If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, it’s important to call an experienced criminal defense firm that can handle your case. The reason for that is because the police and the prosecutor in Florida believe in an active prosecution. An active prosecution means that even if you think it’s a minor incident or even when the alleged victim doesn’t want to prosecute, the prosecutor and the police often go forward with the charges. In the past, prosecutors often dropped domestic cases once the victim wished not to prosecute. This is no longer the case. Previously the state thought the reason victims declined to prosecute was because they were getting pressure from the defendant. As a result, the state of Florida takes a very aggressive and a very active stance towards domestic violence prosecution. Therefore, it is important to hire a defense attorney right from the very beginning because there are certain tactics that we can use to get the very best possible result.
As Saint Petersburg, Florida domestic violence attorneys, we often get asked many of these questions below. We have taken some of our most frequently asked questions and over the next few weeks will be answering these.
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By now this has been the lead story on almost every news cast. We have included a video from CNN that does not show the battery. A copy of that video can be found here. While it is not bloody, it can be disturbing for certain viewers…
As has been previously mentioned, star running back Ray Rice has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL and has been cut from the Baltimore Ravens last Monday. This turn of events occurred only after a new video surfaced showing the football star brutally knocking out his fiancee, now wife in a hotel elevator.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had originally suspended Rice two games for his actions involving the domestic violence. This drew harsh criticism from many people who noted that the NFL was giving out four game suspensions for first-time illegal drug users. Goodell claimed the light sentence was given when he only had access to an earlier video which did not show the actual assault. Rather it showed Rice dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of the elevator.
Back in July, Rice had admitted wrongdoing and he and his wife were in counseling. After this latest suspension, the 27-year-old man may be out of options. Any NFL team that signs him will need the commissioner’s approval to proceed. In addition, the Canadian Football League is not allowed to sign him as long as he is suspended by the NFL.
Rice had previously been given probation by a New Jersey judge after a deal was worked out with the prosecutor. This too has come under intense criticism by many for both the supposed leniency as well as the same judge/prosecutor are now involved in a controversial firearm case.
In that New Jersey case, a Pennslyvania woman was pulled over in New Jersey. She let the officer know that she had a firearm in her car and that she had a valid firearm permit from her state. Unfortunately for her, New Jersey does not recognize these permits and she was arrested. Despite previous cases of people being offered a diversion program for the same offense, New Jersey prosecutor Jim McClain is refusing to budge. His last offer to the woman, Shaneen Allen, a professional with two children, was 3.5 years prison!
The fact that this prosecutor and Judge Michael Donio consider a brutal domestic battery less of a concern then legal firearm ownership by a military vet and mother has outraged many people.
Is there a double standard? Ray Rice was famous and given a slap on the wrist for his brutal battery. Meanwhile the exact same judge and prosecutor who excused domestic violence appear almost giddy in their attempts to imprison a woman with no criminal record for a mistake.
One thing for certain, there are no winners in either case. The NFL looks soft on crime and the Baltimore Ravens took heat for both their support of Ray Rice and their tweet from Rice’s wife in which it appeared she blamed herself for the incident.
As far as the firearm case, the New Jersey justice system looks weak but especially the judge and the state attorney’s office. Many articles have been written nationally including in USA Today, and local papers.
The one possible bright spot in all this mess is that domestic violence victims are getting increased attention. The old question of “why didn’t (the victim) just walk away?” has been getting answered and the country as a whole has heard about both tragedies now. With increased awareness will hopefully come increased domestic violence education and perhaps a push for more fairness in prosecution for both innocent victims and even the accused.
62-year-old Thomas Christy was arrested by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in his Pinellas home Wednesday and charged with one count of violating an injunction against domestic violence, a misdemeanor.
As of this writing, police were still investigating and the state attorney’s office has not filed charges. The actual allegation appears to come from a text that the defendant allegedly sent to the victim. The text itself did not seem violent, it simply said “Your keys are hanging on the mailbox. You’re nuts. Stay away.”
The report, commissioned by the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force, recorded 13 homicides last year. This is the highest number they have counted since they started keeping track! Since it started in 1996, there have been 114 fatal domestic violence cases in Pinellas county.
Even worse, five of the homicides were murder-suicides (where the killer takes his/her own life after murdering the partner), bringing the 2012 death total to 18.
Nobody has an answer as to why the sudden increase in domestic violence related deaths. It may take years to find out why because the task force can only study the cases after the criminal justice system is through. The State Attorney’s office and police are hesistant to share information on an open case.
Besides the police, the task force uses a variety of sources for its research including the clerk of court, domestic violence shelters and probation offices, among others.
Per a victim advocate from the Largo Police Department, before last year the highest number of domestic homicide cases were 10 back in 2001. The advocate continued “Behavior is hard to predict and, with domestic homicide, we’re always trying to look at the past to prepare for the future. But sometimes it takes years upon years of data to see a significant trend.”
Among the more notable 2012 Pinellas murders were the following:
– In September a woman fatally stabbed her husband in their Saint Petersburg apartment after he answered a phone call from another woman.
– The day of their divorce court date a man shot his estranged wife and then himself in Clearwater where the woman was staying with her children and a relative.
– A man murders his wife and then shoots himself in a Walgreens parking lot, orphaning their child.
– In August a man kills his girlfriend by running her over as she fled their home in Pinellas Park. The killing was seen by her children.
While the 2012 cases are still going through the court system, there are a few patterns worth noting. For instance all five of the murder-suicides were committed by men with half of the couples in the process of a divorce.
In addition and not surprisingly, alcohol and/or drugs played a role in almost 75% of the tracked cases since 1996. Sadly in almost half the cases the suspect had previously been arrested for domestic violence but a judge never ordered a domestic violence course in nearly three out of every four cases!
To view the Pinellas report, please click on the ndvfri.org website here. The website also has plenty of tips such as:
•Friends and relatives: Listen nonjudgmentally; offer to help with money, a ride, storing documents or watching children.
•Bosses and co-workers: Hang informational posters in workplace bathrooms; give staff time off for court dates.
•Neighbors: Call police if you hear a disturbance; develop a code word the victim can use to alert you to call police.
•Clergy members or community leaders: Be available to speak about intimate partner violence or advocate on the issue; partner with shelters to keep women safe.
We have previously written about Violation of Injunction orders (see here) and the different types of injunctions available. In this blog, we are going to continue the discussion on how to actually file for an injunction…
Information on filing an injunction in Pinellas County is not difficult to find. To began, you must first file a petition. This is usually free to do. The Petitioner can file this in the county that he/she resides, where the incident took place or where the Respondent lives. A Petition that is filled out must contain the Respondent’s first and last name, your name (though you CAN write “confidential” for your address if you want to keep that a secret) and a brief summary of the violence/stalking you allege occurred. One may also provide other papers/evidence such as police reports, photographs and/or other judicial orders that help your case. This is called supporting documentation. Finally, one must include the Respondent’s address and/or as much information about him/her as you can. You can complete a Sheriff’s Information Sheet. Once that is completed, a Sheriff’s deputy will “serve” both a copy of the Petition and the Judge’s order to the Respondent.
After you have filed a Petition, a Judge will then review it. The Judge will make one of three decisions. The Judge can: (1) agree that you need protection and immediately grant the Temporary Injunction Order, (2) rule that your Petition does NOT meet the Florida requirements for an Injunction but will allow a hearing to determine a final ruling or (3) will rule that your Petiton does not meet the Injunction requirements and will NOT grant you a hearing. Option number three rarely happens and at the hearing for option number two, the assigned Judge will determine if an Injunction is warranted based on testimony from you, the Respondent and any eye-witnesses to the alleged actions that may be available. It is at this hearing that you will want a Violation of Injunction lawyer to give you the best chance of success.
Violation of an Injunction
After an order for an injunction has been ordered what happens if the Respondent continues to contact/harass the Petitioner? This may be the criminal charge of a Violation of Injunction. If the harassment continues, the police are usually called to make a report. Even if the police don’t feel that there are grounds to make an arrest, the Petitioner may still go to the Clerk’s office and fill out an Affidavit in Support of a Violation of Injunction if one wishes to pursue this. This can then be shared with the Judge or the state attorney’s office.
From the Pinellas County website, some reasons for a Violation of Injunction from a Respondent may include such things as:
1. Committing violence (such as a domestic battery) against the Petitoner.
2. Committing a criminal mischief against the Petitoner or destroying his/her property.
3. Being within 100 feet of the Petitioner’s motor vehicle, even if he/she is not in it.
4. Coming within 500 feet of the Petitioner’s home, work, school, or a named specific place frequently occupied by the Petitioner and/or their family.
5. Possessing a firearm or weapon if the Court had ordered them surrendered.
6. Telephoning, contacting or harassing the Petitioner personally or through a third-party.
7. Refusing to vacate a home/dwelling that the Respondent shares with the Petitioner.
In conclusion, both applying for or defending oneself against an injunction can be a complicated process. With an experienced Pinellas violence injunction lawyer by your side, you will be better prepared to deal with both the Court and with getting your life back on track.
Getting an injunction against repeat or domestic violence is one way that men or women can protect themselves against physical or emotional harm from known suspects. But what is an injunction and how can it protect you? What is a violation of injunction and how can you avoid being charged with this serious crime?
A recent blurb on the smoking gun legal website had to do with a domestic violence allegation. An Ohio woman was at a courthouse seeking a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend. When the judge left the room for a moment, the surveillance camera captures the man brutally attacking the woman, chasing her around the room and even battering his own mother when she tried to intervene! The man was eventually tased by deputies and charged with numerous offenses. Needless to say, the woman’s injunction against violence was granted.
What about injunctions in Florida? What needs to be shown in order for a judge to grant an injunction order? In this state an injunction for protection (or a “restraining order”), is a Civil Court Order that places restrictions on a person (known as a “Respondent”). This Order is placed because the Respondent is accused of violent actions (or sometimes threats) against the victim (known here as the “Petitioner”). This injunction starts when a Petition is filed with the Court by the Petitioner and a hearing is held. An injunction may have different orders that a Respondent must follow or he/she can be charged with a violation of an injunction. This restraining order may include provisions that the Respondent must move out of his/her house, that he must keep a certain distance from the Petitioner and/or no physical contact between the two parties.
The Four Types of Injunctions in Florida
1. Injunction Against Domestic Violence:
Defined under Florida Statute 741.28, “Violence or stalking that has occurred, or that the Petitioner has reasonable cause to believe they are in imminent danger of becoming the victim of, between individuals who are spouses, former spouses, or persons related by blood or marriage who are residing or have resided together as a family, or individuals who are residing together or have resided together as if family, or individuals who have a child in common”. For example, this type of Injunction can be between a man and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend (if they are or were living together), brother and sister or baby mama and baby daddy. Generally, the Petitioner only needs to show one instance of violence to get the restraining order granted.
2. Dating Violence:
This is generally stalking or violence that occured or that the Petitoner has reasonable belief that there is imminent danger of occurring between people who have (1) who have dated within the last six months, (2) are sexually involved and/or (3) have a continuous relationship that is more then just a business or social frienship.
3. Injunction Against Sexual Violence:
This type of restraining order is often the strictest and hardest to get granted. To qualify for this type, the Petitoner must show at least one of the following: He or she must have reported the incident to the police and cooperate fully with them or the Respondent was sentenced to incarceration and he/she is due out of prison within 90 days. Not just any crime is allowed to count however. The Respondent must have been incarcerated as a result of a sexual battery or a felony where a sex act was committed or attempted. If this strict criteria is not met in full, then the sexual violence injunction will not be granted by a Judge (though the Petitioner may qualify for one of the other injunction types).
4. Injunction against Repeat Violence:
Defined under Florida Statute 784.046, unlike the domestic violence injunction, there must be two (2) or more seperate acts of violence and/or stalking with at least one incident within the past six months. This may be the most common type of restraining order and is used for relationships of a non-domestic or non-romantic nature. Neighbor to neighbor, or classmate to classmate would be an example of this type of Injunction.
In part two of this entry, we will discuss further on how to file for restraining order and also what to do if you are charged with a violation of injunction. In the meanwhile, if you or a loved one needs further information about injunctions in Pinellas county please review the pinellas clerk website, which gives more details and forms that can be filled out immediately.
Like a scene out of a bad Hollywood “dark” comedy, a Pasco man was arrested for domestic assault, aggravated assault and tampering with a witness for kidnapping his wife and forcing her to go to dinner with him. per the baynews9 online article, the wife was fortunate, as this could have turned deadly…
Pasco sheriff’s detectives say a 49 year-old man invited his estranged wife over to his house, hoping to reconcile and put aside their differences. At his place, when his wife admitted that she didn’t love him anymore, her day quickly took a turn for the worse…
The man committed a battery by punching her in the head. He then picked up a tampering with a victim charge by taking her car keys and her cell phone, leaving her unable to either leave or call for help. For this lady, her nightmare was just beginning.
Detectives claim that the husband then forced his wife to sit and watch television with him at knifepoint. He then decided to try and win her back by forcing her to accompany him to the famed gourmet restaurant the Golden Corral. After dinner, he continued this romantic “date” by forcing her to accompany him to Walmart where he purchased new shoes for himself.
After the dinner and shopping excursion, the man headed back to his house, forcing his soon to be ex-wife to come back with him. Once home, he continued to force her to watch more television with him.
Around that time, the woman’s father came by the house. He was suspicious as the victim did not return any of her father’s calls the past several hours. The father managed to help his daughter get out of the house and into his car.
As they were driving away, the Defendant got a rifle, pointed it at the escaping vehicle and fired a shot into the air, thereby commiting an aggravated assault. This crime, normally a third degree felony with no mandatory prison, may have a three year minimum/mandatory prison sentence attached. This would occur only if the suspect pointed the firearm directly at the wife or her father.
As of this publication, the wife is safe and resting while the Defendant is still in the Pasco County jail…
According to public sources, the former Seattle Seahawk’s tight end was arrested the day before the couples wedding on suspicion of assault. A Kirkland county Judge later released Mr. Stevens, saying their was not enough evidence to hold him. For her part, Hope Solo arrived in court but did not say a word, leaving before talking to the Judge or the press. Per the police, charges may be brought at a later time as more evidence develops.
The athletic couple, who had been dating for two months, had allegedly gotten into an arguement about whether to live in Florida or Washington.
Police in the Seattle suburb arrived at the couple’s house around 3:45 a.m. on a call of a domestic disturbance.
Per the police report, there were several intoxicated people at the party and no one would cooperate with the police. The ex-NFL player was determined to be the guilty party based on circumstantial evidence and Hope Solo appeared to have a cut on her elbow, leading to the domestic assault charges. Jerramy Stevens also admitted to the police he was fighting with Ms. Solo and blood was found on his shirt. Hope Solo’s brother told police that there was a disturbance at the party started by several unknown men who left before the police arrived.
Besides Hope, another woman was taken to the hospital with a hip injury and a man had several cuts and bruises on his body.
This arrest is just the latest set back for Jerramy Stevens. The former first-round draft pick had one or two good seasons but is widly considered a bust, both on and off the field. He first received negative attention when he was charged with reckless driving for crashing into a nursing home!
His most recent arrest took place in 2010 while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was arrested for possession of marijuana the night before a game and was immediately kicked off the team.
Before a crowd of Countryside High school students, Melissa Dohme, 20, just a couple of years older then the kids she was talking to, gave her story. She told the students about the night her high school sweetheart tried to kill her. Ms. Duhme described how she was stabbed 32 times and had her throat slashed in detail. All the time she kept mentioning “it can happen to you“.
Her ex-boyfriend, before he was charged with attempted murder when he slashed her body, throat and face appeared to deeply care for her, taking her to the prom and texting her throughout the day. This same kindness soon became something else as Melissa described the night her ex tried to kill her.
Listening students chipped in and began to tell stories of their friends, friends who had been in violent relationships where there had been slaps and punches.
After the presentation by the now college student, a teacher gave the class a list of signs and warning signals to look out for. They learned that early signs of domestic violence include extreme jealousy and/or possessiveness, tendency to criticize family and friends, early requests for commitment and of course violent outbursts.
As former prosecutors in Pinellas county, we had a stint in Division “R”, the domestic violence courtroom. We saw the pain and sadness that domestic violence can cause. We knew the frustration and confusion that victims go though in deciding whether or not to press charges. Now as St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers, we have gotten even more education on this serious issue. According to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there were over 113,000 domestic violence calls resulting in almost 68,000 arrests in 2010 (the last available statistic year). We have learned that the best defense to this crime is to know the warning signs to avoid being just another tragedy,
If you or a loved one need assistance know that there is help. Don’t hesitate, call these numbers!
• The Haven of RCS, (727) 442-2128
• The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1-800-500-1119 Continue reading