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Domestic Violence Arrests During a Pandemic

Seth Shapiro
By: Seth Shapiro
Nov. 15 2020

Domestic Violence includes assault, aggravated assault, battery, 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 family or household member.

Domestic violence arrests in Pinellas County and throughout the Tampa Bay area have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office have all reported a significant increase in the number of domestic violence calls.  Stress, working from home, unemployment, isolation, and pre-existing domestic issues have set the stage for more domestic violence cases during the pandemic.

But is every reported domestic violence case truly an incident that should be prosecuted? 

Most commonly individuals are arrested for Domestic Battery.  Florida’s law states that the offense of Battery occurs when a person, “actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other.” 

A Battery becomes a Domestic Battery when it occurs between “Family or household member(s)” meaning spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married.

Based on the above definition of a Battery, a Domestic Battery can be a very minimal event – a simple push without any injury may lead to a Domestic Battery arrest.  We have seen many cases during the pandemic where there is a mutual argument and some form of mutual pushing or shoving occurs that leads to an arrest for Domestic Battery.  These cases require immediate intervention by a criminal defense attorney to show the State Attorney (Prosecutor) that the incident was a minimal and isolated event where there was no injury or intent to injure the alleged victim.

The crime of Domestic Battery is typically charged as a Misdemeanor of the 1st Degree, punishable by up to a maximum of one (1) year in County Jail and a $1000.00 fine.  A Domestic Battery can be charged as a felony Aggravated Domestic Battery if the offender, “Intentionally or knowingly causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement; or uses a deadly weapon; or if the person who was the victim of the battery was pregnant at the time of the offense and the offender knew or should have known that the victim was pregnant.”  It should be noted that deadly weapons are not limited to firearms, and can include household items that one may never have considered to be “deadly” leading to a more serious criminal charge.

It is very common that the person who first calls law enforcement is labeled as the victim, while the other party is assumed to be the initial aggressor.  It is equally common for the male party in an incident involving a male and female to be arrested, even when the incident may have been a case of a mutual brawl, or where the “victim” was in fact the initial aggressor.  Similarly, it is common for the female party in an incident involving a male and female to be arrested when the woman was acting in self-defense.  Law enforcement rarely gets all of the facts and circumstances right when they are conducting an investigation and determining who they will arrest in the heat of the moment.  Additionally, law enforcement will almost always arrest one party in a domestic violence incident because they can not leave the parties together, even when the alleged victim recants or informs the officer that they do not want to prosecute.

An arrest for Domestic Violence can have far reaching effects.  Individuals arrested for Domestic Violence charges are held without bond until they can be seen before a Judge to determine probable cause for the arrest, contact conditions between the parties, and conditions of release.  In most cases the Court will order No Contact between the parties, removing the alleged offender from their home.  As well, the Court may impose a Continuous Alcohol Monitor (CAM) ankle bracelet or GPS ankle bracelet to monitor the alleged offender.  The alleged offender may also be forced to regularly check-in with the Sheriff’s Office and may be subject to random alcohol and drug screening.  Job loss due to a Domestic Violence arrest is also frequent.

There are many moving parts in a Domestic Violence case where a criminal defense attorney can be of great assistance in helping you understand the law, potential consequences, and methods to resolve the case.  Early intervention is key and may help you avoid a formal criminal charge based on the arrest and even put you in the position to have the criminal history removed from your record.

If you have been arrested for Domestic Violence / Domestic Battery, call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736, Option 1 for New Clients for a strategic review of your case.  The Morris Law Firm handles misdemeanor and felony criminal cases throughout the Tampa Bay area (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Manatee Sarasota) and is dedicated to criminal defense.