Former State Prosecutor
The Morris Law Firm has years of experience in domestic violence defense (sometimes referred to as family violence). Melinda Morris, managing partner of the Morris Law Firm, is an experienced criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg who served in the Domestic Violence Division while she was a State Assistant Attorney in Pinellas County, Florida. Ms. Morris was responsible for prosecuting a range of very serious offenses from investigation through trial.
This inside knowledge is of critical importance and can benefit the defense of your domestic violence case, whether you are facing charges in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas Park, Dunedin or nearby areas.
At the Morris Law Firm, we are familiar with a wide range of criminal matters, including:
You have a very narrow window of time between when you are arrested and when the State Attorney's office makes a decision to file a criminal charge against you. Hiring an attorney immediately to negotiate on your behalf gives you the best chance of avoiding criminal charges.
Act now to consult with an attorney and find out how to best protect your rights clear your name. Consequences for these offenses can be far reaching. It may negatively affecting your employment, military, or academic status, prohibit you from attending your child’s school or recreational activities, prevent this criminal record from being sealed, and impede your right to own a firearm.
The Special Nature of Domestic Violence Charges:
The Tampa Bay area and surrounding counties, including Pinellas County, have a special division in their judicial systems made especially for these cases. Because there is such a stringent policy against those accused of domestic violence, there is great pressure on police and prosecutors to get results.
With such a specialize form of prosecution coming at those accused of domestic violence in Clearwater and St. Petersburg, you need a legal defense team just as specialized. The Morris Law Firm has successfully defended many domestic violence cases in the Pinellas County area and Florida as a whole.
Due to the intimate or passionate nature of domestic violence cases, often-times alleged victims and the accused will reconcile. However, an accuser cannot have the charges dropped merely because he or she refuses to cooperate with the prosecution.
A “no contact” provision is often used in Florida cases of domestic violence. This provision means that the accused can have no contact with the accuser. This can be complicated if the alleged victim decides to start contacting the accuser on their own volition. If this does occur, legal representation will need to step in and get the “no contact” provision amended.
The Morris Law Firm is a full service criminal defense firm that will:
Strive To Minimize Your Court Appearances:
Investigate, Assess & Analyze Your Case:
Negotiate on Your Behalf:
Prepare Your Defense:
Conclude Your Case:
Domestic violence is one of the most commonly charged offenses throughout the St. Petersburg and Clearwater communities. These arrests are so prevalent, that the Pinellas County State Attorney's Office has created a special division of prosecutors to handle these cases exclusively.
Most individuals equate domestic violence as a fight between a husband and wife. However, the Florida statutes set forth a very wide range of criminal offenses committed by one family or household member against another family or household member. There is no doubt that these charges jeopardize your future liberty, reputation and your relationship with the other party. Some of the implications of a conviction include losing your parental rights, losing contact with your family and of course jail or prison time.
These cases can have many facets. You may be falsely accused by your partner of battery or a restraining order may have been temporarily ordered against you on the basis of false accusations. In other cases, your domestic partner does not want you prosecuted and wants to remain in contact with you, yet the State Attorney’s Office or law enforcement are pursuing charges of domestic violence against you.
The law in the State of Florida establishes that a domestic violence offense occurs when one family or household member commits any of the offenses listed below against another family or household member.
Domestic Violence Injunctions:
In St. Petersburg and throughout Pinellas County, domestic violence cases are often closely tied with injunction cases. If a family member is a victim of family violence, stalking or harassment, they may file a petition for an injunction for protection against domestic violence. In most cases, the victim files this document in family court. If the facts warrant, a judge will issue a temporary injunction and set a hearing in the future to determine whether the injunction will remain in place, made permanent, or dismissed.
The Morris Law Firm attorney defends clients at permanent injunction hearings. It is important to hire an attorney with experience in these cases since a permanent injunction on your record carries certain harsh penalties. Having a domestic violence injunction against you will also result in you not being able to possess a firearm. You will be closely examined upon entering or leaving the country. Another consequence associated with a domestic violence injunction is potentially being required to take twenty-six (26) weeks of batterers' intervention classes.
Just because a person is arrested for domestic violence by the police, does not necessarily mean that they will be convicted or even charged with a crime by the prosecutor. The Morris Law Firm defends these cases on a routine basis. We have an excellent reputation for obtaining outstanding results for our clients. Once we begin to defend or represent a client, it is not uncommon for the charges alleged by the police to be reduced by the prosecutor or even dropped.
Over the years, we have found that many clients are falsely accused by their spouses or family members. There are many reasons that false reports are made in domestic cases. Insecurity, infidelity, financial distress, stress at work and issues relating to children can often form the basis for a false or exaggerated accusation.
We will carefully review the facts and circumstances of each case and personally investigate the evidence that the prosecution has obtained to prosecute their case. With our representation, the client can rest assured that we will actively pursue all evidence and witnesses that will assist in obtaining a favorable outcome.
Potential defenses include:
“He Said, She Said”
Not just in Florida, but in the entire nation, domestic violence cases are subjective. If you are the victim of false or exaggerated accusations, you need a lawyer on your side. We can guide you on how to proceed and how to protect yourself. In cases that can lack hard evidence, any shred of doubt is enough to protect you from lies.
Our attorney will not only look into the actual alleged event, but will also examine the arrest for any rights violations. If you’re Miranda Rights have been violated or there has been any other prosecutorial malfeasance, then that is grounds for dismissal. A cool head and strong legal advice will be needed, and Attorney Melinda Morris can provide both.
Restraining orders and domestic violence charges often go hand-in-hand. Though a restraining order in Pinellas County may look like a simple document at its surface, there are several intricacies that should be looked over first. Even if you are not aware of every bit of the order’s rules, one violation can be a ticket to a permanent restraining order or a trip to jail facing more charges. Without proper management from one of our legal representatives, a restraining order can lead to even deeper troubles than the initial charges.
Domestic violence is a specialized form of assault or battery, and may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The penalties however are enhanced, and the consequences are far more serious. Incarceration may be for up to one year in a misdemeanor case, and up to life in a felony case.
If you are charged and convicted of felony domestic violence, you will receive a strike on your criminal record under Florida’s three strikes law. A second felony conviction sentence could then be doubled, and a third conviction may result in a life sentence. You may also receive other enhanced penalties which could include steeper fines.
Consequences of Arrest:
Like any violent crime, domestic violence can carry a hefty cost in legal and social terms. The greatest impact though is at a personal level. These charges can potentially be used as “ammunition” in divorce and child custody hearings. A plea of “guilty” or “no contest” can be just as devastating to a permanent record as a full-blown conviction and can carry a stigma, including later applications for employment. Additionally, a conviction will prevent the accused for ever legally owning a firearm.
Theses cannot be sealed or expunged once a judgment is made, even under a plea of "no contest."
Dangers of Plea Bargains:
Even if a person takes a plea bargain to a lesser sentence, they can still face life-altering punishments, including:
Under Florida Statute, § 741.281 the court may order batterers' intervention program attendance. If a person is found guilty of, has had adjudication withheld on, or has pled nolo contendere to a crime of domestic violence, as defined in § 741.28, that person shall be ordered by the court to a minimum term of 1 years’ probation and the court shall order that the defendant attend a batterers' intervention program as a condition of probation.
The court must impose the condition of the batterers' intervention program for a defendant under this section, but the court, in its discretion, may determine not to impose the condition if it states on the record why a batterers' intervention program might be inappropriate. The court must impose the condition of the batterers' intervention program for a defendant placed on probation unless the court determines that the person does not qualify for the batterers' intervention program pursuant to § 741.325. The imposition of probation under this section shall not preclude the court from imposing any sentence of imprisonment authorized by § 775.082.
§ 741.283 Minimum term of imprisonment for domestic violence. If a person is adjudicated guilty of a crime of domestic violence, as defined in § 741.28, and the person has intentionally caused bodily harm to another person, the court shall order the person to serve a minimum of 5 days in the county jail as part of the sentence imposed, unless the court sentences the person to a non-suspended period of incarceration in a state correctional facility. This section does not preclude the court from sentencing the person to probation, community control, or an additional period of incarceration.
|What is Domestic Violence?|
Under the provisions of Florida Statute 741.28 , domestic violence means any assault, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another who is or was residing in the same single dwelling unit. This can include but is not limited to:
|What should I do if I am placed under arrest for domestic violence?|
|If you are placed under arrest for a domestic violence offense you should remain silent until you have an attorney present. Without an attorney present, anything you say or do can (and will) be used against you in court. Contact the Morris Law Firm if you need legal advice for a domestic violence issue in Florida.|
|The person who accused me of domestic violence has decided not to press charges. Can I still be charged?|
|Yes. The State Attorney's Office can press charges even when the victim does not want to. It is in the sole discretion of the State Prosecutor to decide whether to formally charge you with domestic violence, spousal abuse or child abuse.|
|If I am convicted of domestic violence will I have to attend special classes?|
|If convicted of domestic violence you may be required to attend anger management classes and possibly alcohol or drug counseling. This is a part of rehabilitation that the court may sentence in order to prevent further criminal offenses.|
|Can I avoid a jail sentence for a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction?|
|In some instances a skilled domestic violence attorney can request that you attend counseling and anger management courses instead of being incarcerated for a misdemeanor domestic violence offense, but it will depend upon the specific case.|
|Does domestic violence count as a strike on my record?|
|Yes. If you are charged and convicted of felony domestic violence, you may receive a strike on your criminal record under Florida’s three strikes law. A second felony conviction sentence could then be doubled, and a third conviction may result in a life sentence. You may also receive other enhancement penalties which could include steeper fines.|
|What is a Domestic Violence Injunction?|
|This is a petitioned order coming from the Court through the Domestic Violence Office that helps a victim (Petitioner) allow the Court jurisdiction over the parties noted and puts provisions in place as to avoidance of any further acts of violence.|
|If there is a restraining order issued against me, can I still call the person accusing me of abusing them?|
|No. Simply put, if there has been a restraining order or order of protection issued against you, you are not allowed to contact or attempt to contact the alleged victim in any way. This would include in person, telephone, e-mail and fax or through a third party.|
|I was accused of raping my spouse. How is this possible?|
|Anytime a person forces another to have sex against his or her will, this is considered rape. This applies even to spouses or individuals who are in a relationship.|
|Why is it important to hire a domestic violence lawyer?|
|A domestic violence accusation is very serious, and without the aid of a qualified criminal defense attorney you may face harsh penalties. The Morris Law Firm provides excellent legal representation to clients in the St. Petersburg, Tampa and surrounding Tampa Bay areas.|
Florida Abuse Hotline - 1-800-96-ABUSE (22873)
The Florida Abuse Hotline serves as the central reporting center for allegations of abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation for all children and vulnerable adults in Florida.
Florida Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-500-1119
The Domestic Violence program serves as a clearinghouse on domestic violence information.
The National Center for Victims of Crime is nationally committed to provide assistance and rebuild the lives of victims of crime. Valuable resources on dating violence are available online.
A domestic violence agency serving the St. Petersburg area. CASA strives to outsource a powerful voice against violence through advocacy, empowerment, and social change.
Hotline number: (727)895-4912 x 1
PO Box 414
St Petersburg, FL 33731
Administration: (727) 895-4912 x111
Fax: (727) 821-7101
FCADV provides various services to victims of domestic violence. Florida has 42 serving domestic violence centers serving 67 counties.
425 Office Plaza Dr.
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Phone: (850) 425-2749
Fax: (850) 425-3091
TTY Hotline: 1-800-621-4202
This Pinellas County agency provides safe sheltering and counseling services to victims of domestic violence. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Hotline number: (727)442-4128
PO Box 10594
Clearwater, FL 33757
Outreach: (727) 441-2029
Administration: (727) 584-3528
Fax: (727) 461-5057
The Bottom Line, Protect Yourself
The involvement of the state government makes it even harder to follow without a guide. Our law firm has years of practical and functional knowledge when it comes to domestic violence cases in Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Sarasota County, Manatee County, and nearby areas. Contact us at (727) 388-4736 to speak with an attorney who can begin preparing your defense today.
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