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Domestic Violence Crimes

The State Attorney’s Office

It is important to understand that it is not the alleged victim who brings charges against you in a criminal matter. It is the State of Florida, through its representatives in the State Attorney’s Office, who ultimately decide what crime, if any, to charge you with and how to resolve these charges. Although the wishes of a victim are given great weight by the State Attorney’s Office, the final decision rests with the individual Assistant State Attorney assigned to your case. Therefore, the ability of your attorney to effectively advocate your views and theory of your case with these Assistant State Attorneys is critical to any successful resolution of your matter. Be sure to ask any prospective attorney about their experience working with various State Attorney’s Offices.

Florida statutes require that all crimes of domestic violence be prosecuted by a specialized unit within any given state attorney’s office. These units do nothing but train for and prosecute crimes of domestic violence. Therefore, if you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, you will not be prosecuted by a run of the mill Assistant State Attorney, but will instead be prosecuted by an attorney who specializes in all aspects of domestic violence crimes. Such ASA’s are well trained and extremely eager to prosecute defendants they see as domestic batterers. Therefore, it is particularly important that you have an advocate who equally understands the unique laws of domestic violence in Florida and can zealously and effectively advocate on your behalf.

If a victim of domestic violence had an injunction or restraining order in place against the defendant, the state may prosecute a violation of the order as a first degree misdemeanor. A conviction for a first degree misdemeanor may result in a sentence of imprisonment for up to one year.

Diversion Programs

Most State Attorney’s Offices offer what is called diversion from prosecution. Diversion from prosecution is an agreement between a defendant and the State Attorney’s Office that requires a defendant to complete a series of classes and pay fees and fines associated with a criminal charge. In exchange for enrollment and successful completion of these classes, the State will dismiss all pending charges against the defendant. This program allows a defendant to obtain a dismissal of all charges (which can facilitate future sealing and expunction of one’s record), while the State gets assurances that a defendant has obtained the tools necessary to prevent a repeat of the underlying alleged criminal behavior, lowering recidivism and keeping the community at large safe.

Each of Florida’s State Attorney’s Offices run and control their own diversion program and have various criteria for entrance and successful completion of these programs. However, most usually require a defendant to have little to no prior contact with the criminal justice system and a victim’s approval before such a program is offered to a defendant. In addition, many State Attorney’s Offices require there have been no severe injury involved in the charged crime. Once enrolled in such a program, most defendants charged with a domestic violence crime are required to successfully complete a batterer intervention program consisting of 26 weeks of classes, in addition to the imposition of a criminal stay away order requiring a defendant to stay at least 500 feet away from a victim and their residence.

Having an attorney who is aware of these programs, is aware of the criteria for entrance into these programs, how these programs work and can convince the State Attorney’s Office to offer such a program to their client is of critical importance. Call us and ask about these programs and their application to your specific case and location.