What is domestic violence?
Domestic Violence is a violent confrontation that explodes in the home between family members; between two people in a relationship who live together; or who live apart but share a mutual child, or who are divorced, or who at one time lived together. It can happen between a father and daughter, mother and son, an adult child and an elderly parent, but most often it occurs between a couple living together, married or not, with the woman being the victim in the majority of the cases. Sometimes weapons are used, sometimes property is damaged, but most often the abusive partner in the relationship causes injuries using physical force.
Why were charges filed?
The Office of the State Attorney has a specially trained staff of attorneys, a criminal investigator, victim advocates and support staff assigned to prosecute misdemeanor domestic violence cases. If you are the victim in a case being prosecuted, the individual who hurt you had a criminal complaint filed against him/her by the State Attorney for the following reasons:
If the case goes to trial, all of the above information will be used as evidence in the courtroom to prove that the defendant is guilty of the charges filed by the State Attorney’s Office. This will be in addition to the live testimony of the police officers who responded to the 911 emergency call, as well as any witnesses to the incident.
Will the defendant go to jail?
It would be unusual for first-time domestic violence offenders to go to jail for a misdemeanor offense. First-time offenders are generally ordered by the court to enroll in a batterer’s counseling program. They are also placed on probation for one year and ordered by the judge not to break any more laws. The judge will follow up and require the defendant to show proof of enrollment and completion of a batterer’s counseling program. If the defendant does not do what the judge orders, then the judge has the power to send the defendant to jail.
Will I have I have to testify?
You only have to testify in court if you receive a subpoena from the State Attorney ordering you to appear in court to testify in a trial. Most domestic violence cases are resolved without going to trial. This is how it works:
Will I have to hire an attorney?
No. You do not have to hire an attorney because you are the victim of a crime. When this individual abused you a criminal act was committed that violated the laws of the State of Florida. The Assistant State Attorney (prosecutor) represents the People of the State of Florida in this jurisdiction. The People of the State of Florida are prosecuting the defendant for the criminal act that was done to you.
I’m feeling pressured to “drop charges”
Tell the defendant that it is impossible for you to drop the charges because you are not the one who filed the charges. The charges were filed by the State Attorney’s Office after reviewing the evidence against the defendant. It is important for the defendant to realize that people must live within the laws of our society and those violent actions against you, or anyone else, have no place in our community. It is also important that the defendant get the help needed whether it is counseling or whatever else may be appropriate.
It's been promised it will never happen again, will it?
Unless the defendant receives counseling for the violent behavior directed towards you, the defendant may not be able to stop being violent on his/her own, even though intentions are sincere. Many batterer's grew up in violent homes where they themselves were abused or where they saw an abusive parent physically hurt the other parent. This behavior may be all that they know in a relationship. In order to stop the pattern of violence in your relationship, the partner or family member who is hurting you must come to understand their behavior. This is why the Assistant State Attorney insists that they complete a course in batterer’s counseling. If the defendant resists going to counseling to help gain insight into the problems that exist, the odds are against the defendant being able to positively change behavior. If the defendant cannot control his/her own behavior, then you remain in danger.
What kind of counseling will be received?
When a batterer is ordered by the court to receive counseling, he/she must select a program from a list of certified counselors and will be monitored by the court. There are several different locations, as well as day and night sessions. The costs are nominal and payments may be made over a period of time. The batterer learns to examine their life, seeking out the reasons for the violent behavior. The defendant learns to walk away from a potentially explosive situation rather than indulge in it. The defendant learns that the relationship with you cannot be controlled through the use of violence.
If you believe that alcohol or other drugs are part of the problem as well, the prosecutor can ask the judge to order evaluations and treatments for these problems.
Who should I call for help?
If you are in a crisis situation, call 911. If you need a safe place to stay, counseling, information, or referrals call the information hotline listed below.
FLORIDA DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE: 1 800/500-1119
You may also call your local shelter:
South Pinellas C.A.S.A. 727/895-4912
If you are a victim in a domestic violence case currently being prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office, and you need someone to talk to, call the
Pinellas State Attorney Domestic Violence Division at 727/464-6013