As criminal defense lawyers in the Jacksonville, Florida area, we see a lot of domestic battery cases. Although they are usually misdemeanors, they can be very serious charges that stay on a person’s criminal record forever. Domestic battery cases are often considered the most serious misdemeanor cases by the prosecutors so they may get more attention than most other misdemeanor cases. The Florida legislature has paid special attention to them by creating a law that says if a person pleads guilty or no contest to a domestic battery charge in Florida, or loses at trial, the record of the domestic battery charge will stay on that person’s criminal record forever, even if the judge withheld adjudication in the case. In other words, a person cannot seal or expunge a domestic battery case unless it is completely dropped or the defendant gets a not guilty verdict at trial.
For such a serious charge (which can carry a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail), it is disturbing to see how quickly and often arbitrarily the decision is made to arrest a person for domestic battery. These cases often start when someone makes a call to report some type of domestic disturbance. The police officer usually does not have a lot of specific information about what happened and who did what. When the police police officer arrives, he/she makes observations after the fact and tries to determine what happened based on the statements of two people who may be impaired, upset, excited, biased or otherwise unreliable. Since these incidents usually occur in the home without witnesses, the police officer often does not have an objective third party to help him/her decide who was at fault, if anyone. What usually results is a quick decision about who the bad guy is and who the good guy is based on limited and unreliable evidence. Once the arrest is made, the state does not typically go back. They do what they think is necessary to get a conviction and validate the arrest, no matter how questionable the arrest was.
If you have been arrested for domestic battery in the Jacksonville, Florida area and want to protect your rights, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.