Fort Lauderdale Domestic Violence Attorney

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If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence offense in Fort Lauderdale or Broward County, a conviction can result in serious consequences for your reputation and future. You need an experienced, compassionate criminal defense attorney on your side to get you through the legal process.

A Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyer with Phillips | Tadros, P.A., can provide you with an honest assessment of your situation — including the best-case, worst-case, and most likely outcomes of your situation — and vigorously defend your rights. We are also highly responsive, so you will never be left waiting for answers.

At Phillips | Tadros, P.A., we have more than 50 years of combined legal experience, a reputation for meticulous trial preparation, and full dedication to our clients’ needs. Contact us today to discuss your case in a free, confidential consultation.

What Are the Florida Domestic Violence Laws?

Florida law defines domestic violence as an enumerated criminal act committed by a person against a family or household member. Domestic violence laws punish people who commit criminal or violent acts against family or household members, and they allow victims of domestic violence to go to court to seek protection from future acts of violence.

There is not a domestic violence mandatory arrest policy under Florida laws. Instead, police have discretion to arrest upon probable cause that a person or persons committed an act of domestic violence. However, the officer’s decision to arrest a suspect for domestic violence does not depend on the victim’s consent or the nature of the relationship between the alleged victim and perpetrator.

Florida’s domestic violence law allows an alleged victim of domestic violence or who reasonably believes they may imminently become a victim of domestic violence to seek an injunction for protection against violence from the courts.

What Are the Chances of Getting Domestic Violence Charges Dropped?

If a family or household member has accused you of domestic violence, you might ask, “Can domestic violence charges be dropped?” or “Can a victim drop charges of domestic violence?” Although an alleged domestic violence victim can terminate court proceedings for an order of protection, only prosecutors and the court can order domestic violence charges dismissed. The state, not the victim, brings criminal charges, so only the prosecutor (typically with the court’s approval) can dismiss the case.

What Are the Types of Domestic Violence Charges in Florida?

The enumerated criminal acts under the domestic violence penal code that constitute predicate acts of domestic violence include:

  • Assault – A person commits assault when they make an intentional, unlawful threat by act or word to commit violence against another person, coupled with the apparent ability to do so, which creates a well-founded fear of imminent violence in the victim.
  • Aggravated Assault – Aggravated assault occurs when a person commits an assault while using or brandishing a deadly weapon without the intent to kill the victim or assaults a person with the intent to commit a felony upon them.
  • Battery – A battery occurs when a person intentionally touches or strikes another person against their will or without their consent or intentionally injures another person.
  • Aggravated Battery – Aggravated battery occurs when a person commits a battery while intentionally or knowingly causing severe injury, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement, or batters a person that the assailant knows or should know is pregnant.
  • Sexual Battery – The crime of sexual battery involves oral, anal, or female genital penetration by another person’s sexual organ, or the anal or female genital penetration by another person using an object without the victim’s consent or with the use or threat of a deadly weapon or physical force likely to cause severe injury.
  • Stalking – The offense of stalking involves purposely, knowingly, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing, or cyberstalking someone with no legitimate purpose and with the intent to cause that person substantial emotional distress.
  • Aggravated Stalking – A person commits aggravated stalking when they engage in stalking and make a credible threat of injury or violence against the victim.
  • Kidnapping – Kidnapping occurs when a person forcibly, secretly, or by threat confines, abducts, or imprisons another person against their will for ransom/reward or as a shield/hostage, commit a felony, inflict bodily harm or terror upon the person, or interfere with governmental or political functions.
  • False Imprisonment – False imprisonment occurs when a person forcibly or by threat confines, abducts, imprisons, or restrains a person without lawful authority and against the person’s will.

Any other criminal offense resulting in injury or death can also lead to domestic violence charges.

What Are the Penalties for Florida Domestic Violence?

Florida domestic violence penalties can include the standard penalties applicable to the underlying criminal offense plus mandatory minimum sentence and additional penalties, depending on the circumstances. Misdemeanor domestic violence charges can carry penalties such as:

  • Second-Degree Misdemeanor – Up to 60 days in jail and a potential fine of up to $500
  • First-Degree Misdemeanor – Up to one year in jail and a potential fine of up to $1,000

More serious domestic violence charges can result in felony prosecution, which can carry penalties following conviction, such as:

  • Third-Degree Felony – Up to five years in prison and a potential fine of up to $5,000
  • Second-Degree Felony – Up to 15 years in prison and a potential fine of up to $10,000
  • First-Degree Felony – Up to 30 years in prison and a potential fine of up to $10,000

When a person intentionally injures a domestic violence victim, the court must impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 days for a first offense, 15 days for a second offense, and 20 days for a third or subsequent offense, unless the defendant receives a non-suspended prison sentence in a state correctional facility.

A trial court can also impose other conditions as part of a sentence following a domestic violence conviction, including:

  • An obligation to pay fines and court costs
  • Requirement to complete substance abuse treatment programs
  • Requirement to complete anger management treatment programs
  • Mandatory obligation to complete a batterer’s intervention program
  • Community service
  • Probation

Finally, violating an existing order of protection obtained by an alleged victim of domestic violence may result in an additional sentence of up to one year in jail or up to one year of probation.

What to Expect After a Domestic Violence Arrest

If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, you will likely go through an initial court appearance. If you are charged with a felony offense, you have the right to a preliminary hearing and arraignment.

The person or persons who accused you of domestic violence may also file a court complaint to request an order of protection that will bar or restrict your right to contact them. The court may issue a temporary order that remains in effect until the court can hold a hearing to decide whether to issue a permanent order.

What Are Common Defense Strategies for Domestic Violence Charges?

Common defenses used to fight domestic violence charges include:

  • Self-Defense or Defense of Others – You might raise a self-defense or defense-of-others claim by arguing that the alleged victim instigated the altercation and that you used reasonable force to protect yourself or someone else from injury.
  • Mutual Combat – In cases involving assault or battery, a person facing charges might argue that the underlying incident involved a “mutual fight” where both parties simultaneously began the physical altercation.
  • Fabrication – Many people fight domestic violence charges by arguing that their accuser has made up the allegations. However, a fabrication defense typically requires strong evidence contradicting the alleged victim’s claims.
  • Consent – In domestic violence cases involving sexual battery or battery by strangulation, a defendant may contest the charges by arguing that any alleged battery occurred as part of a lawful consensual sexual encounter.
  • Lack of Intent – People accused of stalking can defend against their charges by showing that they did not intend to follow, harass, or cause emotional distress to the alleged victim. For example, you might show a lack of intent by proving that you went to the same places as the alleged victim without knowing they were there.

Who Can Make a Domestic Violence Complaint in Florida?

Under Florida law, any individual in a familial or household relationship with a person who perpetrates an act of domestic violence may file a domestic violence complaint. A familial relationship includes:

  • Spouses or former spouses
  • Persons who have a child in common, whether married or unmarried and regardless of whether they have ever lived together
  • Persons related by blood or marriage

The law considers people to have a household relationship when they live together or have previously lived together in a relationship akin to a family unit.