Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

From the Tampa Bay Times online, in 2012 domestic homicide has seen the largest increase in Pinellas in almost two decades.

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!

Want Help?

To view the Pinellas report, please click on the 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.
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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.
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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.Conclusion

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.
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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…
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A late breaking story on ABC news, former soccer goalie and sex symbol Hope Solo was a victim of domestic violence from her boyfriend/fiance, former NFL bad boy Jerramy Stevens.

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!

He then began a whirlwind of arrests including a DUI charge in Arizona and another reckless driving.

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. Continue reading

From the Tampa Bay Times, a courageous young woman speaks out to a high school class about the dangers of domestic violence

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

From an article on the New York daily news website, the former member of the 80’s and 90’s hip hop group “Public Enemy” was arrested in Las Vegas on a charge of felony domestic battery.

The 53-year-old rapper turned “Flavor of Love” reality TV star, legal name William Drayton Jr., was booked into the Clark county jail. His domestic violence arrest stemmed from an arguement with his fiancee and threatening her teenage son with a knife (an aggravated assault).

As a St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer, I obviously don’t deal with Nevada criminal law. However in Florida, domestic battery is specifically emphasized by the legislature. Florida Statute 741.28 deals with domestic violence and reads as follows:

“(2) ”Domestic violence” means any 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”.The Florida legislature has statutes for each of the above listed crimes. However, if the crime occurred between family members or even lovers living together, it is considered domestic violence. In Pinellas county, misdemeanor domestic violence cases have their own division and courtroom (Division R). This allows for specialized prosecution as well as the development of uniques “domestic violence” fines and punishments. This “specialization” of domestic violence charges are also being done in Hillsborough, Pasco and most other Florida counties.
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After a domestic battery allegation in Florida, former NFL player and reality show “star” Chad Johnson has finalized his divorce per an article from The Washington Post.

The former wide receiver finalized his divorce from fellow reality TV star Evelyn Lozada just a month after his arrest on a domestic battery charge against her.

The Ex- Pro Bowler was competing in the Miami Dolphins training camp for a roster spot when Ms. Lozada accused him of battery against her during an arguement over his alleged infidelity. The Dolphins immediately cut the ageing athlete and the former stand out for the Cinncinnatti Bengals has yet to find a football home. In a TV interview Jonson, who is still facing a misdeameanor battery charge, has claimed he is now taking anger management classes.Johnson’s Florida criminal defense lawyer said the divorce was covered by a confidential prenuptial agreement. Chad Johnson, in turn, has become more introspective. He has legally changed his last name back to Johnson from his previous tongue-in-cheek “Ochocinco” and has claimed remorse.

“Chad has to work on Chad,” he says. “Chad has to go deep down inside and figure out where he went wrong. At what point did you lose focus on what’s most important? Like especially the game of football. . At some point I had drifted off track away from that and being one of the best at what I do.”This latest domestic battery allegation could not have come at a worse time for Johnson’s fading career. He had a very disappointing year with the Patriots in 2011 and was not a lock to make the Dolphins roster, even before his arrest.
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Recently the Florida Legislators enacted new legislation prohibiting someone from cutting off the airways of another or strangling them. It is a felony charge carrying a maximum penalty of five years in Florida State Prison if a person knowingly and intentionally, against the will of another, impedes the normal breathing or circulation of blood of a family or household member or a person whom he or she is dating. This is a very serious charge and it often charged by Florida State Attorney Office if there is any allegation of a battery around the neck and face area. Additionally, prosecutors take a very aggressive approach to prosecuting these types of crimes. Even if the victim does not wish to prosecute or go forward with the charge, the State Attorney’s Office will often move forward if there is a witness of a 911 call. However, there are many defenses to these allegations and an experienced trial attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. can successfully navigate you through the process.

Under Florida Statute 784.041 that took effective October 1, 2007, (2)(a) a person commits domestic battery by strangulation if a person chokes or causes great bodily harm by applying pressure on the throat or neck of another person or by blocking the nose or mouth of another person. In plain language, if a person intentionally tries to keep a person from breathing , and they are in a relationship, that person is at risk for prosecution.Each accusation is different and can be defendant in many ways, however, there are some important key elements that must be proven beyond every reasonable doubt by every Florida Prosecutor. A person accused of this crime must be in a “Dating Relationship” or by a “Family or household member” The Florida Legislator defines dating relationship as a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The Florida Legislator defines family or household member as a spouse, former spouse, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as a family, or have children in common. Under Florida Statute 741.28(3) to be eligible for a family or household member you must be currently or in the past lived together in the same single dwelling unit. Therefore, for example, if you get into a fight with your neighbor and allegedly choke him or her, this statute would not apply to you and be a legitimate defense to your charge. Additionally, if you are accused of chocking a close friend but have never lived together, that would be a valid defense to the charge of domestic battery by strangulation. If a person accidently chokes a person in the fog and confusion of the situation, that would be a valid defense to an accusation of domestic battery by strangulation. Certainly, if an individual agrees or consents to be choked, no crime has accused and is a defense to this charge.

In addition to all the situations above, often times persons find themselves arrested for a Domestic Battery by Strangulation when they were merely acting in self-defense. If you were not the primary aggressor and were defending yourself against an attack, this could be a valid defense to your charge.

An article from an Orlando paper dealt with a man arrested and charged with child abuse. The man, Johnny Nguyen, was arrested by police when he put his five year old daughter in his car trunk for over one minute. A witness yelled at Mr. Nguyen to stop and called 911. The Defendant claimed he was punishing her daughter for misbehaving in church. Is this child abuse? The answer in Florida is a resounding…maybe?

Florida, like the rest of the union, has certain built in exceptions for parental discipline over children. If a stranger hits a child, he may be arrested for child abuse or battery but a parent is permitted the lawful exercise of corporal punishment. Generally, Florida case law spells out what is considered “lawful” with a few examples below…

In State v. Figarola, 788 So.2d 1109 (Fla. 3d DCA 2001), the defendant was charged with felony child abuse for hitting his son multiple times in the face when the boy would not eat dinner. This caused the boy to have a split lip. The court ruled that the facts did not show “that the parent’s behavior was so excessive or unreasonable and beyond the scope of parental discipline to constitute child abuse.” Id. at 1011.

Another case with a similar outcome is Wilson v. State, 744 So.2d 1237 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). In Wilson, the defendant was accussed of slapping her six year old son in the face once with an open palm in response to him ignoring her requests to behave. The slap resulted in a red mark on his face but no permanent injuries or medical treatment. Here the Court ruled that these facts constituted not child abuse but permissible discipline.As Clearwater criminal lawyers, and former prosecutors, we have handled hundreds of child abuse cases. Many times, the person being charged is not a parent, rather a school teacher or another authority figure. The State of Florida has walked a thin line to both protect the children while upholding the rights of certain individuals to discipline appropriately.

In State v. Lanier, 979 So.2d 365 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008), the defendant, an elementary school teacher was arrested for child abuse. He was accused of stomping on a four year old’s foot after the child had stomped on another student. In this case the Court determined that the defendant’s actions were permissible and did not amount to an “act that could…’reasonably be expected’ to cause physical injury.” Id. at 368.

Finally, in King v. State, 903 So.2d 954 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005) the defendant, an administrator at a Christian academy, was charged with felony child abuse. The defendant allegedly spanked an eight year old child with a paddle two times, leaving large welts and bruises on her buttocks. This was done because the child was being punished for lying and cheating. The defendant did have a signed permission slip allowing corporal punishment at this school and the Court concluded that the spanking alone did NOT constitute felony child abuse.

What does this mean for Mr. Nguyen? His criminal defense lawyer may try and argue permissible corporal punishment. That may depend on several unkown factors at this time such as the weather, the defendant’s past history and what if any injuries did his daughter receive?
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