No one should ever be wrongfully accused of committing a crime. Unfortunately, whether through misunderstanding, mistake, or malice, criminal charges are filed against innocent people much more often than most people want to realize. And despite the general legal principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, public opinion rarely gives the accused the benefit of the doubt.
At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, our extensive experience and professional commitment to protecting the rights of the accused is frequently the only thing standing between an innocent defendant and a wrongful conviction. If you or someone you love is accused of criminal conduct anywhere in the Tampa – St. Petersburg area, contact our office for trustworthy, skilled, and forceful criminal defense advice and representation.
Wrongful Domestic Violence Allegations
Prosecutors and courts in Florida take domestic violence allegations seriously, and the consequences of domestic violence charges are immediate and life-changing. With the charge come restraining orders forbidding direct or indirect contact with the complainant who is often a long-time spouse, sustained separation from children causing them stress, anxiety, and a sense of insecurity, the forfeiture of firearms at least temporarily, days missed from employment due to an arrest and repeated court appearances, and public humiliation.
Well-founded domestic violence prosecutions, while tremendously upsetting, serve several important public interests. They can result in protection for victims, stability for children, and a shocking wake-up call for a spouse or intimate family member whose abusive conduct stems from alcohol or substance use, mental health issues, or a deep-seated but unconscious anger. Remedies like restraining orders, batterer’s intervention programs, domestic violence counseling, and even a period of incarceration often deliver powerful results.
But a misplaced or exaggerated allegation of domestic violence can do great damage, not only to the wrongfully accused person but also to the family, including the alleged victim. Once a domestic violence prosecution begins, the complaining witness has no power to stop it. They are merely witnesses whom the state prosecutors are empowered to subpoena to testify, even when the alleged victim desires to drop the charges.
What to Do When Wrongfully Charged with Domestic Violence
The law surrounding domestic violence prosecutions is strict and complex. No one facing domestic violence charges should attempt to “handle things themselves,” or try to represent themselves in court. Experienced criminal defense lawyers spend time studying domestic violence procedural law because the area is often developing more actively than other legal subjects.
Always contact and hire a knowledgeable domestic violence defense lawyer immediately and before doing anything else following a domestic violence arrest.
Then, keep in mind that there are actions you should NOT take:
- Do not assume the court-ordered restraining order is “flexible;” it is not.
- Do not attempt to contact the alleged victim directly, by phone, text, email, or by writing.
- Do not pass messages to the alleged victim through a third party. Any contact, even indirect contact, will violate the restraining order and can result in the immediate revocation of your bail and result in jail. It also jeopardizes your defense lawyer’s ability to persuade the prosecutor to consider favorable dispositions.
- Do not engage in communications with the complainant if “they” initiate the contact. The restraining order prohibits your contact with the person, regardless of who initiates the contact. In practical terms, responding to a message received from someone with whom you are to have no contact can be presented with some mitigation. However, cases in which a domestic violence defendant “responds” to a complainant’s outreach often lead to repeated communication which directly violates the court’s order.
- Responding to attempted contact from the alleged victim carries grave risks. How will you prove it was they who tried to contact you? If their mood changes and they reach out to you first, your seemingly innocent response to their contact could jeopardize your defense.
- Do not follow the alleged victim. Trailing them, even from a distance, could result in severe “stalking” charges. If you find yourself in the same vicinity as the person you are accused of committing domestic violence against, you should leave immediately. While it may be unfair, the best and safest policy is to leave the location, even if you were there first.
How to Defend Against Domestic Violence Charges
A criminal defense lawyer with experience representing defendants facing domestic violence charges knows what evidence will be most challenging for the prosecution to present in court. In many cases, the government finds the “alleged victim” has changed their mind since filing the original complaint. By the time the case gets to court, they realize they no longer want their intimate partner or family member to be prosecuted.
Learn More> Can You Expunge a Domestic Violence Record?
The Right To Confront the Witnesses Against You in a Criminal Case
Experienced criminal defense attorneys use the law to prevent the prosecution from using inadmissible evidence in court. One important rule is based on the Sixth Amendment right that a person accused of a crime shall be able to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against them.
When a witness is unavailable to testify in court, the United States Supreme Court ruled that their pretrial statements to police are not admissible against the defendant if they are “testimonial.” If a statement is “non-testimonial,” then the statement does not violate the Sixth Amendment confrontation clause.
What is a “testimonial statement?”
- It looks like the kind of statement that would be offered against the defendant at trial to help prosecute them,
- it is made when circumstances objectively seem like there is no emergency, and
- the statement is made to law enforcement or during interrogation with the primary purpose of providing information about past events to further the collection of evidence against the defendant.
A “non-testimonial” statement is one that:
- is made primarily for the purpose of obtaining help, or assisting law enforcement’s response to a current emergency,
- is not made primarily for the purpose of discovering or proving past events or for use in the prosecution of the defendant.
Examples of admissible non-testimonial statements include recordings of calls to 911 seeking help from police in which the caller describes events from which they need rescue or the statements of a shooting victim who describes their assailant while the gunman is still at large and a risk to the community.
Testimonial statements that are not admissible against the defendant include a witness’s written report to the police, a witness’s answers during a police interrogation after a threat has subsided, etc.
There are exceptions to these rules that are very fact-specific, and which may result in a different result based solely on the existence of a small detail. The technically complicated legal rules require the attention of a skilled and well-experienced domestic violence defense lawyer.
Domestic Violence Charges
If you have been accused of domestic violence, call our experienced criminal defense team at Stechschulte Nell. We are ready to defend your case. Call today; 813-280-1244.