Domestic Violence Battery in Pinellas County
If you were arrested for a misdemeanor domestic violence offense in Pinellas County, FL, you should seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. Ideally, you need an attorney to represent you during the early stages of the case including at the advisory hearing and the misdemeanor arraignment hearing.
Acts of misdemeanor domestic violence might include battery, assault, stalking, or violation of a “no contact” order of protection.
Domestic violence cases are serious for several reasons. First, unlike other types of misdemeanors, if you are accused of domestic violence, then you will not immediately be able to bond out of jail.
Instead, you will be brought to court for a first appearance where the court will impose a condition that you have “no contact” with the alleged victim in the case. The court might also require you to wear a “Continuous Alcohol Monitor” (CAM) if the criminal record affidavit indicates that you were intoxicated at the time of the incident.
After the first appearance, these complicated cases are funneled into a special division where these cases are aggressively prosecuted. In Pinellas County, Judge Holly Grissinger is assigned to preside over cases involving misdemeanor domestic battery at the County Justice Center in Clearwater, FL.
The Office of the State Attorney in Pinellas County has a team of specially trained attorneys, criminal investigators, and support staff assigned to prosecute misdemeanor domestic violence cases. Victim advocates provide moral support for the alleged victims and help with housing, job placement, and childcare assistance. Federal and state grant money is used to boost conviction rates and impose harsh sentences.
With all of these resources working against you, an attorney can passionately and aggressively defend your rights and works hard to protect you against false or exaggerated allegations. The best result in these cases is getting the charge dropped quickly so that you can immediately apply to expunge the record.
Attorneys for Domestic Violence in Pinellas County, FL
If you were accused of domestic violence in Pinellas County, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm.
Our attorneys help clients after an arrest in the cities and municipalities throughout Pinellas County including St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park, Dunedin, and Tarpon Springs, Seminole, and Safety Harbor.
Our attorneys can also represent you in a hearing on a petition for an injunction for protection in Pinellas County, FL.
Keep in mind that the alleged victim in the case has no power to “drop charges.” instead, attorneys with the State Attorney’s Office file and prosecute the charges after reviewing the evidence against you.
Even for first-time domestic violence offenses, the prosecutor might offer 12 months probation to complete a 26-week batterer’s counseling program.
Any violation of probation might result in a “no bond” warrant being issued for your arrest and up to 12 months in jail if the court finds that the probation violation actually occurred.
For our clients, entering a plea to domestic violence is simply not a viable option. With four attorneys in the office, we can help you at every stage of the case from the pre-file investigation, the first appearance, the arraignment, through the trial or pre-trial hearings to dismiss the charges.
Let us put our experience to work for you. Call (813) 250-0500.
What Happens at the Misdemeanor Arraignment Hearing in Pinellas County?
After the arrest for a domestic violence charge in Pinellas County, FL, a prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office in Clearwater, will typically take 21 days to decide whether to proceed with the prosecution. Unless the charges are dropped during that time period, you will notice from the clerk’s office of the misdemeanor arraignment hearing for the domestic violence charge.
The notice will tell you the charge or charges pending against you, the Case Number, and the Division in which the case is assigned. If you know the Division in which the case is assigned, then you can determine which judge in Pinellas County will preside over the case.
The notice will tell you to report to the Pinellas County Justice Center 14250 49th Street North Clearwater, Florida 33762, for the arraignment in a specific courtroom, on a specific date and time.
At the misdemeanor arraignment hearing for the domestic violence charges, the court will”
- advise you of the charge pending against you;
- allow you to enter a “not guilty” plea; and
- ask you whether you want to represent yourself, ask for a public defender to be appointed to represent you, or hire a private attorney at your own expense.
If you have already hired a private attorney, then the private attorney will typically file a written plea of not guilty and give you express written permission to be excused from attending the arraignment. In fact, the notice tells you that if you are represented by an attorney, you should contact your attorney regarding the notice.
If you fail to appear as required by the court notice and are not currently in custody, then the court will issue a warrant for your arrest, and your Release-On-Recognizance (ROR) will be revoked or your surety or cash bond will be estreated.
The Influence of Federal Grant Money for Domestic Violence in Pinellas County, FL
On October 1, 2018, an $864,210 federal grant took effect in Pinellas County aimed at combatting domestic violence. The grant was awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women under the U.S. Department of Justice, with the funds provided through the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.
The grant money will be used to improve the response in Pinellas County to criminal misdemeanor acts of domestic violence. Using the federal funds, the court system in Pinellas will partner with:
- the county’s Office of Justice Coordination;
- the Pinellas County Sheriff; and
- two non-profits in Pinellas County whose mission it is to stop domestic abuse:
- Religious Community Services, or RCS, in Clearwater; and
- Community Action Stops Abuse, or CASA, in St. Petersburg.
The grant money also provides training for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office, the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender’s Office, and the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office to recognize the special needs of those from the LGTBQ community and those who may be victims of human trafficking.
The grant money will also be used to require more defendants to undergo drug testing more frequently. Defendants who are on probation for domestic violence will also undergo more testing for alcohol and substance abuse, with the number increasing from five to six times a year to twice monthly. The drug testing is paid for with money from the grant.
Batterer’s Intervention Programs at the Jail in Clearwater, FL
The three-year grant was awarded to Pinellas County’s Office of Justice Coordination. Starting on January 1 of 2019, the grant money will be used to put more defendants accused of domestic battery in Pinellas County into batterer intervention programs.
Prior to the grant, Pinellas County only had two groups of men attending a batterer intervention program at the Pinellas County Jail each week. The grant money is expected to expand to four men’s groups a week, plus two women’s groups, with each group consisting of 15 defendants.
The batterer intervention programs are intended to stop recidivism by helping defendants learn to have empathy for their victims and to change their attitudes regarding power and control in their domestic relationships.
Now, access to batterer intervention programs will begin in jail. The goal is to have a program completion rate of 35 percent or better with 300 enrollees a year.
From May of 2017 to February of 2018, there were only 113 offenders assigned to batterer intervention programs with only 13-15% successfully finishing the program. The goal is to have the defendants start participating in the intervention programs as soon as possible, without any extended waits.
Ideally, they will begin soon after their arrest, either on an original charge of domestic battery or on a charge of violating their domestic battery probation, and can already be attending classes before a judge hears the case.
Domestic Violence Courts in Pinellas County
The Administrative Office of the Courts for the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida in Clearwater recently announced plans for the domestic violence court in Pinellas County. The domestic violence court is being forced using a $300,000 grant from the Office of Violence Against Women and collaboration with local officials.
The Sixth Judicial Circuit will initiate Pinellas County’s new Civil Domestic Violence (DV) Court. The court will focus on getting respondents to comply with conditions of orders in DV cases. Civil DV Court will provide special dockets dealing with allegations of abuse and/or violence by a spouse, other family member or intimate partner.
The special dockets – including cases of sexual and dating violence – are heard on Wednesdays at the courthouse in St. Petersburg and Thursdays at the courthouse in Clearwater.
The “Return Hearings” give an opportunity for petitioners to seek final injunctions for protection against domestic violence.
The eight circuit judges who serve in the Family Law Division will handle the DV calendars on a rotating basis.
Each year, more than 3,500 persons go into Pinellas courts to allege abuse by spouses, domestic partners or date relations. The court will help the judges give more court time for determining whether protective orders will be continued or issued after the return hearings. The respondents who are assigned counseling responsibilities will be given dates to come back to court and show they are complying with or have completed terms of the protective order.
Accused abusers are often ordered to deal with their problems by enrolling in a batterer’s intervention program or undergoing mental health and/or substance abuse evaluations. Such assignments are designed to halt the repeat patterns of many DV cases. Respondents will now have to return to court to show that they are complying with the conditions.
Newly hired case managers (one fulltime and one part-time) will track the cases and schedule compliance hearings. In addition, the grant provides funds for a magistrate, who will be at the courthouse on the days of the return hearings to deal with matters that relate to children affected by the alleged abuse.
The parties no longer will have to return to court to argue matters of child custody or visitation. The parties will be sent from the return DV hearing to a hearing before the magistrate to work through these issues.
The program will also use a contract between the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners and CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), the St. Petersburg agency that strives to stop domestic violence through advocacy, empowerment, and social change.
The agency places victim advocates in the offices of the Pinellas Clerk of Court to support abuse victims when they seek protection orders. The advocates help the victims understand the different types of abuse, fill out the necessary paperwork, answer questions and direct them to needed services or shelters.
In order to make sure the grant-funded resources deal with cases involving family abuse and sexual and dating violence, the court has set up separate calendars at the Pinellas Criminal Justice Center to deal with repeat, non-intimate domestic violence cases and cases with allegations of stalking.
Opening of the DV court comes after a year of planning and preparation that began last year, shortly after the Office on Violence Against Women approved the award of $299,310 from the U.S. Department of Justice Court Training & Improvement Fund.
About a year ago, a task force – Pinellas County Collaboration to Prevent Domestic Violence – was set up to review and recommend changes in procedures and protocols for handling DV cases.
Representatives of the offices of the court-related agencies, local legal aid groups, the Haven of RCS, CASA, Sheriff, other law enforcement agencies, domestic violence treatment providers, and the local community served on the task force.
Domestic Violence Victim Services in Pinellas – Visit the website of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office to learn more about the services offered to victims of domestic violence after a criminal accusation and during the prosecution of the case. Throughout Pinellas County, victim advocates provide social service referrals, information on the criminal justice system from the victim’s perspective, help with filling out the forms for crime compensation, and crisis intervention. The phone number for the Unit Supervisor is 727-582-6259. The number for the Florida Abuse Hotline is 1-800-962-2873 (1-800-96-ABUSE). The victim advocate can be called to the scene by law enforcement to assist victims of crime and their families.
Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force – Visit the website of the task force for domestic violence in Pinellas County, FL, to learn more about upcoming events including the Domestic Violence Prevent Summit: Education and Engagement scheduled for October 24-25, 2019. Learn more about the history of the organization beginning in January of 1988 when the Police Standards Council founded the Pinellas Domestic Violence Task Force.
Domestic Violence Information from the State Attorney’s Office – Visit the website of Bernie McCabe, the State Attorney for the Sixth Judicial Circuit in and for Pinellas County to learn more about how domestic violence cases are prosecuted in this county. According to the State Attorney, domestic violence is defined as 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.” The evidence in a domestic violence case reviewed by the prosecutor typically includes police reports, 911 calls, pictures of the alleged victim’s injuries, the offender’s criminal record, and written information provided by the alleged victim to the SAO detailing the immediate case and past incidents of violence. Visit the link to learn more about the Pinellas State Attorney Domestic Violence Division. Find information about the domestic violence hotline and local shelters.
Domestic Violence Information from the Sixth Judicial Circuit – Visit the website of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pinellas County to learn more about how to file a petition for a domestic violence injunction (sometimes called a restraining order). Find out the requirements for domestic violence, repeat violence, dating violence, sexual violence, stalking or violence against the elderly or disabled adult. Find videos explaining what happens at the hearing on the petition for an injunction for protection from violence.
Administrative Office of the Courts
The Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida
14250 49th Street North, Suite 2000
Clearwater, Florida 33762
This article was last updated on Friday, December 13, 2019.