Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

The way a society defines child abuse says a lot about the premium it places on the protection of children. Here in the U.S., keeping our children safe is considered a top priority, which is obviously something to be applauded. belt.jpg

However, the way that child abuse laws are written, there is a great potential to apply them in an overly-broad manner, which in turn sometimes results in good parents being ensnared in very serious felony allegations. An arrest for a crime of this nature has the potential to result in the loss of one’s job, child custody rights, reputation and freedom – and that’s even before there has been a conviction.

Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers recognize that parents have differing manners of discipline. Sometimes those methods can be misinterpreted. Sometimes we make mistakes and go a bit too far in a moment of frustration. It doesn’t mean we’re bad parents and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re criminals.
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Domestic violence plagues families and communities all over South Florida, around the country and around the world. Our criminal defense lawyers too often see cases of family disagreements or misunderstandings that have turned violent, resulting in one or more person(s) being charged with the serious crime of domestic violence.
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We are always sad to see these cases brought into our offices, and so we’re happy to share with you that toward the end of this month, the 15th annual “Safewalk-Run” will take place in Coconut Creek, raising money and awareness for victims of domestic violence.

According to the Florida State Statutes, “domestic violence” is defined as an aggressive act such as assault, kidnapping, false imprisonment, etc., and other criminal acts that result in physical injury or death of a family member or member of the household committed by another member of the family or household. As further stipulated by the statute, if adjudicated guilty of the crime of domestic violence, the offender must serve no less than 5 days in jail. 5 days doesn’t seem like a great deal of time, but the law goes on to say, “this section does not preclude the court from sentencing the person to … an additional period of incarceration.” So, the penalty for domestic violence really depends on who is overseeing your case and how they perceive what happened.
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A local news website has earned the kudos of our Boca Raton domestic violence defense attorneys for doing three things few other outlets would:

1. Removing a story that was especially harmful to the subject, who as it turned out had been absolved of her alleged crime;
2. Using the incident to educate people on the harms of domestic violence;
3. Changing its policy on the publication of domestic violence arrests.
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It’s awful enough to be slapped with a domestic violence charge, especially when the allegations are exaggerated or downright false. To then have that information splashed across a news website, accompanied by your photograph and possibly your address, can end up severely ruining your reputation and possibly damaging your career and future job prospects.

We understand and fully support our Florida Sunshine Laws that allow the public – including journalists – to access a wealth of official information regarding everything from land records to arrests.

But for journalists, there is a level of discretion about what to publish that is sometimes abused, particularly when it comes to arrests – and the Internet is a big part of the problem. Because arrests reports are public record, there is nothing against the law about a reporter reading, writing and publishing what is contained therein. However, news judgement sometimes goes out the window if editors think a story or brief will garner a few more clicks.

Even just a few years ago, newspapers rarely spent much time on domestic violence arrests – unless they were serious or involved a prominent figure – because to do so would consume valuable print space and wouldn’t serve much purpose. However, the Internet has allowed many news sites to publish arrest “galleries,” in which the public can click through people’s mug shots, names, ages, charging information. Media cutbacks mean there is often no context to this information, no analysis for why the public might need to know this.

So there is little of value for the public, but there is a great amount of harm inflicted on those who are “featured.”

What many news outlets don’t recognize – and what we applaud Boca News Now for seeing – is that domestic violence arrests are unique in that they don’t often require the same burden of proof threshold as other crimes. That is, if police respond to the site of a domestic disturbance, someone is almost assuredly going to be arrested. It often comes down to who has more bruises or who is a smoother talker.

And even though a lot of times, those charges are either reduced or dropped altogether, the arrest information remains up on these news websites regardless of the case’s resolution, resulting in tangible and significant harm to those involved.

That’s what happened here in this case. A woman contacted the Boca News Now newsroom, tearful and desperate for her arrest information to be removed from the site. She was finding it impossible to gain employment with the information still up on the web. As it turned out, the state attorney’s office had determined the 21-year-old woman had merely been defending herself against an abusive boyfriend. The office declined to prosecute and a judge expunged her record.

It took this kind of extreme case for the publication to note that the way in which it was publishing domestic violence arrests – often with little follow-up information or context. With this realization, the paper instituted a new policy: “Unless there is a compelling reason to do so, we will no longer report domestic violence abuse arrests,” particularly for those under the age of 25, the editor pledged. The editor went on to say that if the paper did decide to publish a domestic battery arrest, after careful consideration, it would later remove that content upon receiving notification that the charges had been dropped, the case dismissed or the record expunged.

We’re not asking reporters not to do their job, but we do wish more publications would recognize their power and adopt this same measure of caution.
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A Fort Lauderdale judge made a rational decision recently when he ordered a man who was facing domestic violence charges to take his wife on a date and get counseling, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

It was a refreshing sight for Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys to see a judge make a decision that could help a person and not throw the book at someone, which is too often the case. While some cases of domestic violence in Fort Lauderdale can be serious allegations, sometimes minor spats lead to arrests and major penalties can flip a person’s life upside down.
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Domestic violence incidents are treated seriously by police and can lead to misdemeanor as well as felony charges, depending on the circumstances. When police are called to a house for an incident, they are likely to leave with a person in handcuffs. That’s just the way it is.

But an arrest isn’t a conviction and there are defenses. The credibility of the accuser and alleged victim may come into play. And the observations of the police officers who arrive at the scene are going to be important, as well.

But in many of these cases, there are few or no witnesses, other than a neighbor saying they heard arguing. Sometimes, the state can have trouble proving the charges beyond all reasonable doubt. In other situations, the alleged victim realizes they don’t want to press charges and won’t cooperate.

In this case, a man got in trouble for not wishing his wife a happy birthday and that led to a domestic violence incident, the Sun-Sentinel is reporting. When the man appeared before the court, a judge made a strange ruling.

The judge ordered the man to take his wife out to dinner — Red Lobster — and go bowling. They will also have to undergo counseling. The judge said he wouldn’t have made such a light ruling if the case was more serious or if the woman had been injured or appeared in danger of being harmed.

The man allegedly pushed the woman against a couch, grabbed her neck and held up a fist, but never struck his wife. The man had no prior criminal history and the judge then asked where the woman would like to go. After saying she liked Red Lobster and bowling, the judge ordered both, along with a birthday card and flowers.

While it’s rare that a judge will make such a ruling, it’s refreshing to know that judges are looking at each case on its merits and not just scanning through cases as they go. It’s the job of an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney to show the judge why this case stands out as different from the rest.

Many times, a lawyer can do that, but the judge won’t listen. It may be possible, once the case gets past first appearance and is assigned to a judge who will preside over the case full-time, arguments can be presented that will lessen the charges, reduce bond or get the charges dropped altogether. There are scores of motions that lawyers can make in these types of situations. Domestic violence charges can be serious and they can do serious damage to a person’s reputation. That’s why they must be scrutinized and defended aggressively.
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In typical South Florida fashion, a 24-year-old has made national headlines after being arrested following a domestic violence incident during which he allegedly threw his own feces at his girlfriend, The Palm Beach Post reports.

While some may snicker, lawmakers have not joked around regarding similar incidents. In fact, in Florida, such a violation can result in a charge of aggravated battery in West Palm Beach, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
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This is a commonly filed charge when inmates try to throw their own bodily fluids at jail and prison guards. Our West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers understand how serious a charge this is and while strange circumstances, it must be handled like any other criminal case.

According to Florida Statutes 784.045, aggravated battery is when someone uses a deadly weapon or causes great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement in committing a battery. A battery is intentionally striking another person.

In this case, a 19-year-old woman claims that her boyfriend, five years her senior, threw body waste at her during a recent argument. He was also charged with beating her during the same argument, The Palm Beach Post reports.

The 24-year-old was being held on $26,000 bond after being charged with battery, aggravated battery and criminal mischief. According to police, an officer was sent to the couple’s home, where the 19-year-old claimed the battery took place. She said he threw waste at her and also hit her with his hands and a bed board.

The news article doesn’t provide any details about what evidence the police have to back up her claims. According to The Miami New Times, the report states that the woman declined medical attention, despite a large abrasion on her chest. She was photographed and provided a statement. The man also had a small abrasion on his let arm.

It’s hard to imagine that a person could be beaten and hit with a bed board and not suffer permanent injuries that require medical attention. In this case, the woman claims she was the victim, but the man, too, was injured. Simply being arrested doesn’t necessarily mean police got the right person.

This is especially true in domestic violence situations. Often, it comes down to one person’s word against another’s, with little evidence to sway police either way. Whomever identifies as the victim usually is treated as such by officers, who tend to arrest the other person and consider them the suspect.

This can lead to serious charges as shown in this situation. But regardless of what one witness says, the state must have solid proof before they attempt to put someone in prison for a number of years. Our criminal justice system is based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt and that’s what the state must have, regardless of the circumstances and the charge.
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A 28-year-old Lauderhill man was arrested in connection with an early morning shooting that claimed the life of a woman and her daughter and injured the man’s grandmother in what police are calling a Fort Lauderdale domestic violence incident.

Domestic violence can be classified as a violent episode between family members and usually relates to a husband and wife or girlfriend and boyfriend who get into an argument. But it can also mean a more serious altercation that leads to life-altering injuries. And it can involve children, siblings or distant relatives.
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Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers have seen where these incidents can start off as minor arguments, escalate to physical fights and then lead to battery charges that carry possible long-term penalties, including prison time, probation, fines and fees, community service and other sanctions.

But simply being arrested and charged with a crime isn’t proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect has committed the crime. And that’s the standard that is applied to criminal cases. Police officers are able to make arrests with a much lower standard of proof and that’s why sometimes charges end up getting dropped by prosecutors before trial.

In this case, a Lauderhill man is charged with shooting his wife and her daughter, killing them both. The alleged incident also ended in the man’s grandmother being shot, but not fatally. Police reported that the man was taken into custody without incident in Fort Lauderdale.

According to the Sun Sentinel, Lauderhill police were called to the NW 55th Avenue home because of a shooting. According to the newspaper, officers found a 34-year-old woman and her 19-year-old daughter, home from college, dead. Shot in the arm was a 73-year-old woman who police said was the man’s grandmother.

Witnesses allegedly saw the man driving away from the house in a 2000 pickup truck around 6:30 p.m. The couple had been married for about two and a half years and family members said the two had a “hectic” marriage.

Police surmised that the argument started after the 19-year-old said something in response to comments the man made to his wife. Police believe she was killed first. The couple had a 7-year-old daughter together, who was at the home at the time, but was not injured.

The newspaper didn’t list what charges the man will face, but it’s likely he could face two counts of second-degree murder, a charge of aggravated battery or attempted murder and even a possible count of child abuse.

Perhaps the key facts in this situation will be the credibility of the witnesses who say they saw the man driving away from the house in his truck. It’s obvious there will be DNA from the man at the scene because he lived there, so that’s not helpful to the state. And if he was at his mother’s house miles away when he was arrested more than 10 hours later, police will have to have strong proof that he was in the house at the time of the crime.

Perhaps connecting a weapon in his possession to the bullets fired at the victims would be a key piece of evidence. Without it, it may be difficult for the prosecution to prove its case. While the state sometimes tries to rely on assumptions and circumstantial evidence, this can’t be the tactic used in a murder case.

When someone’s life is on the line and justice must be done, the state must have solid evidence in order to convince a jury that the suspect is guilty. Anything less is unacceptable. And an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer will be there to point out the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
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How do I Obtain a Restraining Order for
Domestic / Repeat / Dating / Sexual Violence in Broward County?

For information and procedures on obtaining a Restraining Order in Broward County, call the Family Intake Unit at 954-831-5520 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are located at the Broward County Courthouse, 201 S.E. 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301, Room 248.

You may obtain a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in Broward County against a husband, wife, ex-husband, ex-wife, blood relative residing in the same household or any other person you are, or were, residing with as if family. You may also obtain a Restraining Order in Broward County against a person with whom you had a child, whether you are living together or not.

However, for an act of Repeat Violence in Broward, you may file for a Restraining Order against anyone. There must have been two (2) occurrences or acts of physical or sexual abuse, and one (1) occurrence must have been in the last six (6) months. The Domestic Violence Judge may require you to furnish the police reports as filed.

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A dating violence restraining order may be filed by individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The dating relationship must have existed within the past 6 months.

A sexual violence restraining order may be filed for any one incident of sexual battery, lewd or lascivious act committed upon or in the presence of a person younger than 16 tears of age, luring or enticing a child, sexual performance by a child or any other forcible felony wherein a sexual act is committed or attempted.

To obtain a Restraining Order for Domestic Violence in Broward County, you must appear in person, in the Domestic Violence Division in Room 248 of the Broward County Courthouse, 201 Southeast 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Bring your photo I.D. and any relevant police reports.
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violent_crime.jpgLast week, state official released new statistics showing a decrease in Florida crime of about 11% during the first half of this year compared to the first half of last year. The Palm Beach Post reported that major crime statistics dropped by more than 11% percent, while in Broward County, authorities noted fewer robberies and aggravated assaults.

However, one unfortunate trend that began last year was that while crime is down overall, homicides related to domestic violence actually rose 6%. Last year, the percentage of homicides linked to domestic or dating violence doubled from the previous year.

According to local leaders in law enforcement, the increase may be due to increased stress and pressure due to the economy.

Source: Crime down first half of 2010, but domestic violence-related homicides rise, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 13, 2010 Continue reading

Florida_crime.jpgOur South Florida criminal defense attorneys have learned that Florida’s crime rate dropped by more 6% last year compared to 2008. Violent crime fell by almost 11%, according to statistics released earlier this week.

This trend played out across South Florida, including Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties. However, a spokesman for the Broward County Sherriff’s Office said that while the county’s 3% drop is encouraging, domestic violence continues to be an issue for the county. In fact, two recent cases involve men who were arrested in connection with their wives’ murders.

Governor Charlie Crist said on Wednesday that crime in Florida has dropped to the lowest level in 39 years. He added that this reflects well on law enforcement officers.

Source: Broward County crime drops, South Florida Sun Sentinel, April 7, 2010 Continue reading

Broward County, Florida. Earlier this week in Fort Lauderdale, Dolphins practice squad player Wilfred “Will” Billingsley was arrested on misdemeanor charges of domestic violence battery and resisting arrest. A Broward County judge ordered Billingsley held on $4,000 bail after he allegedly tried to throw his live-in girlfriend out of their Wilton Manors residence.

When police arrived to investigate the domestic dispute, the girlfriend had scratches on her left upper arm and neck, according to police. The 25-year-old football player has been ordered by a domestic violence judge to avoid contact with his girlfriend. The girlfriend was also arrested on a charge of obstruction after police say she interfered with Billingsley’s arrest. She was released after agreeing to appear in front of a judge at a later date.

While the girlfriend insists that Billingsley “didn’t do anything,” the Broward State Attorney’s Office said it has a “pro-prosecution policy” towards domestic violence, meaning it reviews all domestic violence cases for prosecution regardless of whether the victim plans to press charges.

Girlfriend says she won’t press charges against Dolphins’ Billingsley, South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 6, 2009 Continue reading

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