Domestic Violence is a hot-button topic in today’s society. It is one of the more “intimate” offenses in regards to our humanity and, as such, most people have extremely strong and emotionally driven opinions about the subject. As is unfortuately the case, as with most types of criminal allegations, when people hear about a domestic violence case on the news, many automatically presume the offender is guilty.
For example, here are a couple of local “headlines” for you: A long-time South Florida podiatrist was recently accused of domestic violence against his wife in an alleged violent attack. A West Palm Beach man is being held without bond for allegedly beating up his girlfriend and trying to burn down her apartment.
Now, we can form judgments based off of these simple descriptions of the cases (and most WILL), but the truth is, aside from the “media spin,” we don’t know exactly what happened when it came to these domestic violence situations. Many times, cases like these come down to “he said, she said.”
What is concrete, unfortunately, are the penalties that you can face if you are convicted. If your “he said” isn’t more compelling than her “she said” (or vice versa), there is a strong chance that you will suffer life-altering repercussions. What kind of repercussions?
Jail time. Under Florida’s domestic violence law, there is a minimum punishment of five days served in a county jail as part of the sentence imposed, if you are adjudicated guilty. This minimum sentence is mandatory, but does not prevent the court from sentencing the person to probation, community control, or additional jail time.
And if you already have a prior conviction for domestic violence – even if there was a withhold of adjudication – a second conviction can be elevated to a felony, which has a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Batterer intervention program. If a person is found guilty of a domestic violence crime, the defendant will be required to serve a minimum term of one year on probation. As a condition of probation, the defendant will have to attend and complete a batterers’ intervention program. The purpose of the program is to promote victim and child safety and hold the defendant accountable for acts of domestic violence.
These certified programs take up quite a lot of time. They have to be at least 29 weeks in length, and must include 24 weekly sessions, plus appropriate intake, assessment, and orientation programming. On top of that, you also have to pay for the program from your own pocket.
And if you violate the terms of your probation, you will face additional consequences.
Criminal record. If you are found guilty of a domestic violence offense, you will then be labeled as a domestic violence offender. And in cases that involve a guilty or no contest plea, even if adjudication is withheld, your record regarding domestic violence cannot be sealed or expunged. With this type of conviction on your record, you could have an extremely difficult time finding employment or even housing since your criminal record is public and will show up in background checks.
Firearms. Simply being arrested for domestic violence in our state causes your concealed weapons permit to be suspended until your case is settled. And if you’re convicted? Unfortunately, domestic violence offenders are federally prohibited from possessing, owning, or using a gun.
As you can see, a domestic violence conviction will affect all aspects of your life. For some, it’s a black mark from which they will never recover.
No one is denying that domestic violence is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. But when so many cases tread in murky legal waters – when they come down to “he said, she said,” is it really fair to derail someone’s life?
Rather than punishing someone for life, we should be focusing on ways to counsel them and rehabilitate them so that they can become useful members of society.
But we’re not there yet.
So, if you have been accused of domestic violence, your only recourse is to fight back with the help of an experienced and respected Florida domestic violence attorney. Public opinion and legal penalties may be harsh for this type of crime, but there are plenty of defense strategies that can be used to help you.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.