Domestic Violence Investigations in Florida

When the officer determines probable cause that an act of domestic violence has been committed, the officer must arrest the suspect.

When complaints of domestic violence are received from two or more parties, the officers must evaluate each complaint separately to determine whether there is probable cause for arrest. Even if the officer has probable cause that two or more persons have committed a crime, they must determine which person was the primary aggressor and which person might have been acting in self-defense or to defend their property or another person.

Under Section 943.171, F.S., law enforcement officers must receive special training on investigating acts of domestic violence. That training includes how to recognize the primary aggressor. Although an arrest is the preferred response only for the primary aggressor, it is not the preferred response for a person acting in a reasonable manner to protect or defend themselves or another family or household member.

As explained in Section 741.29, F.S., law enforcement officers investigating allegations of domestic violence perform the following tasks:

  • help the victim of domestic violence obtain medical treatment if needed;
  • tell the victim about domestic violence centers from which the victim may receive services;
  • give the victim a copy of the “Legal Rights and Remedies Notice” which includes the following information: 
    • a general summary of s. 741.30, F.S.;
    • the resource listing and phone number for a nearby domestic violence center; 
    • that the victim may ask the state attorney to file a criminal complaint;
    • that the victim has the right to go to court and file a petition requesting an injunction for protection from domestic violence which may include, but need not be limited to, provisions which:
      • restrain the abuser from further acts of abuse;
      • direct the abuser to leave the victim’s household;
      • prevent the abuser from entering the victim’s residence, school, business, or place of employment;
      • award the victim custody of minor children; and
      • direct the abuser to pay support to the victim and their minor children if the abuser has a legal obligation to do so.

Even when no arrest is made, the investigating officer must make a written report that explains why the alleged offense was an incident of domestic violence.

Any report regarding an instance of domestic violence must be filed with the law enforcement agency and include the following information:

  • a description of physical injuries observed, if any;
  • the grounds for not arresting anyone or for arresting two or more parties;
  • a statement that the victim received a copy of the legal rights and remedies notice;
  • a written statement from the victim and witnesses concerning the alleged domestic violence.

Law enforcement officers may not be held civilly liable for any of the following actions:

  • making an arrest based on probable cause;
  • the good faith enforcement of a court order; or
  • service of process in good faith for an alleged incident of domestic violence brought by any person involved in the incident.