Hollywood Police Target Domestic Violence Offenders

City police in Hollywood are taking aim at those previously arrested for domestic violence, vowing beefed up penalties and scrutiny – up to and including unannounced, uninvited police checks on individual residences. police

The Miami Herald reports the letter, an effort initiated by the city police department’s Domestic Violence Unit, is a way of stopping domestic violence acts that may occur in the future at the hands of designated “C list” violators. The city says it is simply targeting repeat domestic violence offenders with the intent to halt the cycle of repeat abuse. They call this approach “focused deterrence.”

There are many, though, who have been highly critical of this approach – including the Broward Public Defender’s Office, which called the tactic an abuse of power. Essentially, they say, the police are punishing and/ or harassing people for an offense that hasn’t yet occurred and may not ever occur. 

As the public defender’s office aptly noted to FloridaBulldog.org, the department does not have legal authority to issue such a letter, and thus it amounts to a potentially unlawful threat and retaliation. Further, these efforts have  in some cases been taken against those who have merely been accused of a crime. That means the are presumed innocent.

Further, the defender’s office noted this action “smacks of” intimidation by police and is an “overreach” of police authority.

In a written response to the public defender’s office concerns, a police department representative insisted the letters do not indicate a tacit approval for unconstitutional or illegal searches on anyone.

Still, it may be rather telling that a Hollywood police officer who was arrested for domestic violence and who, given the criteria the department used should have received a letter, did not get one. In that case, a lieutenant was reportedly accused of striking his wife twice in the head and kicking her in the ribs when an argument allegedly turned physical. The 23-year veteran of the force was arrested and spent the night in jail, though his wife later declined prosecution. The department says the letter wasn’t mailed to the lieutenant because it was given to him face-to-face. He reportedly still faces workplace discipline.

The program to classify offenders from A to D reportedly involves identifying offenders with a “predisposition for violence,” depending on their prior criminal record.

In total, the police department reportedly identified nearly 575 offenders who meet the criteria for this “Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative.” The city noted this is the first program of its kind in Florida.

The police insist it’s not about intimidation, but rather providing services and resources to offenders before they may be tempted to re-offend. Those resources include access to anger management classes, job placement, substance abuse treatment and life coaching services.

However, as our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know, that stated purpose sounds very different from what was outlined in the letter to offenders, who were warned offers might show up at the door unannounced.

What you should know is that even if such encounters are lawful, you do not have to make any statement to police. You are not required to allow them to come into your home, unless they have a warrant. Police may refer to these encounters as “consensual” because technically, people willingly agree to talk/ provide information to police who initiate a conversation. However, after receiving a letter like this and then having an officer show up at your door to talk to you, it can feel less like you have a choice in the matter. That could create a legal gray area if you are subsequently arrested.

Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

City warns alleged domestic abusers but gives its own cop a pass, April 11, 2017, Miami Herald

More Blog Entries:

Intoxication Defense Presented in Broward Domestic Violence Trial, March 29, 2017, Fort Lauderdael Domestic Violence Arrest Lawyer Blog