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Domestic Violence Crimes in Polk County, FL

If you were arrested for a domestic violence crime or served with a petition for an injunction for protection from domestic violence then you have come to the right place.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm aggressively fight false or exaggerated accusations of domestic violence in Polk County, FL, at the courthouse in Bartow, Lakeland, and Winter Haven.

According to data from the Florida Statistical Analysis Center and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s annual Uniform Crime Report system, Polk County’s domestic violence rate was 728.8 incidents per 100,000 for 2017.

Under Florida law, crimes of violence are classified as “domestic violence” when the action involves:

  • a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim;
  • a person with whom the victim shares a child in common;
  • a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner;
  • a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of jurisdiction; or
  • any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person under the domestic or family violence laws in Florida.

These crimes of violence involve allegations that the act caused fear for a person’s safety or caused a physical or psychological injury, pain, or illness.

The most common criminal charges for domestic violence include assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, battery on a pregnant female, and domestic violence by strangulation.

More serious accusations can involve sexual battery, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, or false imprisonment.

Attorney for Crimes of Domestic Violence in Polk County, FL

If you are accused of a crime involving violence within a familial or intimate partner relationship, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for Polk County, FL, at Sammis Law Firm.

We also represent clients after the alleged victim of domestic violence files for an “Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence.” In the injunction, the petitioner will allege being in fear that another unlawful act of violence might occur in the immediate future.

Our domestic violence lawyers also represent the respondent who is served with a petition for a protective order against domestic violence.

Call 813-250-0500.


Criteria for Proving the Existence of the Domestic Relationship

Under Florida law, when a violent act is committed by a person against another who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim, the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors:

  • the length of the relationship;
  • the type of the relationship; and
  • the frequency of interaction between persons involved in the relationship.

True acts of domestic violence involve a pattern of controlling behaviors that include violence or threats of violence. The acts are committed by one person to establish power over an intimate partner in order to control that partner’s actions and activities.

The definition of domestic violence should be distinguished from other types of issues that arise in a relationship such as a disagreement, a marital spat, or an anger management problem.

Read more about the prosecution of domestic violence crimes at the Winter Haven courthouse.


Domestic Violence Injunctions for Protection in Polk County, FL

In these cases, the alleged victim will often petition the court for an Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence. The petition for the protective order is filed at the Clerk of Court, Domestic Violence Department, 1st Floor, Polk County Courthouse in Bartow.

Each year, more than 3,000 injunctions for protection for domestic, dating, or sexual violence are filed in the Polk County Clerk’s office, and more than 1,000 injunctions for protection for stalking are filed.

The Clerk’s Office will help the petitioner fill out the petition for the restraining order. If the allegations are sufficient, the judge will enter a Temporary Order for Protection Against Domestic Violence after reviewing the petition.

The grounds for the injunction for protection against domestic violence requires the petitioner and respondent reside together as a family or have lived together with you in the past as if they were a family member and identify as:

  • a spouse or former spouse;
  • a person related by blood or marriage;
  • a person who has lived together with you as though they were your spouse; or
  • a person with whom you have had a child together, even if you have never lived together.

If the temporary order is granted, the respondent must be personally served with a copy of the petition, the notice of the hearing, and a copy of the temporary injunction. The formal hearing on the petition is scheduled within 15 days.


Violations of an Injunction for Protection from Domestic Violence

What happens if the respondent is accused of violating the restraining order for protection from domestic violence?

In Polk County, FL, if the alleged abuser is accused of disobeying the injunction by threatening or committing abuses against the petitioner, the petitioner is encouraged to call your local law enforcement agency.

When the officers are shown a certified copy of the Injunction for Protection and have probable cause that the violation occurred, they are permitted to make a warrantless arrest.

In other cases, the petitioner is encouraged to file a “Motion for Contempt” at the county courthouse in Bartow, FL.

Read more about the judges in Polk County, FL.


Administrative Orders on Domestic Violence in Polk County, FL

In Polk County, FL, the courts enter administrative orders to address various procedural issues. For example, Administrative Order No. 5-14.1, entered on March 8, 2004, addresses statutory changes as well as the promulgation of forms by the Florida Supreme Court.

The courts in Polk County, FL, created the Domestic Violence Program which allows the clerk of the court to assist petitioners in seeking injunctions for protection against domestic violence, repeat violence, dating and sexual violence.

The statutory directives of Florida Statutes, presently set forth in Chapter 741 and Chapter 784, Florida Statutes, provide that the clerk of court shall “. . . provide simplified petition forms for the injunction, any modifications, and the enforcement thereof, including instructions for completion.” §§741.30(2)(c)2, 784.046, Fla. Stat. (2003).

The Clerk of Court in Polk County, FL, has developed a procedure for assisting the petitioners in filling out the forms promulgated by the Florida Supreme Court and in compliance with Florida Statutes.

The Polk County Clerk’s Office has identified “the intake procedure” and has provided a copy of the written intake procedure to the Judiciary assigned to the Family Division in Polk County.

The Clerk of Court has submitted changes to the intake procedure which more accurately reflects their procedure of requiring the petitioner to complete in their own words the factual statements in support of their petition.


Intake Procedure: Injunctions for Protection Domestic Violence in Polk County, FL

Florida law requires the Clerks of the Court to provide assistance to persons seeking all forms of petitions for injunction for protection under Chapters 741 and 784: “The clerk of the court shall assist petitioners in seeking both injunctions for protection against domestic violence and enforcement for a violation thereof . . . ” §741.30(2)(c)1., Fla. Stat. (2009).

“All clerks’ offices shall provide simplified petition forms for the injunction, any modifications, and the enforcement thereof, including instructions for completion.” §741.30(2)(c)2., Fla. Stat. (2009).

“The clerk of the court shall provide a copy of this section, simplified forms, and clerical assistance for the preparation and filing of such a petition by any person who is not represented by counsel.” §784.046(3)(a), Fla. Stat. (2009).

In cases of domestic violence, “[t]he sworn petition shall allege the existence of such domestic violence and shall include the specific facts and circumstances upon the basis of which relief is sought.” §741.30(3)(a), Fla. Stat. (2009).

In cases of repeat, sexual, or dating violence, “[t]he sworn petition shall allege the incidents of repeat violence, sexual violence, or dating violence and shall include the specific facts and circumstances that form the basis upon which relief is sought.” §784.046(4)(a), Fla. Stat. (2009).

The courts have approved the following procedures for injunctions for protection:

  1. Upon arrival in the Domestic Violence Department, the petitioner shall sign in and be given a general information sheet to complete.
  2. If the petitioner is unable to complete the information sheet, assistance will be provided by the Clerk’s Family Law Department staff.
  3. The petitioner will be given Florida Supreme Court approved instructions for petitions for the type of injunction being sought.
  4. In cases where the petitioner is seeking an injunction for protection against repeat, dating, or sexual violence, the petitioner will be given a copy of §784.046, Florida Statutes.

The petitioner will also be given portions of the Florida Supreme Court approved petition for the type of injunction being sought, as follows:

  1. Domestic Violence.
    • For injunctions for protection against domestic violence, the petitioner will be given paragraphs 3 and 4 of section III of 2 the domestic violence petition upon which the petitioner can indicate by check marks the types of things the respondent is alleged to have done and upon which the petitioner may briefly write the dates and locations of incidents of domestic violence or the circumstances which make the petitioner believe that domestic violence is imminent, describe what the respondent did, and explain why the petitioner is in fear.
  2. Repeat Violence.
    • For injunctions for protection against repeat violence, the petitioner will be given paragraphs 4, 5, and 6 of section III of the repeat violence petition upon which the petitioner may write the dates and locations of at least two incidents of repeat violence, describe what the respondent did to the petitioner, and explain why the petitioner is in fear.
  3. Dating Violence.
    • For injunctions for protection against dating violence, the petitioner will be given paragraphs 6, 7, and 8 of section III of the dating violence petition upon which the petitioner may write the dates and locations of incidents of dating violence, describe what the respondent did to the petitioner, and explain why the petitioner is in fear.
  4. Sexual Violence.
    • For injunctions for protections against sexual violence, the petitioner will be given paragraph 1 of section III of the sexual violence petition upon which the petitioner may describe what the respondent did to the petitioner, including where and when it happened, indicate whether the sexual violence was reported to law enforcement (and, if so, the incident report number and the criminal case number if any), and indicate whether the respondent has been sentenced to prison and is within 90 days of being released.

The administrative also allows the petitions will be reviewed by a member of the Clerk’s Family Law Department staff. If the petitioner is vague about dates or acts of violence, or if the petitioner is unable to legibly complete the required form, a Clerk staff member will request more details or clarification.

A Clerk staff member will assist in filling out the remainder of the forms based on information provided by the petitioner.

If the petitioner requests the court to determine issues regarding custody, visitation, temporary support, or confidential filing of address, the appropriate forms and assistance will also be provided.

Upon completion, the petition will be forwarded to the judge for review. The petitioner will be instructed that the judge’s written decision will be available later in the day.


Special Instructions for Minors Filing a Petition for an Injunction for Protection

When it comes to filing a petition for injunction and a minor victim is 11 years of age or younger, a member of the Clerk’s staff will take the statement of the parent or legal guardian, and so indicate in the petition.

If the minor is 12 years of age or older, the minor will be given a form on which they will handwrite their statement.

The minor’s statement will be attached to the petition.

A Clerk staff member will fill out the remainder of the petition based on information provided by the parent or legal guardian.


Additional Resources

Domestic Violence Shelters in Polk County – Visit the website of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) to learn more about the Home Centers Peace River Center Domestic Violence Shelter (Peace River). The mission of Peace River Center’s Victim Services’ Program is to reduce the number of domestic and sexual violence within the Tri-County area. Peace River is certified by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Florida Council Against Sexual Violence. The Victim Services Office Line hotline number is 863.413.2708.

Domestic Violence in Polk County During COVID-19 – Visit the website of the Polk County Clerk of Court, Stacy M. Butterfield, to find out more about domestic violence crimes. Find out how the petitioner files a petition for an “Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence” on the first floor at the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow, FL. The website also provides answers to “frequently asked questions” such as:

  • What is an injunction?
  • Where can I obtain an injunction?
  • What happens after the judge grants the temporary injunction?
  • What are the costs to file for a restraining order?
  • How does the injunction protect me?
  • What happens after the judge grants the injunction?
  • What can I do if the injunction is violated?

Polk’s Domestic Violence Task Force – In an effort to decrease domestic violence, a task force was created to meet on a monthly basis. The task force for domestic violence in Polk County consists of law enforcement, prosecutors and judges in the court system, and employees of Healthy Families. The Polk County Domestic Violence Symposium is hosted by Tenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida DV TASK FORCE.


This article was last updated on Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

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