct or indirect - with the accuser, unless otherwise stated. That means you cannot call, you cannot text, you cannot send a Facebook message, write them an email, send them flowers, show up at their workplace, or get within a certain distance of them for any reason. You can’t ask someone else to communicate a message to them. If they post something on Twitter or Instagram or TikTok, you should not be liking, commenting, sharing, etc. This is true even if you have their consent.
We understand that No Contact orders can pose some logistical issues, particularly for people who lived together or shared a minor child together. However, you need the court’s permission before you can reach out. Your defense lawyer can help you ask for the no contact order to be lifted, or at least modified for a certain purpose or exception.
But if you try to communicate with the accuser without going through the proper channels, suddenly you’re facing an additional first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. You could be ordered back to jail and held with no bond pending trial. If there were multiple violations of the no-contact order, it can lead to consecutive terms of incarceration, meaning you could be facing years behind bars. It’s very important that you follow the terms of that No Contact order to the letter until the court decides otherwise.Answering Correspondence From the Accuser
This aligns with the previous issue, but it’s not enough for a person accused of domestic violence to simply restrain themselves from reaching out. They must also resist any temptation to respond if the accuser reaches out or tries to meet with them. The fact that the alleged victim/accuser extended the olive branch doesn’t make it any “safer” for the defendant, legally speaking. You could still be slapped with violation of a no contact order or restraining order. You might unintentionally make incriminating statements. You might engage in some behavior or response that prosecutors could use against you. If the accuser is trying to communicate with you, do not respond and immediately let your lawyer know about it.Talking to Police Without Your Defense Lawyer Present.
Speaking of lawyers: Never talk to the police without one. This seems like common sense - particularly if you know there may be some substance to the allegations. However, it’s also a major issue in cases where the defendant knows that the allegations are false, exaggerated, or otherwise off-base. There is often a strong desire to explain, tell their side, convince the police that it wasn’t their fault and/or this is all a big misunderstanding.
A few significant problems with this in Florida domestic violence case:
- The preferred arrest policy in Florida domestic violence cases. Per S. 741.29, arrest of the “primary aggressor” is the preferred response in cases where domestic violence is suspected. Law enforcement officers are expressly discouraged from just taking both people in - even when you’re both equally at-fault. If the police show up, someone is probably going to get arrested, and any statement you freely provide to them - before or after arrest - can be twisted and used as evidence against you in court.
- It’s tougher to “talk your way out” of a charge than you think - even if you’re innocent. There are many professional, methodical, and fair-minded police officers in Florida who are committed to doing their job well. Almost any police officer will tell you that they are in search of the truth. But here’s the reality: Over time, law enforcement tends to see themselves as part of the prosecutor’s team. They work with prosecutors, they regularly meet and talk with prosecutors, they testify on the prosecution’s behalf. They are not an entirely neutral third party. Especially if they suspect you of committing a crime, they don’t have your best interests at heart. In the midst of a particularly emotional incident, you’re likely not in the best position to calmly and carefully give your side in a way that fully convinces them and doesn’t provide evidence that can be used against you in trial. Stay quiet and let your lawyer talk for you later.
You should not assume that the truth alone will be enough to help you avoid serious consequences. In a perfect world, it would. Your best chance at emerging from this ordeal with as few scrapes as possible is to ask for a lawyer right from the beginning.Hoping the Case Will Simply Go Away.
Sticking your head in the sand - tempting as it might be - is almost never a good criminal defense strategy. Prosecutors may have sizable case loads, but they’re pretty meticulous by nature and it’s almost guaranteed they won’t overlook or lose track of an alleged crime of violence - even if the alleged victim wants nothing to do with the case. (The decision about whether to proceed or drop charges rests solely with the prosecutor, not the accuser.)
Domestic violence allegations have the potential to ruin even the most hard-earned reputations. Rather than trying to wish away its existence, your best shot at a favorable outcome is immediately seeking counsel from a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience and proven success specifically in criminal domestic violence cases.
If you are arrested for domestic violence in South Florida, contact The Ansara Law Firm today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.