Victims of Domestic Violence
If you were identified as the victim in a domestic violence case, then you probably don’t need your own attorney if the crime occurred as alleged, you gave truthful statements to the police, and you want the defendant prosecuted for the crime.
If the defendant is putting pressure on you to drop the charges, that conduct might constitute another crime called “witness tampering.”
If you feel unsafe in your home and fear that additional violence might occur, then you might need to petition the court for an civil “order of protection” against domestic violence, dating violence, repeat violence, or stalking violence.
But what if you don’t need any help and just want the charges dropped immediately?
Not everyone identified as the “victim of domestic violence” actually feels like a victim. Some people are not in fear and do not need assistance from the prosecutor or the court system. An injustice occurs when the alleged victim’s voice is not being heard.
The rest of this article discusses the issues that arise when the alleged victim wants the charges dropped and that decision is made of their own free will without any threats or coercion by the person accused of the crime, their family, or their friends.
The alleged victim might tell the officer at the scene that they do not want anyone arrested. Or the alleged victim might decide that they do not want the charges to be prosecuted in the days or weeks following the arrest.
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, are often contacted by the person identified as the victim in a domestic violence case with questions about how to drop the charges.
Sometimes, the alleged victim wants to hire us to help them through the process so that their wishes are known and their rights are protected at every stage of the case, particularly in felony domestic violence cases.
Because it creates a conflict, one attorney cannot represent both the defendant and the alleged victim. Each person needs their own attorney. Our attorneys have represented both men and women in these types of cases.
Keep in mind that this information is not legal advice. Criminal defense attorneys have very important ethical considerations when representing the victim of a crime. Those ethical considerations are far too complicated to be fully discussed in this article.
But the bottom line sometimes the alleged victim needs their own attorney to make sure their interests are protected.
Attorneys for the Victims of Domestic Violence in Tampa, FL
A criminal defense attorney is often in the best position to explain a victim’s rights and the consequences that might come with any attempt to exercise those rights. For example, a witness in a case might decide to “take the fifth” so that they cannot be prosecuted for making a false police report.
We believe that the alleged victim in the case, upon request, should be provided with information. The alleged victim might need their own attorney to explain each of their options so that an informed decision can be made.
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors often take a “hide the ball” approach when dealing with a person identified as the victim in a domestic violence case. By seeking out your own legal representation, you can often make the best decision about how to proceed.
For more information on retaining an attorney, call the domestic violence attorneys in Tampa, FL, at Sammis Law Firm.
Call (813) 250-0500.
Why Would the Alleged Victim Need Their Own Attorney?
If you are identified as the alleged victim in a domestic violence case, you have several choices including:
- proceeding without an attorney while cooperating with the prosecutor or defense attorney; or
- hiring your own attorney who can help you decide on the best course of action.
Recently, the State Attorney’s Offices throughout Florida have been more aggressive in threatening to charge the complaining witness with making a false report to a law enforcement officer under Florida Statute 837.05. In a few of those cases, the prosecutor actually follows through with that threat.
If you have been threatening by a prosecutor after exercising your rights, then call us for help. Over the years, we have taken these cases on a pro bono basis when the alleged victim is indigent and unable to afford to hire their own attorney.
If you made a statement to the police about what occurred and that statement was NOT true and correct, then you should be very careful about making a second statement to the judge, the prosecutor, a victim/witness counselor, or anyone else without your own attorney at your side.
You have the right not to incriminate yourself. At the same time, you have an obligation to make sure that another person is not prosecuted unjustly or wrongfully convicted. We can help you decide the best way to handle the problem.
You are entitled to have an attorney represent you at every stage of the case if you so desire.
Can You Be Accused of Making a False Statement?
Most of the time, the victim isn’t even provided with a copy of the police reports or recorded statements, so they have no idea if the police or prosecutor could allege that their statements contradict each other.
As the alleged victim of the crime, you are also entitled to a copy of the police reports and other information in the case before you decide to make a statement.
It is particularly important to speak to your own attorney if you decide to complete a voluntary written statement and are worried that it might contradict an earlier statement.
The most important thing is to ALWAYS tell the truth if you decide to speak, but if telling the truth might get you in trouble, you can consider exercising your legal right to remain silent. You might decide to exercise your right to “take the 5th” and refuse to testify if that testimony might tend to incriminate you.
The bottom line is that if you do not believe you are a “victim” then the prosecutor will have a very hard time proving the accusations beyond all reasonable doubt. Everyone in the system should understand your wishes and take those wishes into consideration.
If you do make a statement, you are certainly entitled to say that you do NOT want the charges prosecuted and the reasons that you feel that way.
Cooperating with the Defendant’s Criminal Defense Attorney
If you don’t want to hire your own attorney, you can consider contacting the criminal defense attorney of the person accused of domestic violence to express your wishes instead of contacting the prosecutor.
Although the criminal defense attorney doesn’t represent you, you both have a common goal of trying to get the charges dropped.
If you provide the defendant’s criminal defense attorney with a written statement explaining your position, the criminal defense attorney can provide that form to the State Attorney’s Office and use it to try and get the charges dropped.
Many criminal defense attorneys come up with their own forms that they might ask the alleged victim to complete on a voluntary basis.
The criminal defense attorney will tell their client to NOT talk to you at all about the case. In most of these cases, a no-contact provision will absolutely prevent the defendant from contacting you for any reason.
Regardless of what the court ordered, it is never a good idea for the defendant and the alleged victim to talk about the facts of the case while the charge is pending.
If the no contact provision was entered in the case, then you should not try and contact the Defendant. Although the “no contact” provision doesn’t expressly prohibit you from doing anything, you should respect the legal process enough to follow the judge’s order that the parties have no contact until the case is resolved.
You can also ask the defendant’s attorney to petition the court to lift the “no contact” provision. Or you can hire your own attorney to file a motion to withdraw the “no contact” provision.
Subpoena for the “Invest Appointment” at the State Attorney’s Office
In some cases, you might receive a letter from the Victim Assistance Program at the State Attorney’s Office located at 419 N. Pierce Street in Tampa, FL.
The letter will list the name of the defendant, the case number, and the division in which the case is assigned. The form letter provides:
A law enforcement report has been filed in which you are listed as a victim. Before action (prosecution) can be taken, it is important that you appear in our office to discuss the facts of this case. The enclosed witness subpoena provides you with information of the date, time and location of your scheduled appearance.
The State Attorney’s Victim Assistance/Domestic Violence Program was established to provide comprehensive services to victims of crime. We are available to help you through the criminal justice process and with any problems you may experience as a result of this crime. The Information for Crime Victims booklet can also be found on our website.
If you are unable to appear at the scheduled time, or have any questions regarding our services, please contact our office.
ANDREW H. WARREN STATE ATTORNEY
[through the VICTIM ASSISTANCE COUNSELOR]
You might also receive a “Witness Subpoena” that provides:
INDIVIDUAL SERVED ON NAMED PERSON. SUBSTITUTE SERVICE BY SERVING: NON-SERVICE BY THE FOLLOWING REASON:
DEPUTY PROCESS SERVER: DATE: TIME:
State Attorney Office visitors MUST provide valid photo ID to obtain a visitor’s pass
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA
IN AND FOR HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY,
CRIMINAL JUSTICE DIVISION
RE: STATE OF FLORIDA VS. [DEFENDANT’S NAME]
THIS IS AN INVESTIGATIVE SUBPOENA: THERE IS NO COURT DATE INVOLVED.
By service of this subpoena, you are ordered to appear for the purpose of giving truthful testimony in a matter which is pending and undetermined and in which the office of Andrew H. Warren, State Attorney, 13th Judicial Circuit, is conducting an investigation. You are to appear at the place, date, and time specified below.
VAP COUNSELOR: ____________
ADDRESS: State Attorney’s Victim Assistance Office, 419 N. Pierce St., 3rd Floor, Tampa, Florida 33602-4022
Failure to comply with this subpoena may subject you to a penalty by the court.
IMPORTANT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, PERSONS NEEDING A SPECIAL ACCOMMODATION TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS INTERVIEW SHOULD CONTACT 272-6472, NOT LATER THAN SEVEN (7) DAYS PRIOR TO THE PROCEEDING OR VIA FLORIDA RELAY SERVICE FOR THE HEARING IMPAIRED AT 1-800-955-8770 (TDD-TTY).
DATED, this __ day of September, 2021.
ANDREW H. WARREN STATE ATTORNEY 13TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
* QUESTIONS, CONTACT VICTIM ASSISTANCE COUNSELOR
Type: SAO (CF)2 (CJ)3 (CT)5 (CM)8
Date Appeared: TS PL CN NP OT
Witness: Mileage jc
REQUESTED SERVICE: SERVE ADDRESSEE ONLY / F/S
Drop Affidavit for the Victim of Domestic Violence in Hillsborough County
We recently obtained a form provided to a victim by the State Attorney’s Office in a domestic violence case in Hillsborough County. These forms are used at both the Tampa and Plant City office.
Although the form says that it should only be completed by the State Attorney’s Office or the Victim Advocate, the alleged victim might decide to type up their own affidavit and bring it to the State Attorney’s Office or provide it to the Defendant’s criminal defense attorney.
The standard template for drop affidavit in domestic violence cases in Hillsborough County provides:
STATE ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, 13th JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
(TO BE COMPLETED BY SAO/VAP EMPLOYEE ONLY)
VICTIM’S REQUEST THAT STATE NOT PROSECUTE
I, ______________________, the complainant in the above-styled cause, swear or affirm that I am requesting the State Attorney’s Office not prosecute this case for the following reason(s): _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.
In regard to the four following paragraphs, you must initial each one indicating a complete understanding.
_____ I am requesting this of my own free will. No threats or promises have been made to me or any member of my family or friends to induce me to make this request.
_____ I do hereby release the State Attorney’s Office, its employees and Assistant State Attorneys from any and all legal liability which may arise from the State Attorney’s Office honoring this request.
_____ It has been explained to me that domestic violence is rarely an isolated occurrence; it increases in frequency and severity, often resulting in death; and this defendant may likely be violent towards me against without intervention and/or prosecution.
_____ I fully understand that this is only a request by me. the State Attorney’s office alone will decide whether or not to prosecute, and signing this document does not release me or the defendant from attending scheduled court hearings.
________________Name Printed Clearly
State of Florida / County of Hillsborough
Signed and sworn to (or affirmed) before me this __ day of ____, 20__.
by _______________________ (Name of Person Making Statement)
_________________________(Signature of Notary)
_________________________(Print, Type, or Stamp Name of Notary)
[ ] Personally Known [ ] Produced Identification [ ] Type of Identification
Victim Counselor Remarks: ________________
Statistics on Domestic Violence Victims in Florida
According to The Florida Senate BILL ANALYSIS AND FISCAL IMPACT STATEMENT prepared by the Professional Staff of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services for SB 1598 dated February 21, 2022, data from 2000 to 2018, showed that approximately 26 percent of women have been subjected to physical or sexual violence from a current or former husband or male intimate partner at least once in their lifetime.
The report also cited a national study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), showing approximately 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced domestic violence acts including sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking in their lifetime. See The CDC, The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 Data Brief – Updated Release, p. 7, Nov.
2018, available at The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 Data Brief — Updated Release (cdc.gov) (last visited Jan. 19, 2022) (hereinafter cited as “CDC Study”).
This article was last updated on Thursday, December 15, 2022.