What If I’ve Been Falsely Accused of Domestic Violence in Florida?
False accusations of domestic violence in Florida can have ruinous consequences. While this can be true for both parties, it’s usually the accused who stands to lose the most. It’s critically important for defendants - even those who are 100 percent innocent - to use great care in how they proceed.
Innocence, unfortunately, is not an impenetrable shield of protection against false criminal allegations. Of course, the truth matters. But in a court of law, it comes down to which facts are most provable - and which parties are deemed most credible.
A conviction for domestic violence in Florida has the potential to jeopardize your career, reputation, relationships, parenting rights, and freedom. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you gather all pertinent evidence and help you present the truth to overcome false accusations.Criminal Case Mistakes That Innocent People Make
When someone accused of a serious crime like domestic violence is secure in the knowledge that they’re truly innocent, they can be vulnerable to making certain mistakes that will actually damage their case.
Among those:Being Loose-Lipped With Police
Talking to police without the benefit of a criminal defense lawyer at your side is almost never a good idea. This is true even if you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. That includes situations where you aren’t under arrest and officers say they “just want to get your side of the story.” These are emotionally-charged situations, you may be less calm and articulate than usual, and everything you say has the potential to be twisted and used against you. This is not the time to argue your case. Stay calm, be polite, and stay quiet. If police continue to press you for answers about what happened, you can respond with something to the effect of:
- “My attorney told me never to answer police questions without him/her present.”
- “I don’t have anything to say about that.”
- “Am I required to answer your questions?”
- Simply stay silent. It is your constitutional right, and it applies even if you haven’t been arrested. You cannot be arrested, detained, or punished for exercising this right.
It seems like a simple fix: They’re lying, you both know it, and you just want to urge them to tell the truth so you can both move on. But in domestic violence cases, it’s not that simple. Reaching out to the accuser for almost any reason while the case is pending is strongly discouraged - and illegal if the court has issued a no-contact order. A single text, phone call, or direct message, and you’ll be back behind bars. It won’t help the court’s view of your credibility either. If there are practical matters that might require communication, your defense lawyer can act as a go-between.Assuming the Case Will Be Dropped
Innocent parties have an expectation that the truth shall set them free. But that’s usually unlikely without the benefit of a good defense lawyer. Prosecutors are ethically bound to drop criminal charges in cases that lack sufficient evidence, but they don’t need a smoking gun to get a conviction. Hiring an experienced Broward domestic violence defense lawyer straight away is the best way to improve your odds of a favorable outcome.
Our dedicated Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers are committed to bringing all the facts to light and fiercely protecting our client’s rights.Why False Accusations of Domestic Violence Gain Traction
Domestic violence laws serve an important societal function. Unfortunately, they can also be weaponized - particularly when relationships end or turn toxic.
In one study of victims of female-perpetrated domestic violence (an issue that doesn’t get as much attention as it should), 56 percent of respondents said their partners had made false accusations of physical or sexual abuse against them to authorities. That’s compared to less than 1 percent in the general population who said the same. Study authors opined that false accusations of domestic violence are a tool in an abuser’s toolbox, allowing them to maintain power and control over the other person.
A few reasons false domestic violence accusations may gain traction in the Florida criminal justice system:
- Florida’s preferred arrest policy. F.S. 741.29 plainly states arrest is the preferred response with respect to the “primary aggressor” in domestic violence cases. Officers are explicitly discouraged in statute from arresting both parties. Even if both people were equally to blame for what happened, only one of you is going to jail.
- Involvement of people with close ties, complicated histories, and personal vendettas. Intense relationships can lead to fierce disagreements and fiery tensions. In the heat of the moment, hurtful words and exaggerated accusations can be carelessly lobbed. Maybe the two are already embroiled in a legal battle - for child custody, alimony, distribution of assets in divorce, etc., and one sought revenge or an upper hand. Sometimes it’s the people we love who have the power to hurt us the most.
- He-said/she-said nature of the evidence. Although there are many sources of evidence in criminal cases, domestic violence cases often come down to one person’s word against another’s. When alleged incidents occur behind closed doors, there are only two people who can say for sure what happened. Outcomes can hinge heavily on the court’s perceived credibility of either party.
- Prosecutors don’t need the accuser’s cooperation. Even if an accuser is remorseful and tries to walk back false or exaggerated claims, the choice of whether to proceed rests solely with the prosecutor - and they don’t need the accuser’s cooperation. In fact, victim refusal to cooperate is so common in domestic violence cases that prosecutors aren’t likely to believe an accuser’s about-face on the facts - even if they’re telling the truth.
Making false reports to law enforcement is a crime in Florida, as outlined in F.S. 837.05. Knowingly giving false information to police concerning the alleged commission of any crime is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. (It can be bumped to a third-degree felony if the false information concerned a capital crime.)
If it is established that the accuser was intentionally lying to police and prosecutors, it will be dealt with as a separate criminal matter. For the defendant who is falsely accused, the focus and priority needs to be on clearing your name. Our South Florida domestic violence criminal defense lawyers can help.
If you are arrested for domestic violence in South Florida, call The Ansara Law Firm today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.