If you’re arrested for domestic violence in Florida, it’s important to understand the pretrial process for such offenses is different than it is for other alleged crimes. One of the biggest differences is that defendants arrested for Florida domestic violence will not be able to post bail immediately after being booked into jail.
It’s important if you’re arrested for domestic violence to understand that talking to police or other investigators about what happened before you’ve spoken to a defense lawyer won’t speed up this process – and may well hurt your case.
Domestic violence is defined in F.S. 741.28 as the commission of certain crimes against a family or household member. Such crimes include assault, battery, sexual assault or sexual battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any other offense that causes the physical injury or death of a family or household member. Someone is considered a “family or household member” if they are spouses, former spouses, related to one another by blood or marriage, living together as if they are a family (or used to), and those who share a child – regardless of whether they’ve ever married or lived together.
Mandatory Court Appearances in Florida Domestic Violence Cases Prior to Bond
There are some crimes for which you can be arrested, booked, post bail, and walk out of jail in a matter of a few hours. But that is not the case for alleged crimes of domestic violence.
As our Broward domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, Florida statute requires the defendant to appear in court before a judge before they can post bail and be released. That initial hearing – called a first appearance – must be held within 24 hours of an arrest. During the hearing, the prosecutor is required to come prepared with:
- Defendant’s prior arrest record, including any previous domestic violence offenses – whether with the same alleged victim or someone else.
- Any current or former injunctions for protection filed against the defendant.
- Any previous walk-in complaints of domestic violence against the defendant.
That information is presented to the judge for consideration of whether to allow bail and if so, how high to set it. In addition to the defendant’s criminal history, the court will consider the details of the pending charge and whether the safety of the alleged victim or others may be compromised by defendant’s release on bail.
What to Expect at Your First Appearance Hearing
During the first appearance hearing in a Florida domestic violence case, you may not physically be in the courtroom. Chances are, you’ll be in a room at the jail with a camera that broadcasts to the courtroom. Other inmates will likely be present, and when your name is called, you’ll be asked to step up to the lectern and speak into a microphone. The judge will read the probable cause affidavit, which is a document prepared by law enforcement officers that outlines the probable cause officers had to believe you committed a crime.
At your first appearance, you do not need to say anything beyond providing the basic details of your identity and answering yes or no questions when asked. Your attorney can use this opportunity to note any glaring deficiencies or weaknesses in the probable cause affidavit, and may ask the judge to rule that there was no probable cause for the arrest. However, the judge will usually find that there was probable cause. At that time, the bond amount will be set and conditions of pretrial release will be outlined.
Conditions of Pretrial Release in Florida Domestic Violence Cases
Because domestic violence has become such a culturally sensitive issue, many judges proceed with extra caution.
More than likely, they will issue a “no contact order” between the defendant and the alleged victim(s). Usually, this means the defendant needs to stay at least 500 feet away from the victim, won’t be allowed to call or text or otherwise engage in any communication. If there are shared children involved, any parenting time will need to be facilitated with a third party intermediary – and may be supervised.
And in addition to setting a monetary bond, the court will likely assign the defendant to be monitored by the Pre-Trial Services division of the local sheriff’s office. In some cases, defendants may be required to wear a GPS monitor to track their locations and have their movements limited to home, work, and basic errands.
Posting Your Bond
Once you’ve had your first appearance and your bond is set, you may initiate payment of that bond to facilitate your release. You should know, however, that it may take a good 6-12 hours – sometimes more – for that payment to be processed and for you to actually be walking out those doors. This is particularly true if your payment doesn’t go through until 4 p.m. or later on a regular business day. If it’s a Friday, you may be waiting it out in jail for the weekend. If it’s a holiday weekend, you could be waiting even longer. It’s important not to lose your cool in this situation because doing so in jail is only going to potentially further delay your release.
If you’re arrested for domestic violence in South Florida, the very best thing you can do to facilitate a timely release and formulate a solid defense is to immediately contact a Broward criminal defense lawyer with a strong track record in domestic violence cases.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
F.S. 741.28 , Domestic violence, definitions