August 20, 2014

Branson v. Rodriguez-Linares - Domestic Violence Injunction for Cyberstalking

A domestic violence injunction is intended in Florida as a means of protecting individuals from harm by those who have previously shown aggression or other dangerous tendencies.
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Most often, people think of injunctions or restraining orders as being granted when a paramour physically attacks his love interest. It's true this is often the case. However, what we are increasingly seeing is domestic violence injunctions granted in cases where no violence is reported, but rather the defendant is accused of "cyberstalking."

Our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence injunction defense attorneys know the burden of proof is lesser with requests for protection than for criminal conviction. It's not uncommon for an injunction to be granted, even when there is no criminal conviction or even arrest for the underlying actions alleged. With a cyberstalking allegation, it's possible one could have an injunction against them without ever touching or even talking to the person filing the request.

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May 23, 2014

Kunkel v. Stanford - Challenging Florida Domestic Violence Injunctions

A domestic violence injunction is not as bad on your permanent record as a criminal domestic abuse conviction, but the person on the receiving end can still suffer serious consequences.
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As a public record, it can be viewed by anyone, even when the allegations aren't proven. This can have a direct impact on career and educational opportunities. It can also result in the restriction of gun ownership rights and other freedoms. Sometimes referred to as "restraining orders," injunctions can arise out of a criminal case or be requested through a civil filing. They may also significantly impact the outcome of child custody and divorce proceedings.

Hiring an experienced domestic violence defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale can help to effectively defend those facing injunctions or criminal charges. In many cases we can reduce the chances that a temporary order will be granted or that a temporary order will give way to a permanent one.

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May 11, 2014

Domestic Violence Accounts for 21 Percent of Violent Victimizations

A new report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that nearly a quarter of all violent victimizations in the country - including rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated and simple assault - stemmed from a domestic situation.
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Analysts culled victim-offender relationship data from the National Crime Victimization Survey over the 10-year period, and determined that 15 percent were the result of intimate partner violence, 4 percent by immediate family members and 2 percent by other relatives. Casual or well-known acquaintances accounted for 32 percent of all violent incidents, while strangers accounted for nearly 40 percent.

Our Domestic violence defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale recognize that society has an interest in protecting victims of serious crime. However, too often the pendulum has swung the other way, making it far too easy for an exaggerated report or an incident of mutual violence to result in serious charges and lifelong consequences.

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March 10, 2014

Broward Criminal Defense Watch:Pleading to a Domestic Violence Charge No "Deal"

It's not unusual in Fort Lauderdale domestic violence cases for prosecutors to offer defendants a plea "deal."
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However, experienced criminal defense lawyers know that all too frequently, these offers are not advantageous to the accused - particularly when there may be grounds to have the charges significantly reduced or dismissed.

Prosecutors pose the offer as if it is one or the other: Plead guilty and take the "deal" or go to trial and face jail or prison time. Public defenders, who are often overworked and underpaid, may not have the time or resources to mount a viable defense. You may be urged to simply take the deal.

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February 6, 2014

False Domestic Violence, Child Abuse Allegations Can Mar Your Future

The Florida Department of Children and Families received a spate of calls regarding alleged abuse involving a father and his young son.
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Authorities dug deeper to learn the accused had recently been embroiled in a custody battle with his ex-wife over the son in question. Investigators found no evidence of abuse, and this resulted in three individuals - the ex-wife and two of her friends - being arrested for making a false report of child abuse.

Our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence attorneys know that such outcomes are rare. In a great number of these cases, authorities are hasty in making arrests, for fear of being held liable in some way if they fail to act and something more serious occurs.

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December 15, 2013

Holidays Rife With Domestic Violence Allegations in Florida

Glittering lights may adorn the outside of many homes this time of year.
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Too often though, that facade betrays the darker reality of what is occurring behind closed doors.

There is no question that the number of domestic violence charges in Browardand elsewhere spike during the holiday season. Contributing factors include financial pressures, unrealistic expectations and often, the increased consumption of alcohol. Also during this time, couples who might be on the brink of breaking up will try to hold it together through the first of the year - only to find tensions rise to the breaking point and beyond.

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November 20, 2013

Stalking Allegations on the Rise in Florida

Years ago, a bad break-up might linger in your mind for a few weeks or months, giving way to the occasional pang of rejection or regret only every so often.
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Even if forgetting wasn't fully possible, it was easier back then to let go.

Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know it's much tougher these days because updates on virtually anyone's ex are available with just a few clicks. Social media connections are such that it may seem you are never truly able to disconnect and move on. This is compounded by the fact that we all have such instantaneous access to voice our immediate anger and frustrations - in some cases very publicly. It's no wonder that cases of harassment and aggravated stalking have risen in recent years.

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November 10, 2013

Domestic Violence Arrest: "He Kept Walking Into My Knife"

An argument over a pot-gobbling pooch ended with a South Florida model in handcuffs after telling deputies her boyfriend had repeatedly walked into the knife in her hand.
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The 26-year-old was arrested for domestic battery in Dania Beach after responding deputies took note of a couple small knife cuts to the boyfriend's head and face and another cut across his hand. He was not seriously injured and did not require hospitalization.

Although reporters described the judge as "bemused" as he read aloud the incident report before the court during the defendant's first appearance, a charge of domestic battery is no laughing matter.

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October 20, 2013

Florida Aggravated Assault Case to be Retried

A Florida appellate court has ruled that a woman who received two decades behind bars for firing a warning shot at her reportedly abusive husband - a shot that injured no one - is entitled to a new trial.
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Our domestic violence defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale are familiar with the case, in which the defendant was given a mandatory 20-year sentence by a reluctant judge after a conviction on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The appellate court's decision in Alexander v. State of Florida hinged on the fact that the jury had been improperly instructed with regard to the issue of self-defense. Prior to the conviction, the jury had been told that in order for her to claim self-defense, she would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she believed her husband was about to seriously harm her or her children, who were present in the home.

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September 30, 2013

Florida Stalking Cases Make Headlines

A 25-year-old man from Coconut Creek has been arrested for stalking pro-golfer Morgan Pressel - the third time since 2009 that he's been arrested for the same offense. He's been arrested on at least four other occasions since 2007 for trespassing and contempt of court.
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Authorities say the defendant began harassing Pressel via Twitter several days before he attempted to gain access to the gated community where she lives, telling a security guard that he was her boyfriend. The security guard, aware of the restraining order, contacted sheriff's deputies. At the time of his arrest, he was subject to an order of protection mandating he stay at least 500 feet from her and her home.

The case was made particularly noteworthy because of the celebrity element. It's fairly obvious when hearing the defendant's explanation (that another professional golfer, Jack Nicklaus, and the CIA had instructed him to go to Pressel's home) that there is something amiss. However, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know that the majority of stalking arrests in Florida stem from domestic disputes or between individuals who actually know one another.

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June 17, 2013

Florida Court: 20 Years for Domestic Violence Warning Shot

The 31-year-old mother of a toddler and 11-year-old twins had never before been arrested.

She had never intended for anyone to get hurt.
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In fact, no one was hurt when she fired a warning shot into a wall three years ago to scare her husband, whom she felt was physically threatening her, into backing off.

And yet, our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyers have learned, she has been slapped with a 20-year prison sentence.

This is a miscarriage of justice, and it highlights some of the deep flaws in the state's minimum mandatory sentencing laws, which allow for little to no judicial discretion if a person is convicted.

Cases like this show why it's so important to hire a good lawyer from the very beginning of a case, and hopefully help you avoid a conviction and ultimately a tragic outcome.

The woman was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. According to Florida Statute 784.021, an aggravated assault is an assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill or with intent to commit a felony. It's a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. However, because she fired a gun while committing a felony, it is boosted the penalty. Under the state's mandatory minimum gun laws, a 20-year sentence was required.

The judge in this case refused to allow the defendant to invoke the state's "Stand Your Ground" defense law, which would have given her the opportunity to argue self defense.

Critics are decrying the assertion that racism may be at play here.

In this case, the defendant was a young black woman who had a master's degree and no criminal record. Her husband, however, reportedly had a history of abuse. The gun was legally registered and owned. She had a restraining order against him, even though she'd only had a child with him less than two weeks earlier. She had only gone to the home to retrieve her belongings. Even her estranged husband would later admit to police that he had abused her, he threatened her life that afternoon and he never believe she intended to kill him because the gun was never pointed directly at him. Yet she was convicted in less than 15 minutes by a jury and sentenced to 20 years in prison by a judge who said he had no other choice.

Yet, another recent case involved an elderly white man who walked in on his wife engaging in sex with a younger man and shot the other man dead. In that case, he claimed he believed he walked in on a stranger who had broken into his home and was raping his wife. In that case, he was acquitted under the "Stand Your Ground" law.

The minimum mandatory sentencing, which is known as the state's "10-20-life" law was implemented in 1999. Anyone who displays a firearm in the commission of certain felonies receives an automatic 10 years behind bars. Anyone who fires a gun in the commission of certain felonies will receive a mandatory 20 years. If someone is shot or killed, he or she will receive 25 years to life in prison.

Florida is one of many states with minimum mandatory laws, mostly pertaining to drugs. But cases like this show how unfair these statutes can be. Even the Republican state legislator who originally created the law back in 1999 said the sentence in this case was not what lawmakers intended. Rather, he said, lawmakers were seeking to "get at the thug who was robbing a liquor store and... pulled out a gun and shot someone during the commission of a crime."

Unfortunately, when lawmakers fail to consider the consequences of drafting overly-broad legislation, this is the kind of result we might see.

Continue reading "Florida Court: 20 Years for Domestic Violence Warning Shot" »

May 10, 2013

Broward Domestic Violence Involving Older Parents

In Pompano Beach, police reported that a 23-year-old man was arrested after reportedly attacking and choking his father, stopping only after the family's dog, a pit bull, intervened and jumped on the back of the son.
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Our Broward domestic violence defense lawyers recognize that domestic violence cases are always fraught with he-said-she-said, and unfortunately almost always, someone is going to jail, even when both parties may actually be equally culpable.

Most often, people think of domestic violence as occurring between those who have a romantic relationships. But parent-child relationships can be equally volatile.

Charges in these cases can be particularly severe, if the person alleged to be the victim is over the age of 65.

Some adult children may fail to take this aspect into account when the argument begins to escalate.

Florida statute 825.102 holds that abuse of an elderly person is defined as the intentional infliction of physical or psychological injury on an adult who is elderly or disabled or an intentional act that could be reasonably expected to result in physical or psychological injury to the elderly adult. One could also be charged under this statute if he or she is found to have actively encouraged another person to commit an act that results or might reasonably result in physical or psychological injury to the elderly victim.

Even if no serious bodily harm or permanent disability results from this action, the defendant could still be facing a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

If the abuse is deemed to be aggravated - that is, it involves aggravated battery or willful torture, malicious punishment or caging that results in great bodily harm or permanent disability, the charge is hiked up to a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

By contrast, defendants charged solely with domestic violence will rarely face that kind of time.

Still, that's not to say it isn't serious. A conviction could be used against you in your divorce or child custody hearing - regardless of whether the incident involved the person you are now up against in the civil case. Plus, you won't be able to bond out of jail immediately, you may have to surrender your firearms, it could be grounds for deportation and it could affect your current job or future employment prospects.

In this case, the argument involved an adult son and father and it was over money. It was around 9 a.m., and the argument rapidly escalated, with the son allegedly throwing his father to the ground and placing him a chokehold with his arm around his father's neck.

The father would later tell investigators he struggled to gasp for air. The two men continued to fight throughout the house - into the kitchen and then back into the living room - where the father was again placed in another chokehold.

The father reportedly began yelling for help, and a neighbor burst in at that point, trying to pull the son off his father. He wasn't strong enough, but around this time, the family's pill bull jumped into the brawl.

The dog bit everyone involved a number of times.

The son then fled the apartment. He was arrested a short time later at a residence nearby.

Emergency medical services responded to treat the father for injuries, but the father declined.

The son was charged with domestic battery by strangulation and battery with domestic violence. These are third-degree felony charges, punishable by up to five years in prison.

He was not charged with elder abuse, as the father was just a few years shy of the cut-off for that charge.

Continue reading "Broward Domestic Violence Involving Older Parents " »

April 9, 2013

Sibling Domestic Violence in Florida Quite Common

They say twins share a bond that is unrivaled.

But in the case of two twins from Palm Coast, it appears their rivalry too was unrivaled.

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Our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence attorneys understand the two 21-year-old brothers spared using just about anything that was in reach - including a frying pan, a machete, a pickup truck and a gun. At one point, their mother got involved.

It sounds like a rather outrageous story not only because they are twins but because we tend to think of our siblings as the ones who are supposed to stand up and defend us. The reality is that sibling-on-sibling violence is not as unusual as you might think. Animosity can be deep-rooted, stemming from small slights in childhood all the way to grievous wrongs as adults.

A 2005 study by the University of Michigan revealed that roughly 35 percent of all siblings commit assaults against one another. This was true regardless of race, income level or ethnic group.

Part of the problem is that parents tend to expect siblings to fight in childhood, so they often do little to intervene. Those patterns then repeat themselves, sometimes into adulthood.

In this case, it's not clear exactly what started the altercation. The brother alleged to be the victim told investigators that his brother approached him with a frying pan in hand, wielding it in a manner he deemed threatening.

The alleged victim said he pleaded with his brother to "stop pulling weapons on me," before running out to his truck in an effort to get away. The aggressor however then climbed onto the hood of the truck and began banging on it with the frying pan. The aggressor then reportedly went inside the home, grabbed a machete and ran back outside threatening to stab his brother.

During this time, the other brother might have gotten away, but for the fact that he realized his keys were inside the house. In a reported effort to make it safely from his truck to his home, the alleged victim grabbed his gun from inside the truck, pointed it has brother and warned him to back up. When his brother refused, he reportedly fired two shots into the ground.

He then was able to go inside, retrieve his keys and leave, though he later told investigators he was worried his brother might have suffered a gunshot wound to the foot.

Investigators arrived to find that the aggressor reportedly did have a wound to his foot, though he refused to reveal to officers whether it was from a gunshot wound or something else. By the time officers got there, the boys' mother was there and reportedly attempted to impede the investigation. She told police shots were never fired, though officers aren't clear on how else she tried to impede their work.

Officers arrested the one brother for domestic violence assault and the mother for interfering with an investigation.

Domestic violence statutes are located in Chapter 741 of Florida Statutes, which cover domestic relations. A lot of times when we're referring to domestic violence, we're talking about married spouses or couples in relationships. However, the law doesn't limit it in that way.

A domestic violence is considered any assault, battery, stalking, sex crime, kidnapping or any other criminal offense that results in injury or death against one family member, household member or romantic partner against another. It could mean someone who is related to you by marriage or by blood or someone with whom you have a child but are not romantically involved. It could even involve your roommate, regardless of whether you have any romantic or familial ties to that person.

Penalties for a domestic violence charge can be severe, and they could include sanctions at work or effects on your child custody arrangements as well. Your top priority after arrest should be to hire an experienced South Florida domestic violence attorney.

Continue reading "Sibling Domestic Violence in Florida Quite Common" »

March 28, 2013

Hollywood Police Arrest Mother in "Honor Violence"

A Hollywood woman is facing child abuse charges after investigators allege she burned her 17-year-old daughter, who had reportedly engaged in an online relationship with a boy, despite the fact that she was betrothed to her cousin.
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Our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyers know that instances like this, involving conservative Middle Eastern parents and their children, are sometimes referred to as "honor violence." The girl's actions, although acceptable by Western standards, are deemed a stain on her family's honor by those within their religious and cultural community.

However, law enforcement officials and prosecutors will not take cultural backgrounds into consideration when deciding when to pursue charges in these cases. They are looking strictly at whether the alleged actions violate the law.

As styles of parental discipline can vary greatly between cultures, it's very important immigrants to the U.S. understand how criminal laws vary between their native country and their new one. What in other places may be seen as a reasonable effort to control or punish unacceptable behavior, here is interpreted as child abuse or domestic violence.

Domestic violence, as defined in Florida Statute 741.28, is any form of assault, battery, sexual assault or battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment or any other offense that results in the physical injury or death of a family or household member by another family or household member.

When the alleged victim of these acts is under the age of 18, it may be considered child abuse. There are varying degrees of this crime, but in its most basic form, child abuse is defined in Florida Statute 827.03 as the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury to a child or the intentional act that could reasonably result in physical or mental injury to a child or the intentional encouragement of such act.

In this case, the principal of the girl's school called authorities after a classmate alerted them to the girl being suicidal over the incident, which is alleged to have taken place in January. Her 35-year-old mother, who was born in Yemen and speaks no English, reportedly burned the girl three times with a hot knife on her arm after learning of the friendship she had developed online with another boy, despite the fact that she had an arranged marriage pending.

The girl said that although her mother had carried out the action, her father had known about it. He has not at this juncture been charged with a crime, though based on the "encouragement" portion of the definition, he certainly could be at some point.

Initially when questioned, he told investigators the girl had burned herself on the stove. When detectives pointed out the presence of three different burns, the father requested to speak to an attorney and the interview ended. The mother was not interviewed, as she speaks only Arabic.

The mother was arrested on three counts of domestic violence and was released after posting nearly $23,000 bond.

There are numerous other examples where this issue has arisen in the U.S. recently. In the spring of 2008, a suburban New York brother stabbed his teen sister for going to nightclubs and donning clothing he deemed immodest. He was ultimately convicted of attempted murder and handed a 10-year sentence.

In the fall of 2009, a father killed his 20-year-old daughter in Arizona by running her over with a vehicle after she reportedly refused to be a party to the arranged marriage her parents had established for her. He was convicted of murder and given 35 years behind bars.

And then just last year, a 19-year-old was reportedly attacked by her father, mother and younger sister after she was caught speaking to a non-male family member. All three family members are facing assault charges.

Continue reading "Hollywood Police Arrest Mother in "Honor Violence"" »

March 15, 2013

Broward Domestic Battery Charges Filed Against Decorated Deputy

A retired Broward County Sheriff's deputy who survived a gunshot wound to the head during a traffic stop five years ago, has been arrested on charges of domestic violence battery by strangulation against his estranged wife.
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Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense attorneys know that this charge is a third-degree felony under FL Statute 784.041, punishable by up to five years in prison.

It's a serious charge that requires prosecutors to prove that the defendant knowingly and intentionally, against the will of the other person, impedes the alleged victim's normal breathing or circulation by applying pressure to the person's neck or throat or by blocking the person's mouth or nose. It's considered a domestic violence situation if the relationship between the accused and accuser is familial or dating or if the two share a household.

In this case, the pair had been married just three months and were allegedly arguing over whether their young son could or should stay with his paternal grandparents. Police say when the mother reached in to the vehicle to retrieve their son, the retired officer began pushing her from where he sat in the driver's seat. He then reportedly grabbed her by the neck and applied pressure to the point that she was unable to breathe. It's not clear whether he actually got out of the vehicle at any point during the alleged altercation.

The woman reportedly went to her parents' home and immediately called police, who noted visible scratching and bruising on her throat.

However, defense attorneys for the former officer say that the residual effects of that shooting five years ago would have prevented him from carrying out that assault.

The traffic stop in which he was shot involved a convicted felon who reportedly owned a handgun. The felon had just learned that his probation officer knew about the gun, and was determined not to return to jail. When he was stopped, he responded by shooting the officer at close range in the head.

The officer required numerous surgeries and rehabilitation, during which he regained his ability to speak in both Spanish and English. Doctors called the recovery "miraculous."

Then last year, while he was off-duty at an ice cream shop with his mother, he said a homeless man approached the two and assaulted his mom. He said he ordered the man to stop, but he would not. In the end, he said, he was forced to shoot him. The man survived, but no charges were ever filed.

The police report in this most recent case makes no mention of whether the officer's traumatic head injury played a role in what happened. In fact, defense attorneys are denying the alleged victim's allegations. But if the evidence at some point indicates that he did somehow assault his wife, defense lawyers may consider approaching it from the perspective that the head injury had impaired his judgment, and he therefore should not be held entirely or at all responsible.

This same reasoning could be potentially applied in domestic violence cases involving soldiers or others who have suffered some sort of severe trauma to the brain. It's estimated that some 1.7 million Americans experience a traumatic brain injury each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A 2011 study conducted by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor indicated that young adults who have suffered severe head injuries were more likely to be involved in a physical altercation or participate in some other kind of violence. The findings were presented in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers found that severe brain injuries may cause changes with regard not only to a person's memory and emotions, but also their ability to reason and control impulsiveness and aggression.

Continue reading "Broward Domestic Battery Charges Filed Against Decorated Deputy" »

February 19, 2013

Domestic Violence Arrests in Broward Spike on Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is supposed to be one of romance - sweet cards, roses and candlelight. heart.jpg

But our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know that too often, the night ends horribly - with someone in the back of a squad car on their way to being booked for a domestic violence charge.

The Sun Sentinel reports that this past Valentine's Day, there were two dozen people in both Broward and Palm Beach County Jails, booked on charges of assaulting or battering a loved one. We can't say for certain whether those cases absolutely involved spouses (domestic violence can be charged against any intimate, including children and roommates). However, we do know that domestic violence counselors at the Broward County Women in Distress handled nearly 40 calls that day - both women and men.

The counselors say there is a lot of pressure on couples when it comes to holidays like Valentine's Day to have a "perfect" day or evening. (The same could be said of holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.) When it doesn't happen that way, tempers can flare. Factor in the red wine or other alcohol, and things can quickly get ugly.

The unfortunate thing is that by the time police are called, someone is most likely going to jail - even if both parties agree that initial accounts were exaggerated. Police don't want to risk being called out later that night for a more serious crime, and will more often than not choose to separate the two by arresting one - even above the protestations of the other.

In addition to actual assaults, we also see a lot of violation of domestic violence injunction arrests surrounding this day. In the spirit of the holiday, people are trying to patch the fences and reconcile. Violations aren't always another incident of assault. Often, they are handed out simply by the defendant coming within 500 feet of the petitioner's home, school, work or other specified location, per Florida Statute 741.31.

But it's important to understand that an arrest for violation of injunction for a protection order can happen even when both parties consent to the meeting. Anyone - not just the petitioner - can report that violation.

This most recent Feb. 14, one of the more serious local cases involved allegations of text-message infidelity between a pregnant fiancee and the best friend of her betrothed. The two men went to confront the female in her apartment, but the men ended up brawling in the bedroom while the woman hid under the sheets. Her fiance then refused to allow her to leave. She reportedly called police, who upon arrival said the fiance was aggressive and ended up using a Taser on him.

The following day in court, the woman denied she had been unfaithful and didn't want to cooperate in her fiance's prosecution. In these cases, however, the requests of the alleged victim are not always honored.

A domestic violence conviction can haunt you for years to come. It's important that no matter your situation, you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to assist you in fighting the charge.

Continue reading "Domestic Violence Arrests in Broward Spike on Valentine's Day" »

January 1, 2013

Spouse Filed Florida Protection Order? Seek Lawyer Immediately.

If your spouse has obtained a restraining order against you, it's critical that you contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyer as soon as possible - even if you haven't yet been arrested. therings.jpg

The holidays can be a stressful time. Sometimes, a domestic incident --or accusations of one -- can result in legal trouble. Allegations made in these requests may be completely unsubstantiated. But failure to contest them can result in a forfeiture of your rights. Additionally, these orders may result in interference with child custody or visitation, your ability to possess weapons and could block you from attending certain important functions or events.

A prominent pastor out of Orlando is currently battling such allegations made in a petition that was granted by his wife and mother of his three children recently, following the revelation that he had recently had an affair with a church administrator - the day before the couple's 13th wedding anniversary.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the pastor, whose father heads a mega-church and is a spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama, resigned from his church late last months after the affair was revealed. Less than a week later, his wife came forward alleging extreme violence, erratic behavior and alcohol abuse.

His wife now alleges that after several happy years together, the abuse began early last year.

She included photographs of bruises on her arms that she contends were inflicted during an argument with he husband the day before Valentine's Day last year. She alleged that her husband kicked her and then pinned her down on the bed by her arms while screaming and cursing at her.

A month later, she says, the couple was staying at a friend's home and her husband began drinking heavily. At one point, he reportedly lamented that he had no way out of the marriage, a statement that prompted her to sleep in a locked bedroom with her cellphone nearby in case she needed to call for help.

Then last summer, she said, she called an associate pastor to their home after her husband allegedly threatened and insulted her after he had been drinking heavily.

Then recently, she said she returned home from a day trip she had taken with her daughters to find her husband passed out from intoxication and their 5-year-old son unattended. The pair argued, and her husband reportedly left the home with two weapons in his possession. When family members came to the home that night, they reportedly discovered syringes, "vials of liquids" and pills throughout his possessions.

She also alleged he typically drinks two bottles of whiskey every night. She referenced a suicide note she discovered last spring that gave instructions on what to do if he died, expressing grief that he had become a burden on those he loves.

Based on this, the judge granted her a temporary restraining order and scheduled a follow-up hearing to determine whether it should be made permanent.

A day after those allegations were made public, the pastor and his attorney responded, saying that none of it was true and he had never physically harmed her or the children and had never threatened to do so either.

Given the timing of the affair discovery, the immediate filing of a domestic violence restraining order in this case seems suspect.

Sometimes, these orders are filed just after an arrest. Sometimes, they can end up leading to an arrest. Whatever your situation, contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Continue reading "Spouse Filed Florida Protection Order? Seek Lawyer Immediately." »

November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving and Other Holidays See Spike in Domestic Violence Arrests

A Hollywood man who was reportedly belligerently intoxicated made headlines recently after his domestic violence arrest. He reportedly told officers he should be allowed to "touch my wife any way I want to." christmasdinner.jpg

The judge disagreed, and the 46-year-old is now being held on $6,700 bond.

Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense attorneys understand that as we approach Thanksgiving and on through the rest of the holidays, we're going to see an uptick in both domestic violence calls and arrests.

The fact is, of course a marriage license doesn't give anyone the right to be abusive. People tend to say things when they're impaired that they never would otherwise.

Still, this man's conversation with police won't help his case. It's worth noting this Thanksgiving if you are involved in a family squabble and police are called to arrest you: Don't say anything. It can be tempting to jump in and try to explain yourself or how the other person has over-reacted. But after your arrest, it isn't likely to do much good, and it's probably only going to hurt your case - especially if you've been drinking, because you're liable to say something you don't mean. Wait for your attorney to clear it up.

According to a recent study on domestic violence arrests, there is a 22 percent increase in calls on Thanksgiving. That increase actually continues steadily throughout the week after the holiday.

On Christmas Day, domestic violence calls are up 17 percent, and on New Year's Eve, they jump by more than 30 percent.

And it's not just spouses or intimate partners. It often involves other family members.

There are several explanations for this:

First of all, the holidays are stressful. You are gathering with people you maybe don't see all that often, and that's perhaps because you might not like them all that much. Many people feel a sense of obligation to visit with family because it's tradition, but such gatherings may tend to fuel the flames of old hurts, grudges or resentments. And it's not usually a quick visit either - it's hours and hours.

This tends to lead to the second cause of problems during these gatherings, which is alcohol. This is like adding fuel to a grease fire. Some people use it as a coping mechanism, while others simply don't know their limit.

Thirdly, you have the money elements. Holidays can be expensive. Not only is there a bird, and the stuffing and the other sides and the desserts - but then there's the travel costs. And it continues from there, immediately with Black Friday. There is a great deal of pressure to spend, and these days, people are still struggling. Given that financial problems are at the root of many family disagreements, it's not wonder that this element can lead to extra tensions.

It's important if at all possible to take a step back and remember to relax. Avoid situations you know are going to be tense, and walk away from those that appear to be escalating.

If you are arrested, understand that because it's a long weekend, you may spend an extra day or two in jail. But make that first phone call to your defense attorney.

Continue reading "Thanksgiving and Other Holidays See Spike in Domestic Violence Arrests" »

November 12, 2012

Domestic Violence Homicides Up Dramatically in Broward

Fort Lauderdale domestic violence attorneys know the issue is a growing problem, as evidenced by a recent report by the Sun-Sentinel, indicating that while overall crime rates are down, murders are up dramatically - and it's due to domestic violence. fear1.jpg

Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti reported that murders in the county rose an eye-popping 85 percent in the first half of this year compared to last.

According to statistics recently released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were 21 murders in the first half of 2011. Contrast that with the first half of 2012, when there were reportedly 39 homicides.

The vast majority of those cases, Lamberti said, stemmed from domestic violence.

While we certainly don't agree with law enforcement on every matter, we do agree with the statement he gave regarding the reasons behind the problem:

After a fatal domestic violence case, people have a tendency to say, "he or she just snapped." But all too often, there is a lot more going in a troubled relationship that ends in homicide, and there generally are repeated and escalating incidents in prior history.

That's why when our attorneys take on new clients one of the first things we typically suggest they do is attend counseling and, if necessary, substance abuse treatment. We have found that not only is this viewed favorably by the court, potentially allowing you more leniency in a plea deal or sentencing, you have the opportunity to address underlying problems. This will allow you to hopefully prevent a similar episode from happening in the future.

Our attorneys are dedicated to helping those individuals who are wrongly accused or whose criminal domestic violence charges are inflated and even those for who might carry some of the burden of responsibility for their actions. These are very serious charges, with long-term consequences and the social stigma that comes with conviction. As law enforcement continues its crackdown on household violence, the number of marginal or unfair arrests will also no doubt increase.

Domestic situations have a propensity to quickly spiral out of control, often with both sides acting as aggressors. Still, it is almost always the male half who is arrested.

The majority of these cases will be prosecuted as misdemeanors. Many understand misdemeanors to be not as serious as felony cases, but a conviction on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge can have far reaching consequences.

First, in addition to a possible year in jail, you will likely serve a mandatory minimum of at least 5 days behind bars. After that, you'll likely be made to endure a 30-week batterer's intervention program. You will also forfeit any rights to have a firearm while you're on probation, your concealed weapons permit is going to be revoked and you will never be able to have your criminal record expunged or sealed.

Secondly, because this charge is never blotted from your criminal record, it's something potential schools, employers and any member of the public will be able to easily look up and find. In some fields, such as primary education or law enforcement, you may be barred entirely from your career field, as such convictions are seen as a moral deficiency.

The best way you can avoid this is to avoid a conviction.

One technique that our attorneys sometimes employ to do this is to facilitate a victim outreach.

Many alleged victims regret that the situation has gotten to the point it has, and have no real desire to move forward with the case anyway. In some cases, they may wish to reconcile. However, the court may bar the defendant from contacting the alleged victims. Having your defense attorney do it for you can sometimes result in agreements to drop the charges. It's important to note that domestic violence victims themselves don't have the power to drop a case - only prosecutors do. However, if a victim refuses to cooperate, it can make proving that case much tougher.

Continue reading "Domestic Violence Homicides Up Dramatically in Broward" »

October 30, 2012

Report: Domestic Violence Up in Broward, Palm Beach

The Broward County Bar Association recently released a detailed analysis offering some insight into why local domestic violence cases have surged. silhouetteseries.jpg

Broward domestic violence defense attorneys know that a big part of it has to do with the economy. It's practically a science - meteorologists can tell from barometric pressure readings whether it's going to be a good weather day or a bad one. Defense attorneys know that when the economy begins to tank, domestic violence cases increase.

Throughout the U.S., calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline have climbed by about 13 percent from 2007 to 2009. In Florida, domestic violence centers reported a 40 percent increase in demand for services from late 2008 to late 2009. In the last year, Broward County domestic violence centers have reported an eye-popping 43 percent increase in calls, while those in Palm Beach County have reported an uptick of 27 percent.

What does the economy have to do with it? Consider first that South Florida has been hit especially hard by the economic crisis. Even though politicians in Washington continue to espouse the fact that we're now technically in a recovery, a lot of people here are still struggling with impending foreclosures, unemployment or underemployment, reduced wages and overall economic insecurity. When people are on edge or depressed, that alone can lead to "taking it out on" those closes to you. It can also lead to substance abuse, which is another factor in domestic violence allegations.

Something else that is not often discussed with regard to domestic violence allegations in tough economic times is the fact that police agencies are often overworked and understaffed. Officers are being forced to take on more cases without working any additional hours, as local, state and federal budget cuts put restrictions on overtime and the hiring. And, of course, a similar strain on resources exists in the court system.

Officers conduct a cursory overview of the facts with a few questions - and that's it. But almost always in domestic violence cases, someone is going to jail. Even if you are charged with a misdemeanor, as is the case with most domestic violence arrests, that mark is going to remain on your permanent record forever, unless your attorney can convince the state attorney's office to drop or reduce the charges or if you are exonerated by a judge or jury.

This is why it's critical to hire an experienced domestic violence attorney because this kind of a conviction - even if you plead no contest - will follow you as you try to apply for a job, or even keep the one you have. The current economic state of this country makes this an even more pressing issue.

Some of the strategies that a criminal defense lawyer in your case might employ include:
--Showing a potential monetary or other benefit that the accuser stands to gain with your conviction;
--Calling witnesses to testify that the person accused has a reputation for being non-violent and peaceful;
--Calling witnesses to testify that the accuser has a history of not being truthful;
--Showing that the accuser may be an unreliable witness due to the abuse of drugs or alcohol;
--Showing that the actions of the accused were taken either in self-defense or in order to protect children from the acts of the accuser.

Continue reading "Report: Domestic Violence Up in Broward, Palm Beach" »

October 15, 2012

Fort Lauderdale Domestic Violence Charges No Laughing Matter

A report under the news category, "Flori-Duh" mocked a Fort Lauderdale man who had been arrested on charges of domestic violence battery after reportedly covering a woman with tomato sauce and shaving cream. softfoam.jpg

However, Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyers know that in all seriousness, the charges are nothing to laugh about.

The news report details the account of a domestic violence dispute that quickly escalated into a situation in which the 26-year-old man allegedly doused the woman in cream and sauce. The judge presiding over the situation said he thought he had heard just about everything: domestic violence by tuna can, pizza, sandwiches and meatballs. These are the stuff of legendary lunchroom food fights, but in the context of a domestic violence case, the repercussions are far steeper than a trip to the principal's office. (By the way, a high school food fight in Arizona recently resulted in felony battery on a teacher charges for one of the teens involved, so the use of food in an action against someone else doesn't de-criminalize the act.)

Florida statute 784.011 defines assault as an intentional and unlawful threat by word or act to do violence upon another person accompanied by the ability to carry out that threat. Battery, as defined in Florida statute 784.03, is the act of intentionally touching or striking another person against the will of that person.

Florida Statute 741.28 defines domestic violence as ANY assault, battery, sexual assault or battery, stalking, false imprisonment, kidnapping "or any other criminal offense" that results in physical injury or death of a household or family member by another household or family member.

These can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the severity of the case and the criminal background of the defendant, which mean a person could potentially be sentenced to years behind bars if convicted.

The whole phenomenon of poking fun at cases of domestic violence involving food or other weird objects was addressed recently by an editorial in a Nebraska newspaper, where a husband had been arrested there for assaulting his wife with a sandwich. The reporter who covered the story had used tongue-in-cheek phrasing and noted the "several pieces of lunch meat found on the carpet," as well as the mayonnaise stains on the victim's shirt. The husband was charged with a misdemeanor, and the story was subsequently picked up by national news outlets, including Fox News, the New York Daily News, CBS News and others.

Online commentators had even more fun with the story, asking if the sandwich was a "club sandwich" and whether, if the sandwich had been ham and the woman a Muslim, if it would have been prosecuted as a hate crime.

The editorial chided these remarks, as well as the "news" reports. But, of course, this is unlikely to have much effect on the media, or on those who find humor in the situation, particularly when someone isn't seriously hurt.

What's important for potential clients to understand is that even if the circumstances surrounding your arrest become fodder for laughs, you need to take it seriously and hire a criminal defense lawyer with experience.

Continue reading "Fort Lauderdale Domestic Violence Charges No Laughing Matter" »

October 5, 2012

When is Discipline in Fort Lauderdale Child Abuse?

A Boynton Beach woman is facing criminal charges after police say she beat her young son with a belt after he was reported at school for bad behavior. belt.jpg

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know that 50 years ago - and even today in certain cultures - such conduct would barely cause a raised eyebrow, let alone criminal charges. In fact, this was historically seen as a form of good parenting.

In fact, in 19 states in this country - including Florida - corporal punishment is not only allowable, it is sanctioned and carried out by school administrators. The boards used to paddle children are about 5 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. They are often hand-made, sometimes by students themselves in wood shop.

A recent report by ABC News indicated that about 3,600 students were spanked by school officials in Florida last year. (That's much lower than in states like Georgia and Florida, which on average spank more than 28,000 kids annually.)

But times have changed dramatically, and criminal laws are always evolving.

Even though Florida lawmakers have been working to ban corporal discipline in Florida schools, the measure has so far been unsuccessful. Most Florida schools have opted out of the practice, but clearly not all of them.

And yet, it appears we use a different measuring stick when it comes to the actions of parents seeking to discipline their children.

Florida Statute 827.03 defines child abuse as the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury on a child or an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury on a child or the active encouragement of another person to inflict physical or mental injury on a child.

"Physical injury" is a vague term, and fails to differentiate from severe welts and bruising to hand prints and scratches.

This is not to say that there are not parents who take it too far. But in a state where we allow school officials to paddle children, the line often seems unclear.

In this case, the 34-year-old mother was upset with her son, age 5, for bringing home a bad conduct report. Essentially, these are issued when a child acts up in class. She then reportedly took her into his room and whipped him with a belt. The noise woke the boy's father, who asked the mother to stop.

Somehow, an investigator with the Florida Department of Children and Families learned of the incident and started an investigation. The boy had a single vertical mark across the side of his back, as well as several bruises. The boy said that his mother disciplined him and his sister with a belt when they misbehave.

They also have a younger brother, age 1. There is no indication that the infant has been subjected to any physical harm by the mother.

Continue reading "When is Discipline in Fort Lauderdale Child Abuse? " »

September 29, 2012

FL Man Arrested For Battery, DV Strangulation, Mischief

When it comes to domestic violence arrests in Florida, there is no one-size-fits all charge. womaninveil.jpg

The fact is, prosecutors have a host of varying options to choose from when it comes to charging, and it's all based on the specific evidence available in each individual case.

This is where having a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney who specializes in domestic violence cases becomes especially important. It's one thing to generally know the potential defenses in a criminal case, but it's another to be well-familiarized with the ins-and-outs of a specific area of law.

Choosing a defense attorney who is armed with this knowledge can be critical to ensuring the best possible outcome based on your circumstances.

This case involved a 40-year-old West Palm Beach man and his 38-year-old live-in girlfriend of four months. Investigators arrested the suspect on charges of domestic battery by strangulation, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, criminal mischief and resisting police officers with violence.

Authorities were reportedly alerted to the case by hospital staff, who were treating the woman days after the alleged attack. She told investigators she hadn't sought treatment earlier because she feared the legal consequences her boyfriend might face.

Investigators say that the man had been consuming alcohol throughout the day, and when evening fell, he began to argue with his girlfriend. She then reportedly went outside and he followed her. At this point, she contends he began hitting her in the back of the neck with his fists.

The woman was reportedly able to get away and went back inside to get her phone, purse and keys from a bedroom. The defendant then allegedly closed the door behind him, hit the woman on both ears with the palms of his hands. She claims he also took her phone and smashed it on the ground.

She said he then grabbed her by the neck, and opened a pocket knife, which he held to her neck, while saying that he intended to kill her and bury her in the backyard.

Again, she was able to break away and sought shelter with a neighbor.

Domestic violence by strangulation is defined in Florida Statute 784.041(2)(a), which states that the defendant must have knowingly and with intention and against the other person's will "impede normal breathing or strangulation or circulation of the blood" to either a family member or a person living in the same house or to someone he or she is dating. This act must be such that it creates the risk of serious bodily harm by applying pressure to either the neck or throat or by blocking the mouth or nose of the other person.

This is a third-degree felony charge, which means it's punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

In this case, it's not clear what evidence police have to prove that this charge applies. At no point did the report say that the alleged victim was unable to breathe. Furthermore, the delay in reporting the case has more than likely resulted in the disintegration of evidence that would have been vital to the prosecution's case.

Nonetheless, the seriousness of these allegations warrants the help of an attorney with experience in defending domestic violence cases.

Continue reading "FL Man Arrested For Battery, DV Strangulation, Mischief " »

September 25, 2012

Woman Arrested in Boynton Beach Domestic Violence for Stabbing Young Brother

So often when we talk about domestic violence in the criminal sense, we picture a man lashing out at a woman with whom he's romantically involved. blackandwhitecrime.jpg

But our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know that under the actual definition of the law, there are many other scenarios that qualify.

Such was the incident between a brother and sister who quarreled over the boy's annoyance of his older sister.

According to the Sun Sentinel, the 18-year-old sister was watching a movie with her cousin. Her brother charged into the room with a laundry basket on his head, in a clear attempt to annoy the two women. When the sister yelled at him to leave the room, the 12-year-old boy refused.

This is where the argument escalated.

Police say the 18-year-old tackled her younger brother to the ground and then kicked him in the head while he was on the floor and scratched his back. At some point during the altercation, police say the woman grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her younger brother in the shoulder.

At that point, an older brother stepped in, grabbed the boy and dragged him to a bedroom, locking the door behind them.

However, the sister then kicked the door in. The boy grabbed a machete that was in the room in an effort to defend himself. It's unclear whether the woman sustained any injuries as a result.

At that point, someone in the house contacted police.

Investigators at the scene took the knife and machete as evidence and photographed the damage to the door, as well as the welts and bruises that were forming on the boy's body.

The woman later told police that she had only grabbed the knife in an effort to defend herself. She was nonetheless booked on charges of aggravated assault and child abuse.

These are two very serious charges, and whether this woman is convicted will depend a great deal on a number of factors, including:

--The statements made by witnesses about who was the aggressor in the situation;
--How the two involved parties' statements conflict with the witness statements;
--The extend of the injuries to each party;
--The size of the two individuals involved;
--Is the boy's statement consistent with the one he gave at the time of arrest.

Each of these will be weighed by the defense attorney to determine the best course of action.

What may not help this woman's case is that she was arrested in 2008 for aggravated assault. It's not clear, however, whether she was convicted.

Aggravated battery, as defined in Florida Statute 784.045 is when a person knowingly or intentionally causes great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement or uses a deadly weapon. This is a second-degree felony, which is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Child abuse is an equally serious offense, as defined in Florida Statute 827.03. It is essentially defined as the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child. It can be charged as either a second or third degree felony, depending on the extend of the child's injuries and the intention of the alleged aggressor. As a third-degree felony, it would be punishable by a maximum of five years in prison.

The court may also take into consideration the age of the parties involved. Although the aggressor is technically an adult, she is not a great deal older than the alleged victim. There is no legal provision for this, but it is something the court may weigh.

Continue reading "Woman Arrested in Boynton Beach Domestic Violence for Stabbing Young Brother" »

September 10, 2012

Broward Domestic Violence: When Both Parties Are Aggressors

The headlines detailing a physical argument between a boyfriend and girlfriend at a local casino blared the words, "mutual combat." danceorfight.jpg

Indeed, Fort Lauderdale domestic violence attorneys noted the pair both had apparent bruises in their mug shots - he with a cut under his eye, and she with a bruise to her forehead.

But in terms of domestic violence law, is there such a thing as a "mutual combat" defense?

Yes, and no.

You wouldn't actually call it "mutual combat." Instead, you would explain it as self-defense during a mutual struggle.

Self defense is a valid defense to a domestic violence charge, but your defense attorney must convincingly make a case to the judge, based on available evidence. This is before the case would ever go to trial. In instances of mutual struggle, your defense attorney may be able to persuade prosecutors not to formally file criminal charges, based on the fact that both parties were equally aggressive toward one another.

Domestic violence is defined in Florida Statute 741.28 as the assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, sexual battery, sexual assault, false imprisonment or kidnapping that results in physical injury or death of a family or household member by another family or household member.

In this case, the Sun Sentinel reports that the pair had spent the evening in Hollywood at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. As they were preparing to leave, there was a disagreement about who would do the actual driving back to their shared residence.

A pint glass was reportedly thrown by the woman at the man. She missed. Police were called. But the argument had reportedly escalated by the time officers arrived. Investigators say the woman bit her boyfriend's thumb, leaving teeth mark imprints.

The man told officers he tried to quash the violence, but witnesses said he put his girlfriend in a headlock and rammed her head into a nearby car.

The two 28-year-olds were arrested, both charged with battery domestic violence. The woman is additionally facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill.

They were booked with bonds set at $10,000 and $11,000.

Generally speaking, the law says you are allowed to use force against someone if you or someone else is about to be injured by that person.

The greatest problem with this defense is that you are, in essence, admitting to the court that you did commit an assault and/or battery. This means you are essentially proving the prosecutor's case. This means in order for it to be effective, you have to prove that the other party was the aggressor and that you feared yourself in danger of harm. If the jury or judge does not believe you, this would essentially be an automatic conviction.

They key in these cases is being able to express what happened in an eloquent, convincing way. This is where having an experienced attorney on your side becomes critical.

Continue reading "Broward Domestic Violence: When Both Parties Are Aggressors" »

August 31, 2012

Broward Radio Host Arrested for Domestic Violence

A prominent political consultant and radio host in Broward was arrested recently, accused of domestic violence against his wife. goldenmic.jpg
Broward criminal defense attorneys understand that the judge initially assigned to the case had to recuse himself, saying he not only knew the defendant, William E. Lewis, but had previously dined with him.

Lewis hosts a show on AM radio called, "The Credit Report with Bill Lewis." He is also quite connected in the political arena. In fact, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti had hired Lewis' consulting firm to handle his social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Upon Lewis' arrest, the sheriff said he had fired him.

The arrest also caused local media to delve more deeply into his past, revealing that he had previously been convicted of felonies dating back to the late 1980s.

Lewis lamented to a reporter that despite the fact that he's innocent of the charges against him, he's lost all his business contracts - and his radio gig may be in jeopardy.

His case illustrates why it is so critical to hire an attorney as soon as possible after your arrest - or even beforehand if you think there is a likelihood you may be charged. Aside from the legal implications, there is often much more at stake in terms of your reputation.

Domestic violence allegations are some of the most frequently exaggerated. They are made in the heat of an argument, when tempers are flaring and emotions take over. The accuser may be intoxicated or otherwise not thinking clearly. Police will often make an arrest to simply separate the two warring parties - regardless of whether the evidence actually supports the claims.

In this case, the host is accused of attempting to strangle his wife, with whom he shares three children, two 3-year-old twins and a 6-year-old. She called police to tell them that she had gotten into a heated argument with her husband, at which point he grabbed her neck from behind and squeezed.

She said she was on the verge of not being able to breathe, but she was able to fight him off. She then grabbed her cell phone, but she claims he took it from her and wouldn't let her dial 911. He then left and she called. When deputies arrived, she told them that in a previous argument, he had sprayed her face with chemical cleaner and then struck her in the face with the can, causing her to require stitches.

Lewis, who denied the accusations, is charged with a felony because depriving someone else of the ability to make a 911 call is considered tampering with a witness under Florida Statute 914.22(e), and it's a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

The fact that his wife now supports him and wants the charges dropped won't stop prosecutors from moving forward (it's one of the few kinds of cases that don't require victim cooperation).

Continue reading "Broward Radio Host Arrested for Domestic Violence" »

August 16, 2012

Miami Dolphins Player Cut From Team After DV Arrest

A domestic violence arrest can have far-reaching consequences, as former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chad Johnson has recently learned. aloneinstadium.jpg

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers understand the situation dominoed for the professional football player after an argument with his wife earlier this month.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, he could be facing a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, though it will be the state attorney's office that will decide whether to formally file charges.

Apparently, the pair were arguing because Johnson's wife found a receipt for condoms in his vehicle. Broward police officials say that the verbal argument escalated, and that Johnson reportedly leaned over to his wife and head-butted her, causing her to suffer a three-inch gash on her forehead.

She reportedly fled to the home of a neighbor, who called 911. Interestingly, according to the New York Daily News, the neighbor requested that officers "keep it quiet" and "not to make a big scene," as it involved a high-profile individual. Of course, requests like this almost always go unheeded.

The 34-year-old player was charged with simply battery domestic violence.

Once word made it to the media, the news went national - and the repercussions began. He at first released a statement saying that it was his wife who had head-butted him, and that he drove away to allow her to calm down.

However, she quickly refuted that and subsequently filed for divorce. Then, VH1 dropped a reality show about the pair, which was slated to debut in September. Then, the Miami Dolphins, who had just signed him for $925,000 a year, terminated his contract.

Though he has not been arrested since he began playing the sport professionally in 2001, he was arrested in college in connection with a domestic dispute.

This is an extreme example of how allegations can quickly affect almost every aspect of your life. Most of us don't have pending reality shows or NFL contracts - but we do have jobs and children and family relationships that can all be damaged or even severed simply by the allegation. That's why having an experienced lawyer on your side is so critical in these cases. It's not just about your reputation, it's about your freedom and your future.

This case, like so many other Fort Lauderdale domestic violence cases, hinges largely on one person's word against another person's word.

Simple battery is considered a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida law, which means it's punishable by up to 1 year in jail, 1 year of probation and a $1,000 fine. The basic definition is that you intentionally touched or struck someone else against their will or that you intentionally caused bodily harm to another person. It can be something as minor as grabbing someone's arm. It's not necessary to the prosecution that the individual actually be injured, though it will bolster the case if the alleged victim does show physical signs of injury.

With domestic violence battery, which is defined as any battery committed against a spouse, family member, household member or someone with home you share a biological child, you face additional penalties. These include a mandatory minimum of five days in jail, completion of a 29-week batterers' intervention program and you will be ineligible to have the arrest ever expunged or sealed.

Continue reading "Miami Dolphins Player Cut From Team After DV Arrest" »

July 25, 2012

Domestic Violence Allegations Require Fort Lauderdale Defense

The arrest of a Florida corrections officer on charges that he battered his girlfriend, once again raises the issue of how an arrest - let alone a conviction - can mar a person's reputation or destroy a career. bruise.jpg

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys
understand that this fact is one reason why domestic violence victims don't come forward. However, it's equally the case that spouses of those in law enforcement know how much such an allegation can hurt, and often use it as a form of revenge.

Because responding officers frequently feel compelled to take some form of action and they have little to go on except one person's word against another person's, domestic violence arrests are often made without a great deal of evidence. Police agencies want to relieve themselves of any liability if something more serious does occur later on, and therefore, someone is most likely going to jail.

Unfortunately, even if an alleged victim later tries to recant their story, a case can sometimes still move forward.

At the very least, a domestic violence arrest is going to put a law enforcement professional's career on hold. At worst, it can end it. Having an experienced and aggressive defense lawyer is your best bet for a more favorable outcome.

False allegations most typically arise in situations where the couple is embroiled in a break-up or a situation of infidelity. Some men falsely accused of domestic violence may choose not to fight back because they feel it may be somehow deserved due to the way a relationship is ending. This is a mistake, however. Even being a jerk doesn't make you a criminal, and a conviction on a charge of domestic violence is going to haunt you for the rest of your life - long after you've both moved on from one another.

For those in law enforcement or the military, it can mean the end of a career. For anyone convicted, it can me a revocation of their right to own firearms.

Other false allegations may stem from a situation of self-defense. For example, the female half may attack her boyfriend or husband, who then uses reasonable force to fend her off or protect himself. Police may use that as probable cause to arrest the husband. Medical reports, witness statements, physical evidence at the scene and peripheral circumstantial evidence can sometimes be used to combat allegations in these scenarios.

Another element that may work in your favor could be the consumption of alcohol by the alleged victim. It's not always an effective defense, but there may be some cases in which it can be proven that an alleged victim's testimony can't be considered reliable, based on his or her consumption of alcohol or other substances at the time of the incident.

In the recent case of the Florida corrections officer's arrest, the pair were reportedly staying at a hotel when they became engaged in a verbal argument. The girlfriend left the room and he later told deputies that he followed her.

The pair continued their argument outside. Witnesses said that when the victim attempted to walk away, the corrections officer reportedly yanked her arm to pull her back toward him. This allegedly caused bruising to her arm. She subsequently was able to walk away.

Nearby witnesses contacted police, who arrested the corrections officer on charges of domestic violence battery, as defined in FL Statute 741.28.

Continue reading "Domestic Violence Allegations Require Fort Lauderdale Defense" »

July 15, 2012

Domestic Violence Cases See Uptick In Palm Beach County

A 21-year-old woman marked her milestone birthday with an arrest on charges of domestic violence against her mother, according to The Sun-Sentinel. victim.jpg

West Palm Beach defense lawyers understand that in fact, this incident is one of a growing number of domestic violence incidents throughout Palm Beach County, according to News Channel 5.

The details of this particular incident aren't exactly clear, but from what we can glean from various media reports, the 21-year-old was celebrating her birthday when she reportedly became involved in an altercation with her mother. That fight at some point turned physical.

Police and emergency fire officials were called to the family's residence around 2 a.m., where they found the defendant reportedly screaming and covered with blood. There was even blood smeared across the front door. Officers reported that as they tried to take her into custody, she punched and kicked at them, and subsequently cursed and spat at fire officials who attempted to treat her. They ultimately covered her face with a shield in an effort to protect them from her saliva and blood.

The woman, who is employed as a caregiver for an autistic child, said she does not remember the incident as described to her.

She was ordered held on $6,500 bond.

FL Statute 741.28 defines domestic violence as any form of assault or battery or stalking or kidnapping or sex offense that results in injury or death of one family or household member against another.

Often when we think of domestic violence offenses, we think of husbands beating their wives. However, the law is actually quite broad in its interpretation. It could mean a child against a parent - even if they aren't living together - or it could mean girlfriends against boyfriends or it could mean a separated couple who has a child together.

Penalties are going to vary, depending on the specific details of the incident and the severity of the injuries. In this particular case, the woman is facing charges of domestic violence, as well as resisting an officer with violence.

Other recent domestic violence incidents in Palm Beach County include a fatal shooting earlier in June and a woman who was set on fire at a Boynton Beach gas station.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office is reporting a 10 percent increase in domestic violence calls over the last year. And when we look at victims of domestic violence who have sought shelter with the YWCA, there were about 445 between July 2009 and July 2010. But then last year, that figure jumped to 555.

Domestic violence advocates are blaming the economy. The stresses that come from being out-of-work can lead people to turn to drug and alcohol abuse, which can in turn lead to violence. In other cases, you have people who are simply not good at coping with the burdens that result from unemployment or underemployment, and they end up lashing out at those closest to them.

Whatever the reasons behind your arrest, contact an attorney with a proven record of success in defending domestic violence cases.

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January 19, 2012

Marco Rubio Staffer Charged in Florida Domestic Violence Incident

A staffer for Florida Senator Marco Rubio was recently arrested and charged with a domestic violence incident in Fort Myers, leading to the man quitting his job, the Associated Press reports.

This incident brings up some key points for people who find themselves dealing with a Fort Lauderdale domestic violence incident. Fighting at home can be caused by excessive use of alcohol or abuse of drugs and can create major problems for both the aggressor an the victim.
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Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys recognize that while an arrest can be a difficult thing to defend when dealing with domestic violence, other aspects of this situation can be a problem as well.

What this refers to is a restraining order. Unfortunately, these are somewhat easy to obtain and can put a person labeled as an "aggressor" in these types of cases through the ringer. The Broward County Sheriff's Office makes it clear that a restraining order is as easy to going to the courthouse with the proper paperwork between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

A temporary protective order is usually granted first. All that takes is for a person to convince a judge they are in some type of danger. These orders are temporary, but can cause major distractions while active. For couples who live together and have children together, these can cause parents to not be able to see their children or spouses or have to live somewhere else while the order is in place.

A violation of an order can be punished as a criminal offense, even if there is no initial criminal report taken by police officers or sheriff's deputies. Florida Statutes 741.31, which governs domestic violence situations, tells residents how to obtain an injunction for protection against domestic violence.

But a temporary order is designed to be just that -- temporary. Once that is ordered by a judge, the person it is against receives a copy and has the right to a hearing to contest it. It is strongly advised that this person gets legal representation.

Requesting a hearing is well within a person's rights and he or she should ensure that an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer is by his or her side at this type of hearing. A permanent order against a person can lead to him or her being shut out of their own home or being banned from seeing family members. A slip-up, even if unintentional, can lead to an arrest. It can be a slippery slope.

In the incident in Fort Myers, the regional director for Rubio in Southwest Florida resigned after initially being placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Deputies went to the couple's apartment after the man's wife called 911 and then hung up. When they arrived, they found the woman's elbow was swollen and bloody and she was visibly upset.

She told deputies her husband pushed her, causing her to fall on top of a carpet in the garage. He then allegedly rolled her into the carpet and kicked and punched it with her inside. She said she unrolled herself and confronted him. The man allegedly then pushed her against the wall, causing the elbow injury.

Deputies arrested the man at a nearby hotel and charged him with domestic violence battery, despite his wife not wishing to press charges and refusing to get medical treatment. The man's attorney told the media the allegations are false and that the man and a witness whom she would not name can contradict the police report.

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May 28, 2010

Miami Dolphins Player Arrested for Domestic Violence Receives Special Treatment by Broward Sheriff's Office

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It appears as though the domestic violence arrest of Miami Dolphins player Phillip Merling in Broward County will lead to another investigation. Now the Broward Sheriff's Office is investigating why Miami Dolphins Player Phillip Merling received special treatment while at the Broward County Jail in Fort Lauderdale.
Miami Dolphins player Phillip Merling has been arrested and accused of beating his pregnant girlfriend and was given a $15,000.00 bond. Florida Statute 784.045 states that:

784.045 Aggravated battery.--

(1)(a) A person commits aggravated battery who, in committing battery:

1. Intentionally or knowingly causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement; or

2. Uses a deadly weapon.

(b) A person commits aggravated battery if the person who was the victim of the battery was pregnant at the time of the offense and the offender knew or should have known that the victim was pregnant.

(2) Whoever commits aggravated battery shall be guilty of a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

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August 5, 2009

Domestic Violence Charges Land Chris Brown Under Judicial Scrutiny

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The famous 20 year old R&B singer Chris Brown has pleaded guilty and publicly apologized for beating Rihanna back in February. Brown is expected to be sentenced to five years probation followed by six months of community labor. Although Chris Brown is expected to be permitted to serve his probation in his home state of Virginia, he will be required to return to California every three months to attend domestic violence classes.

These charges stem from an incident which occurred back in February of 2009. On February 8, 2009, Chris Brown was arrested for allegedly beating, choking, and biting Rihanna as he tried to push her out of a car.

Domestic Violence in Florida is defined by Florida Statute 741.28 as follows:

"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.

In Florida, if a person is found guilty of Domestic Violence the Court may sentence as follows:

If a person is adjudicated guilty of a crime of domestic violence, as defined in s. 741.28, and the person has intentionally caused bodily harm to another person, the court shall order the person to serve a minimum of 5 days in the county jail as part of the sentence imposed, unless the court sentences the person to a nonsuspended period of incarceration in a state correctional facility. This section does not preclude the court from sentencing the person to probation, community control, or an additional period of incarceration.

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