Victims of Domestic Violence
If the crime occurred as alleged, you gave truthful statements to the police, and you want the defendant prosecuted for the crime, then you probably don’t need an attorney.
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 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 later that they do not want the charges to be prosecuted in the days or weeks after 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 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 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 that 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 your options and the consequences that might come with your attempt to exercise your 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 and told all of the options so that an informed decision can be made. For legal advice, you should talk with an attorney about the specific facts of your case.
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 either 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.
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 the person arrested is not prosecuted unjustly. 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 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 either. Although the “no contact” provision doesn’t expressly prohibit you from doing anything, you should respect the legal process enough to follow the judges wishes 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.
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: ____________ DATE: ______________ TIME:__________ 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 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 24 day of May, 2019
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: ________________
Drop Affidavit for the Victim of Domestic Violence Case in Hernando County
We recently obtained a form provided to a victim by the State Attorney’s Office in a domestic violence case in Hernando County. The forms in other counties vary widely. The template for the form provides:
Request to Drop Domestic Violence Charges
__ I acknowledge that I am the identified victim in the above-referenced case and it is my desire that this defendant not be prosecuted.
__ I acknowledge that I have been provided information about injunctions for protection and about programs and services in the community which can assist with safe housing, counseling, relocation assistance, and in developing a safety plan.
__ Having been provided with information about resources, I understand that if the charges are dropped, the State Attorney’s Office will be unable to provide me any assistance in seeking protection from this defendant.
__I acknowledge that I have been counseled about the escalating pattern of domestic violence and have been advised of the possibility that this defendant could seriously harm or injure me.
__ I acknowledge that the State Attorney’s Office will be unable to assist me in seeking restitution from this defendant if the charges are dropped.
__ I am requesting this of my own free will and no threats or promises have been made to me or my family to induce me to make this request.
__ I understand the decision to prosecute or not prosecute this charge lies with the State Attorney’s Office and this Request to Drop Charges is only an expression of my wishes.
The Interview with a Victim/Witness Counselor
After answering questions at the scene and filling out a written statement, the alleged victim might later be contacted by a Victim/Witness Counselor at the State Attorney’s Office.
The Victim/Witness Counselor will complete a Domestic Violence Recommendation form that is marked “Work Product – Not Discoverable” at the top. This means that the defendant’s criminal defense attorney might not be provided a copy.
Although the prosecutor and the State Attorney’s Office has a duty to provide any exculpatory or potentially exculpatory evidence (Brady material) to the criminal defense attorney, they often fail to live up to that duty.
The Victim/Witness Counselor will often complete an interview with the Alleged Victim and complete a DV intake form. The victim interview intake form will ask the alleged victim’s contact information along with many other questions.
The questions listed below were cut and paste from a form used by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. The domestic violence units in other counties use similar forms.
During the intake process – especially if you want the no contact provision lifted, you might be asked the following questions. Keep in mind that you are required to answer all of these questions, particularly if the answer might tend to incriminate you because it contracts an earlier statement you gave to law enforcement. But if you do decide to answer the question, you should be truthful.
- What is the relationship between victim and defendant?
- (Note type of relationship, the length of the relationship and other pertinent details).
- Are children in the home?
- What is the relationship between defendant and children?
- Was this incident witnessed by the children?
- What did they see?
- Were the children in danger during the incident?
- Get names, ages, and social security numbers of children if possible.
- Does victim have concerns regarding the defendant’s treatment of children?
- Does victim have concerns regarding leaving children alone with defendant?
- Note any abuse or violence toward children.
- Look for score sheet multiplier.
- Are you pregnant?
- Did the defendant know you were pregnant?
- If the children have been victims or witnesses to violence, Florida Law requires this be reported to the Florida Department of Children and Families abuse hotline. 1-800-96-ABUSE (If police report indicates law enforcement called hotline, it is not necessary to call again).
- Date report made to hotline:
- Report taken by:
- (name of abuse registry worker and I.D.#)
- Defendants prior relationships:
- (what information can you obtain about prior abuse)
- (look for Williams Rule Evidence of prior bad acts).
- History of abuse by this defendant:
- Toward victim/others.
- Type of abuse and injuries.
- Has victim ever called law enforcement on this defendant before?
- Is victim aware of others having been abused by this defendant?
- Prior violent acts.
- Is there abuse, or threat of abuse toward children or animals?
- Is substance (alcohol/drugs) a factor?
- Inquire about mental health problems or prior mental health treatment.
- (Victim and defendant)
- Are there weapons in the home?
- Have there ever been threats with weapons?
- Has victim had contact with defendant or defendant’s attorney since this incident?
- What was the nature of the contact?
- (Explain meaning of no contact order).
- Does victim currently have/or has ever had an Injunction for Protection against this defendant?
- (Get injunction case # and county of issuance).
- Has victim ever gone to an abuse shelter?
- If so, get pertinent information which might assist you in the case.
- Describe marks, bruises or other injuries if applicable.
- Was medical care required?
- Name of hospital or treatment providers.
- OBTAIN MEDICAL RELEASE if applicable.
- Inquire if PHOTOS were taken by the medical provider, a family member, shelter care center, friend, other.
- Who took photos and where were they taken?
- Are there witnesses to victims injuries?
- Are there other witnesses who have information about this incident.
- Get names, address, and phone numbers.
- Do you have any photographs, video, or any other recording of the incident?
- Victims background:
- Prior arrests or convictions.
- (Look for Brady Material).
- The Victim’s wishes regarding this offense.
- Has anyone made threats or promises to victim or family concerning this case?
- Restitution documentation and amount. $_______.
- This incident:
- What Happened? _______________________.
In some cases, the State Attorney’s Office will ask the alleged victim to acknowledge that they have been given information regarding the five (5) education classes required to have the No Contact Order dismissed to allow peaceful contact between the alleged victim and the defendant.
The State Attorney’s Office might also ask the alleged victim to sign and initial a “Domestic Violence Request to Drop Charges” form (although you can use your own form to put it in writing that you want the charges dropped without discussing the facts of the case).
Statement of the Alleged Victim of Domestic Violence
I, ________________ hereby make this statement to _______, who I know to be a Deputy Sheriff of Hernando County, Florida.
I have been advised that I have the right to remain silent, that anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law, that I have the right to have an attorney present while I am being questioned and if I cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be appointed to represent me before any questioning.
No threats, promises, or rewards have been made or offered to me. No force as been used, nor have I suffered any mistreatment, physical or otherwise by any member of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office or anyone else. I make this statement voluntarily and of my own free will, desiring, to tell the truth about this matter…..
I hereby share or affirm that the above statement is true to the best of my knowledge. I further understand that in the event I intentionally provide false information, I can be prosecuted for making a false official statement under F.S.S. 837.06.
This article was last updated on Friday, September 25, 2020.