Articles Tagged with Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyer

A Broward domestic violence conviction can have devastating consequences for a defendant: Jail time, lengthy/expensive batterer’s intervention courses, strict probation rules, no contact orders, child custody/divorce case implications, etc. But even if you were unable to avoid the conviction, a Broward domestic violence criminal defense lawyer may still have another card to play: Mitigating factors.Broward domestic violence criminal defense lawyer

Also sometimes called “mitigating circumstances,” these are factors that can compel the court to impose a lower sentence – possibly even one that dips below statutory guidelines for the offense.

As your Broward criminal defense lawyer can explain, mitigating factors are not excuses. Unlike affirmative defenses, mitigating circumstances don’t assert that the actions were legally justifiable or support exoneration. Instead, the assertion is that the defendant’s actions can be partially explained/better understood in light of the mitigating circumstances. It’s not saying that the defendant acted legally, but that he/she/they should be shown some mercy in sentencing.

The charge of domestic violence often conjures up images of bruises, black eyes, and broken bones. But one of the most serious Florida domestic violence offenses often leaves no marks at all. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyer

If you are arrested for domestic violence by strangulation in Fort Lauderdale, it’s important to understand that this charge is much more serious than a typical domestic violence battery case. Florida lawmakers made the point of carving out an entirely separate statute for the offense of non-fatal choking or strangulation. Rather than being a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in county jail, (as most domestic violence charges are), F.S. 784.041 makes domestic violence strangulation a third-degree felony, which is punishable by a maximum of 5 years in state prison.

It does not require proof of great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement (which IS required for other domestic violence battery incidents to be charged as a felony). In 2019, a Florida district appellate court ruled in Lopez-Macaya v. State that there’s no need to prove the victim suffered actual great bodily harm – only that the defendant’s alleged actions created the risk of great bodily harm.

Despite the fact that only 50 percent of alleged strangulation victims have visible injuries and only 15 percent have injuries that can be photographed at the time police respond, officers are often quick to make an arrest on this charge if the accuser makes the allegation. That can mean you’re facing a felony despite very little evidence, but you still need to take the possibility of conviction very seriously because prosecutors aren’t likely to tread lightly. That’s because this act is singled out as a major red flag that domestic abuse has escalated to the point of a potential fatality. Continue reading

If you’re arrested for domestic violence in Fort Lauderdale, the very best thing you can do to minimize the impact this will have on your life is to immediately hire a Broward domestic violence defense lawyer. Even if you’re “only” facing misdemeanor assault or battery charges, the classification of this crime as one of domestic violence has a whole host of implications that can result in immediate impact and long-term consequences far outside of the realm of a “typical” crime. When you work with a skilled domestic violence defense attorney right from the start, you’re not only better prepared, you can be proactive – possibly preventing some of the most significant penalties. Broward domestic violence defense lawyer

Domestic violence is defined in F.S. 741.28 as any assault, battery, sexual assault/battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any other criminal offense that results in the physical injury or death of one family member/household member by another family/household member. These can be married couples, ex-married couples, people related by blood or marriage, people living together as a family, people who previously lived together as a family, and people who share a child together (regardless of whether they ever lived together or were married). Domestic violence charges will not apply to those who are dating, but have no kids and never lived together (though violence between them may still result in criminal charges).

But just because you’ve been arrested doesn’t necessarily mean the case is going to be successfully prosecuted. In fact, as an experienced Broward domestic violence defense lawyer, I can tell you prosecutors often have a tough time proving these accusations beyond a reasonable doubt. But knowing how to successfully challenge their evidence is essential. Some of the ways in which a skilled domestic violence defense attorney can help right from the start: Continue reading

Defendants in Florida domestic violence cases should understand that while they still have the rights of most other criminal defendants, the justice system does deviate in its approach and practices in several respects with these cases. For example, you’re still presumed innocent until proven guilty, but if there is a protective order issued in conjunction with your arrest, you may be compelled to forfeit your right to carry firearms while that order remains in place. Another example is with regard to what type of evidence is allowed to be considered. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyer

Prior bad acts of misconduct are generally not admissible in court to show that a defendant acted in conformity with misconduct on any occasion. In other words, you can’t just point to something else bad a person did – especially if they were never convicted of it – and assert or insinuate that the person’s bad character indicates a greater propensity to commit the crime in question. Just because you made a poor choice or acted badly in the past doesn’t necessarily mean you are guilty of the crime before the court.

There are some exceptions where it may be relevant to establish one’s motive, identity, mistake, intent, or common modus operandi. But in domestic violence cases, which tend to turn on the issue of credibility AND victims often refuse to testify, Florida courts are increasingly allowing evidence of prior bad acts of a defendant to be considered.

Recently, a man in Florida was arrested after allegedly shooting his live-in girlfriend four times in the back. Upon arrest for first-degree murder, he told police his actions were in self-defense.

How likely is it that one can be successful in a claim of self-defense in Florida domestic violence cases? Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense attorney

As our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, it may be possible to successfully argue self-defense in a domestic violence case in Florida, but it will depend on the circumstances.

Domestic violence, as defined in F.S. 741.28, is defined as any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense that results in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member. (Note: Family or household member can mean not just spouses, but former spouses, those related by blood or marriage, people who presently reside together as if a family or once resided together as a family, and people who have a child in common regardless of whether they’ve ever lived together before.)

What Do I Need to Argue Self-Defense?

To argue self-defense in a domestic violence case, you will need to show that you acted in reasonable self-defense or defense of others. This means that you believed you or someone else was in imminent danger of harm and that your response was proportionate to the threat. Continue reading

Although society tends to view domestic violence as a one-sided crime, the reality is often a bit messier than that. It’s not unusual for both sides to be physical with each other. Yet law enforcement in Florida are statutorily urged to identify and arrest just one primary aggressor.Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyer

One can argue mutual combat or self-defense in a Broward domestic violence case – but these approaches are risky. As our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer can explain, self-defense is an affirmative defense – meaning you admit to the accused action, but argue it justified to avoid the legal affect it would otherwise have. Yes, the violent act occurred, but it was reasonably necessary in order to prevent the other person’s imminent use of unlawful force against themselves or someone else. According to F.S. 776.012, there is no duty to retreat. Further, as noted in F.S. 776.103, a person who is in their own home or vehicle is presumed by law to have a reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily harm if the alleged victim unlawfully entered or remained or attempted to remove another person against their will. Of course, in domestic situations, the question will be whether entry was unlawful – which it would not be if the residence is shared.

Florida has relatively strong self-defense statutes that protect one’s right to fight off an attacker in the face of immediate danger. However, courts expect solid evidence of that imminent threat. This is much more straightforward in situations where a stranger enters the home. In cases of domestic violence, self-defense is tougher to prove.

In any Florida criminal case, the testimony of the alleged victim (if available) plays an important role in prosecution. That said, an alleged victim’s refusal to cooperate with police or prosecutors won’t necessarily spell an end for the case – particularly when we’re talking about matters of domestic violence. In these types of criminal cases, victims cannot simply “drop” a case or “refuse to press charges.” Technically, the crime is against the state. It is up to the investigating law enforcement agency and ultimately the state prosecutor’s office to ascertain whether to proceed. Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyer

Of course, an alleged victim’s refusal to cooperate can create some evidentiary headaches for investigators, and might lead them to conclude there is not enough evidence to continue. But as Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyers, we tend to advise clients not to count on this.

Other avenues for evidence in a Florida domestic violence case besides a victim’s own statements may include:

  • Photos or videos of the incident, scene, or injuries sustained by those involved.
  • Testimony of third parties who may have witnessed the incident.
  • 911 calls.
  • Electronic communications. This can include social media messages, photos/videos, texts, emails, voice recordings, etc. Always assume that whatever is communicated in these forums may be subject to subpoena and presented as evidence in court.
  • Your own words. Too many defendants in domestic violence cases think they can talk their way out of charges. They almost never can. Talking to police or prosecutors without your lawyer present is rarely if ever a good idea.
  • Excited utterances. Courts generally do not allow hearsay into evidence. Hearsay is testimony from an under-oath witness who is reciting an out-of-court statement made by another person, the content of which is offered as proof of the truth of what’s being asserted. That typically includes officers who might attest to statements made to them by an alleged victim about what happened – something not personally witnessed by officers. An exception to this is an excited utterance. This is a statement that concerns a startling event, made by a declarant while that individual is still under stress from that event. Statements made by an alleged victim immediately after a reported incident of domestic violence may count as an excited utterance – particularly if the alleged victim is no longer cooperating with investigators.
  • Statements made for medical diagnosis or treatment. This is another hearsay exception. If an alleged victim makes a statement for or reasonably pertaining to a medical diagnosis, treatment, or that describes their medical history, this statement may be allowed to be presented at court.

When law enforcement officers arrive on scene for a domestic violence call, they will ask questions, take notes, maybe take photos or videos. All they need to make an arrest is probable cause that a crime was committed. That is a low proof burden, especially when you consider that a simple assault charge under F.S. 784.011 doesn’t even require proof a defendant laid a finger on the alleged victim. All that must be established is the defendant made an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence on another person AND that individual had the ability to carry out that threat, resulting in the alleged victim’s well-founded fear that violence may be imminent. It’s a second-degree misdemeanor. (More significant charges like battery will be filed if there is evidence one person touched the other or caused injury.)

As longtime Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyers, we can tell you from experience that police officers on the whole loathe domestic violence calls. They can be volatile and dangerous and getting to the truth of the matter in the middle of a lot of heated “he-said-she-said” is a bit of a nightmare for investigators. But even if no one has been struck, officers don’t want to be called back to the same residence on the same shift. And they don’t want to risk anyone getting seriously hurt. So it’s not uncommon for them simply to make an arrest on thin evidence of assault just to get the parties to separate and cool down for a bit. That may not be pleasant for the accused, but take heart in the fact that an arrest alone almost never means the matter is open-and-shut. It’s probable you may have grounds for a strong defense – even if the alleged victim is cooperating with authorities. Continue reading

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