Can You Expunge a Domestic Violence Record?

Florida law generally prohibits the expungement of cases involving domestic violence, and no domestic violence “conviction” can be expunged. But if you are facing your first offense for a domestic violence crime, it is possible to have your case end in a way that allows you to have it expunged, and lets you escape a lifetime with a domestic violence conviction. At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we approach every case with the goal of resolving the matter with the best result for our client and their family.

Domestic violence charges can follow you throughout your life unless you work with experienced criminal defense lawyers who know how to minimize your chances of conviction.

Why Are Domestic Violence Cases Different?

Domestic violence offenses are a special category of crime under Florida law. Often, people who are arrested and charged with domestic violence crimes are first offenders who are otherwise law-abiding, responsible members of society. Sometimes the defendant’s actions arise from substance dependency or abuse, emotional strain, or mental illness.

While many domestic violence offenders never violate the law again, others fail to correct their conduct and data suggests that their harmful behavior may escalate, increasing the danger to potential victims. In response, the Florida legislature enacted laws requiring the government to keep track of all records of domestic violence convictions.

How Can a Domestic Violence Charge Be Expunged?

Domestic Violence related “convictions” are specifically excluded from the list of charges that can be expunged or sealed from public view. The key to preserving your ability to get a domestic violence case expunged is to avoid a result that is considered a conviction. Under Florida law, for purposes of expungement, the term conviction means:

“a determination of guilt which is the result of a trial or the entry of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld, or if the defendant was a minor, a finding that the defendant committed or pled guilty or nolo contendere to committing a delinquent act, regardless of whether adjudication of delinquency is withheld.” (FS 943.0584(1))

What does this mean? It means that if you want to expunge the record of your case, you must avoid pleading guilty or nolo contendere, even if your case has “adjudication withheld.” Before your case can arrive at the point where adjudication is withheld, you would already have pleaded “nolo,” which means you admit the charges are true. If you plead “nolo” or guilty to a domestic violence charge in Florida, your record of conviction is permanent.

Avoiding a Domestic Violence Conviction

There are four legal routes to closing your domestic violence charge without being convicted and without going to trial.

  1. Pretrial Domestic Violence Diversion (Intervention) Program — The state’s attorney’s office administers a pretrial intervention program for domestic violence first offenders. If you are accepted and complete the program’s requirements, including batterer’s intervention training and an intensive anger management course, your charges will be dismissed. The prosecution’s office has 100% discretion over who they permit into the program. But a skilled, experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer can work to convince the state’s attorney to admit you into the program if your case has no aggravating factors.
  • State’s Attorney Doesn’t Formally “File” Charges — Once law enforcement officers make a domestic violence arrest, the case is forwarded to the state’s attorney to determine whether there is enough evidence to continue with the prosecution, including whether the complaining witness wants the prosecutors to resolve the charges in a more private, cooperative manner. If the state’s attorney decides not to press the charges, the charges are dismissed. Again, the skill and persuasiveness of your criminal defense lawyer plays a major role in convincing the prosecution to take this action.
  • Amending the Charge to Non-Domestic — Since domestic violence convictions are not eligible to be expunged in Florida, the best domestic violence defense lawyer will try to get the prosecutor to agree to amend the charge to a non-domestic offense such as disorderly conduct. Florida statute 943.0584(2) identifies the crimes considered to be domestic violence: 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. If the facts can fit a non-domestic alternative charge, this result could leave you with an expungable conviction.
  • Judge or Prosecutor Dismisses the Charges — There are many grounds on which a criminal case can be dismissed, either by the judge or the prosecutor. The arrest may have resulted from an unlawful entry by the police, or the witness statements might be inadmissible into evidence under still developing laws regulating hearsay testimony. This is where Tampa area criminal defense lawyers Ben Stechschulte and Amy Nell specialize. The Stechschulte Nell Law Office has years of litigation experience winning legal arguments and pressing defense motions to serve the client’s interests. Winning dismissal of charges by court order or because a prosecutor is persuaded he or she can’t win is only accomplished when you hire a qualified criminal defense attorneys.

The Importance of Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer Immediately

Once you or your family member become involved in any police investigation, events happen quickly, and important decisions need to be made on a moment’s notice. Waiting to contact a criminal defense lawyer can end up damaging, sometimes severely.

Lawyers who specialize in criminal defense law are experts in how the law applies to your case, what rights you have, and which rights you need to exercise. Once you make a decision without legal counsel, you may need to live with a criminal record you could have avoided. Don’t wait. Call Stechschulte Nell to discuss your case today; 813-280-1244.

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