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Domestic Violence Battery in Pinellas County, FL

After an arrest for domestic violence battery in Pinellas County, FL, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm. Call 727-210-7004 for a free consultation.

For our clients, entering a “guilty” or “no contest” plea is not an option. Instead, our clients want their charges dropped quickly so that they can expunge their entire criminal history record.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm can help you at every stage of the case, including:

  • the pre-file investigation;
  • the first appearance where the bond conditions are set;
  • the arraignment;
  • pre-trial conferences;
  • motion hearings to exclude prejudicial evidence or dismiss the charges; or
  • a jury trial to obtain a “not guilty’ verdict.

Although no one wants a jury trial, the prosecutor might become more reasonable once they realize that you and your attorney are willing to go to trial to fight for the “not guilty” verdict.

Domestic violence battery cases are different from other types of cases because:

  • 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 battery cases;
  • victim advocates provide moral support for the alleged victims and promise help with housing, job placement, and childcare assistance; and
  • millions of dollars in federal and state grant money fund the investigation of domestic violence battery cases to increase conviction rates and impose harsher sentences.

With all these resources working against you, you need a criminal defense attorney who can passionately and aggressively defend your rights.

We work hard to protect you against false or exaggerated allegations.

Attorneys for Domestic Violence in Pinellas County, FL

If you were accused of domestic violence in Pinellas County, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at 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, Tarpon Springs, Seminole, or Safety Harbor.

Remember that the alleged victim cannot “drop charges.” Instead, attorneys with the State Attorney’s Office file and prosecute the charges after reviewing the evidence.

Although you should not speak with the alleged victim about the case, your criminal defense attorney is permitted to contact the victim to learn more about what happened and how they want the case resolved.

If you sit in the courtroom long enough, you will see how the typical case is resolved with:

  • a guilty plea and adjudication of guilt;
  • twelve (12) months of probation (with or without some jail time);
  • fines of $875 (plus additional costs of supervision, investigation, and prosecution); and
  • a requirement to complete a 29-week Batterer’s Intervention Program (BIP) within the first ten (10) months of probation.

In most cases, the court will continue the “no contact” condition until probation is completed.

The prosecutor might agree to drop the charge to “disorderly conduct” with a withhold of adjudication so that you might qualify to seal the record. Of course, the best result is getting the charges dropped by the prosecutor or dismissed by the judge.

If a petition for a civil injunction for protection against domestic violence is filed against you in Pinellas County, FL, we can also represent you at the hearing.

We are familiar with the procedures used in Judge Holly Grissinger’s courtroom. Let us put our experience to work for you.

Call (813) 250-0500.


What Happens at the Misdemeanor Arraignment 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, FL, typically takes twenty-one (21) days to decide whether to proceed with the prosecution.

Unless the charges are dropped during that period, you will notice from the clerk’s office that the case has been scheduled for a misdemeanor arraignment hearing.

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, you can determine which judge in Pinellas County will preside over the case.

The notice might tell you to report to the Pinellas County Justice Center (CJC) Courthouse located at 14250 49th Street North Clearwater, Florida 33762, for the arraignment in a specific courtroom.

At the misdemeanor arraignment hearing for the domestic violence charges, the court will do the following:

  • advise you of the charge pending against you;
  • inquire about whether you intend to:
    • represent yourself
    • hire a private attorney
    • ask for an attorney with the public defender’s office to be appointed;
  • allow you to enter a “not guilty” plea; and
  • reset the case for a pre-trial conference.

Suppose you have already hired a private attorney. In that case, the private attorney will typically file a plea of not guilty and give you express written permission to be excused from attending the arraignment.

The notice tells you that if an attorney represents you, 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, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest. The court might also revoke your Release-On-Recognizance (ROR) bond, or your surety or cash bond might be estreated.

Any probation violation might result in a “no bond” warrant being issued for your arrest and up to twelve (12) months in jail if the court finds that the probation violation occurred.


How Does Florida Define “Domestic Violence”?

Under Florida law, domestic violence includes patterns of violence and threats of violence used to gain power and control over a current or former intimate partner.

Examples of the tactics used by the perpetrators of domestic violence against their victims include using threats, intimidation, isolation, and children as pawns.

Florida has several laws that protect victims from domestic violence, including criminal charges and civil injunctions for protection.


Domestic Violence Deferred Prosecution in Pinellas County, FL

In some cases, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office in Pinellas County, FL, might offer to resolve a case in a diversion program called the “Domestic Violence Deferred Prosecution Program.”

To be eligible for the program, the prosecutor will look at the facts of the case, your prior criminal record (if any), and input from the alleged victim.

The State Attorney’s Office sets the conditions of the diversion program for domestic violence charges. Those conditions vary from case to case.

Resolving the case in the diversion program often requires completing a 29-week Batterer’s Intervention Program (BIP), obtaining an Alcohol or Substance Abuse evaluation and treatment, and paying certain monetary obligations.

If you enter the Domestic Violence Deferred Prosecution Program in Clearwater, FL, the criminal charge will be dismissed after you complete all the required conditions.

At that point, you might be eligible to expunge the record.


Consequences of Domestic Violence “Conviction” on Firearm Rights

Under state and federal law, a conviction for any crime of domestic violence, even a misdemeanor, results in a lifetime ban on your right to possess a firearm or ammunition.

Even if the court withholds adjudication or suspends the sentence, §790.06(2)(K), Florida Statutes, requires that you wait at least three (3) years from the completion of probation or other conditions of the sentence before you can be issued a license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm.

Domestic violence cases are severe for several other reasons. First, if you are accused of domestic violence, you will not immediately be able to bond out of jail (even for a misdemeanor).

Instead, you will be held in jail until the first appearance. At the first appearance hearing, the court might impose a condition that you have “no contact” with the alleged victim.

Second, the court might require you to wear a “Continuous Alcohol Monitor” (CAM) if the criminal record affidavit indicates that you were intoxicated during the incident.

A first-degree misdemeanor conviction for any domestic violence offense creates a presumption of detriment to the child, which the abuser can rebut to persuade the court that shared parental responsibility should be ordered as explained in § 61.13(2)(c)(2).

Although even a felony domestic violence conviction is not an absolute bar to being a primary residential parent. Monacelli v. Gonzalez, 883 So. 2d 361(Fla. 4th DCA 2004). Furthermore, that rebuttable presumption of detriment to a child can be overcome.

For example, in Monacelli v. Gonzalez, 883 So. 2d 361 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004), the court held that the evidence supported the award of primary residential custody of minor children to the ex-husband even though he had a history of domestic violence towards the ex-wife because:

  • the ex-wife suffered from bipolar disorder;
  • the ex-wife refused to accept treatment or medication;
  • the children’s emotional ties were significantly greater towards the ex-husband;
  • the ex-husband had the greater capacity and disposition to provide the children with necessities;
  • the children would maintain a stable environment in the home of their paternal grandmother; and
  • the children preferred to be with their father.

Sealing a Criminal History Record for Domestic Violence Battery

Sealing or expunging a criminal history record is an important civil right. Although you can usually seal a criminal record after you complete your sentence if the court withholds adjudication, that option is NEVER available for any domestic violence offense, even a misdemeanor.

Section 907.041 makes you ineligible to seal any criminal history record if you enter a plea to any act of domestic violence as defined in Section 741.28, Florida Statutes.

The domestic violence crimes that are not eligible to be sealed include any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member, such as:

  • battery
  • assault
  • false imprisonment
  • kidnapping
  • aggravated stalking
  • stalking
  • sexual battery
  • sexual assault
  • aggravated battery
  • domestic battery
  • aggravated assault

Federal Grant Money for Domestic Violence in Pinellas County, FL

According to CASA Pinellas, Pinellas County is ranked 5th out of 67 counties for the highest rates of domestic violence in Florida.

On October 1, 2018, an $864,210 federal grant took effect in Pinellas County, FL. The grant, aimed at combatting domestic violence, 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 was used to improve the response in Pinellas County to criminal misdemeanor acts of domestic violence. Using federal funds, the court system in Pinellas partnered with the following groups:

  • the Pinellas County’s Office of Justice Coordination;
  • the Pinellas County Sheriff; and
  • two non-profits in Pinellas County whose mission 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 required more defendants to undergo drug testing more frequently. Defendants on probation for domestic violence were required to undergo more testing for alcohol and substance abuse, increasing from five to six times a year to twice monthly. The drug testing is paid for with money from the grant.

In 2019, the Pinellas Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Court entered its second year of the $864,210 three-year grant. In the second year, funding was used to provide more victim assistance, expand the Batterer Intervention Program availability in the jail, and increase drug testing and electronic monitoring of domestic violence probationers.

On October 1, 2020, the Administrative Office of the Court for the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida in Clearwater, Florida, issued a press release announcing that Pinellas County received a $549,992.00 grant for the Domestic Violence Initiatives.

The grant started on October 1, 2020, the first day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The grant focused on helping domestic violence victims involved in a divorce or dealing with family law issues by:

  • Funding the services of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) if a judge believes domestic violence might be a factor in a related family case. The GAL would screen the case for Intimate Partner Violence or IPV, looking for signs of coercive control, emotional abuse, economic abuse, physical abuse, or stalking;
  • Providing lawyers to help petitioners seeking a violence-related restraining order, with attorneys taking on 50 cases; and
  • Funding staff at the intake centers in the Clerk of the Circuit Courts offices in St. Petersburg and Clearwater to work 40 hours a week from CASA in St. Petersburg and RCS Pinellas in Clearwater.

Batterer’s Intervention Programs at the Jail in Clearwater, FL

Starting on January 1, 2019, grant money from a three-year grant was awarded to Pinellas County’s Office of Justice Coordination to put more defendants in Pinellas County into batterer intervention programs.

Before 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, each comprising 15 defendants.

The batterer intervention programs are intended to stop recidivism by helping defendants learn to empathize with their victims and change their attitudes regarding power and control in their domestic relationships. Now, access to batterer intervention programs will begin in jail. The goal is a 35 percent or better program completion rate with 300 enrollees yearly.

From May 2017 to February 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 participate in the intervention programs immediately, without 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. They 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 formed because of 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 the conditions of orders in DV cases.

Civil DV Court will provide special dockets dealing with allegations of abuse and/or violence by a spouse, another family member, or an 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” allow 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.

More than 3,500 persons go to court in Pinellas County, FL, each year, alleging abuse by spouses, domestic partners, or dating partners.

The most recent changes are intended to give the judges more court time to determine whether protective orders will be continued or issued after the return hearings.

The respondents assigned counseling responsibilities will be given dates to return to court and show they comply with or have completed the 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 must return to court to show that they comply with the conditions.

Newly hired case managers (one full-time 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 related 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). This St. Petersburg agency 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.

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.

The 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 $299,310 from the U.S. Department of Justice Court Training & Improvement Fund.

The Pinellas County Collaboration to Prevent Domestic Violence was created to 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.


Civil Injunctions for Protection from Domestic Violence in St. Petersburg

The Domestic Violence Office-Family Law Division in St. Petersburg, FL, uses a special email address for specific types of correspondence. A Domestic Violence Specialist responds to correspondence within 48 business hours (not including court holidays or weekends).

Parties (or their attorneys) strictly use the email address in cases involving a civil injunction for protection. DV service providers also email the court to provide periodic progress updates.

The email address should only be used to inform the Domestic Violence Office of motions or documents applicable to upcoming return hearings or for post-judgment proceedings that may require a hearing.

Any documents or motions submitted via email must also be filed with the clerk’s office. Submitting documents to the Domestic Violence Office email address does not waive this obligation. Failure to file the document properly may delay the motion or the document being addressed.

The Domestic Violence Office may not address correspondence that does not meet these requirements. The Domestic Violence Office is prohibited from giving legal advice.


Request Not to Prosecute / Request for Contact

IN THE CIRCUIT/COUNTY COURT FOR PINELLAS COUNTY, FL

SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

CASE NO.:___________________

STATE OF FLORIDA,

v.

_______________,

     Defendant.

REQUEST NOT TO PROSECUTE / REQUEST FOR CONTACT

I, _________________________, request that the following occur:

  1. I have been identified as the alleged victim in this case and do not wish to prosecute.
  2. I have been identified as the alleged victim in this case and would like to have contact with the Defendant;

I am not in fear of violence from the Defendant.

Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read the foregoing and that the facts stated in it are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.

_____________________________________

SIGNATURE DATE

__ PRODUCED IDENTIFICATION

TYPE OF I.D. ______________________

____________________________________

WITNESS DATE


Additional Resources

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, and help fill out the crime compensation and crisis intervention forms. 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 Pinellas Coalition to End Domestic Violence website, formerly known as the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force. Their website explains the history of the organization beginning in January of 1988 when the Police Standards Council founded the PDVTF. Learn more about upcoming events, including the general assembly meeting of the Pinellas Coalition to End Domestic Violence that will be held virtually on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, from 2-4 pm via Zoom.

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 an 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
727-453-7176

State Attorney’s Office on Domestic Violence in Pinellas – Visit the website of Bernie McCabe, the State Attorney for the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Pinellas County, FL, to learn more about how domestic violence cases are prosecuted. 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. Find information about the domestic violence hotline and local shelters. Victims of domestic violence cases currently being prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office can call the Pinellas State Attorney Domestic Violence Division at 727-464-6013.

Deputy in Pinellas County Arrested on Domestic Violence Charges – Being arrested for domestic violence battery in Pinellas County, FL, might come with a lifetime of consequences to you, your career, and your family. On February 10, 2021, a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputy was arrested and charged with false imprisonment and domestic battery. The arrest report alleged that he battered his girlfriend, handcuffed her, and prevented her from leaving home. After the arrest, the deputy was placed on administrative reassignment in a non-sworn position pending the outcome of the criminal case and an internal investigation. Additional information was listed in press release 21-017 from the PCSO from the Professional Standards Bureau of the Administrative Investigation Division at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.


Finding a Lawyer for Domestic Violence in Pinellas County, FL

Contact an experienced criminal justice attorney at Sammis Law Firm if you were charged with domestic violence battery. We understand the special procedures used in the courtroom of the Honorable Holly Grissinger.

Suppose a petition for a civil injunction for protection against domestic violence is filed against you in Pinellas County, FL. In that case, we can represent you during a hearing for a restraining order.

Contact us to learn more about an injunction for protection in Pinellas County, FL.

Representing yourself is not a good option. An experienced attorney can help you through every part of the case, from the first appearance advisory, the arraignment, pre-trial conferences, or the trial.

Let us put our experience to work for you.

Call 727-210-7004 to discuss your case with one of our five attorneys.


This article was last updated on Monday, April 17, 2023.

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