If Someone You Know is Being Abused

You may have a friend, relative or neighbor who is being abused. You may have witnessed the violence, heard it, seen physical signs of it, or merely suspected it for various reasons. What should you do?

As brutal as it sounds, more women are murdered by their husbands and boyfriends than by strangers - a frightening and unacceptable statistic.

What happens when someone is arrested for Domestic Battery?

When a “significant other” (husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, life partner) is arrested, he or she is held in jail until going to a First Appearance or bond hearing before a judge. At that hearing, the judge will decide whether or not a bond will be required for release and the condition of the release, or whether the person arrested can be released under the supervision of Pre-Trial Services. At this point, the criminal process has begun and the person who was arrested is now known as the “Defendant”.

In order to make decisions about the defendant’s release, the judge will rely on input from the arresting officer’s report, from Pre-Trial Services officers who have interviewed the defendant and from the Victim Advocate who attempts to contact the Victim for their views on release of the defendant.

Pre-Trial Services completes a criminal history check and contacts the victim to inquire if the victim would be in fear of further violence if the defendant is released. The Victim Advocate (working closely with the prosecutor) will also make contact with the victim to inform the victim of the outcome of the hearings and offer any assistance the victim may need.

The judge will take into consideration what the State recommends, as well as the offices of Pre-Trial-Services (who may or may not recommend that the defendant be released without bond and under their supervision) as well as the Victim and the defendant’s attorney.

As a general rule the judge will issue a NO CONTACT Order upon the defendant’s release from custody. This Order means that the defendant is prohibited from returning to the residence and cannot contact the victim in any way. The No Contact Order will remain in effect for the entire duration of the criminal proceedings, unless changed by the judge. In situations of extreme danger it may be advisable for the victim to also obtain a Restraining Order, which will more severely limit the defendant’s contact with the victim and family.

The Office of the State Attorney and the Victim-Witness Assistance Program will make every effort to encourage the victim to come to their offices as soon as possible to meet with the Assistant State Attorney and Victim Counselor who will be handling their case.

One of the most important aspects of the criminal prosecution of a domestic battery case is to explaining our ”No Drop” policy. This policy means that the State of Florida, not the Victim, presses charges against the Defendant. The victim is not responsible for the case being prosecuted against the defendant. The Office of the State Attorney decides whether a defendant is charged and subsequently taken to court for the crime of domestic battery. The case against the defendant is not dropped unless the State finds that the charges are unwarranted (without legal merit).

Even though the victim’s input on any plea offer and sentencing is very helpful, the ultimate decision as to whether a plea or sentence is acceptable belongs to the Judge. The Assistant State Attorney will make every effort to contact the victim to discuss possible pleas and sentencing.

Prosecution of this type of case is generally between 4 to 6 months.