Victims of Domestic Violence
If the crime occurred as alleged, you gave truthful information to the police, and you want the defendant prosecuted for the crime, then you probably don’t need an attorney. Not all people identified as a victim of domestic violence are in that position.
This article discusses issues that can arise when the alleged victim later decides to drop the charges. Sometimes the alleged victim tells the officer at the scene that they do not want anyone arrested. Other times, that desire to have the case dropped comes later.
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, are often contacted by the person identified as the victim in a domestic violence case with questions about how to drop the charges. In most cases, we represent the person accused of domestic violence. In a few cases, the alleged victim wants to hire us to help them through the process so that their wishes are known and their rights are protected.
Because it creates a conflict, one attorney cannot represent both the defendant and the alleged victim. Each person needs their own attorney. Our attorneys have represented both men and women in these cases.
Keep in mind that this information is not legal advice. Criminal defense attorneys have very important ethical considerations that are too complicated to be fully discussed in this article.
Attorneys for the Victims of Domestic Violence in Tampa, FL
A criminal defense attorney is often in the best position to explain your options and the consequences that might come with your attempt to exercise those options. We believe that the alleged victim in the case, upon request, should be provided with information and told all of the options so that an informed decision can be made. For legal advice, you should talk with an attorney about the specific facts of your case.
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors often take a “hide the ball” approach when dealing with a person identified as the victim in a domestic violence case. By seeking out your own legal representation, you can often make the best decision about how to proceed.
For more information on retaining an attorney, call the domestic violence attorneys in Tampa, FL, at Sammis Law Firm.
Call (813) 250-0500.
Does the Victim Need Their Own Attorney?
If you are identified as the alleged victim in a domestic violence case, you have several choices including:
- proceeding without an attorney while cooperating with either the prosecutor or defense attorney; or
- hiring your own attorney who can help you decide on the best course of action.
Recently, the State Attorney’s Offices throughout Florida have been more aggressive in threatening and then actually following through on the threat to charge the complaining witness with making a false report to a law enforcement officer under Florida Statute 837.05.
If you made a statement to the police about what occurred and that statement was NOT true and correct, then you should be very careful about making a second statement to the judge, the prosecutor, a victim/witness counselor, or anyone else without your own attorney at your side. You are entitled to have an attorney represent you at every stage of the case.
Can They Alleged You Made a False Statement?
Most of the time, the victim isn’t even provided with a copy of the police reports or recorded statements, so they have no idea if the police or prosecutor could allege that their statements contradict each other. As the alleged victim of the crime, you are also entitled to a copy of the police reports and other information in the case.
It is particularly important to speak to your own attorney if you decide to complete a voluntary written statement and are worried that it might contradict an earlier statement you made (or where accused of making). The most important thing is to ALWAYS tell the truth if you decide to speak, but if telling the truth might get you in trouble, you can consider exercising your legal right to remain silent. You might decide to exercise your right to “take the 5th” and refuse to testify if that testimony might tend to incriminate you.
The bottom line is that if you do not believe you are a “victim” then the prosecutor will have a very hard time proving the accusations beyond all reasonable doubt. Everyone in the system should understand your wishes and take those wishes into consideration. If you do make a statement, you are certainly entitled to say that you do NOT want the charges prosecuted and the reasons that you feel that way.
Cooperating with the Defendant’s Criminal Defense Attorney
If you don’t want to hire your own attorney, you can consider contacting the criminal defense attorney of the person accused of domestic violence to express your wishes instead of contacting the prosecutor. Although the criminal defense attorney doesn’t represent you, you both have a common goal in trying to get the charges dropped.
If you provide the defendant’s criminal defense attorney with a written statement explaining your position, the criminal defense attorney can provide that form to the State Attorney’s Office and use it to try and get the charges dropped. Many criminal defense attorneys come up with their own forms that they ask the alleged victim to complete on a voluntary basis.
The criminal defense attorney will tell their client to NOT talk to you at all about the case. In most of these cases, a no-contact provision will absolutely prevent the defendant from contacting you for any reason. Regardless of what the court ordered, it is never a good idea for the defendant to talk to the alleged victim about the case for any reason.
We recently obtained a form provided to a victim by the State Attorney’s Office in a domestic violence case in Hernando County. The forms in other counties vary widely. The template for the form provides:
Request to Drop Domestic Violence Charges
__ I acknowledge that I am the identified victim in the above-referenced case and it is my desire that this defendant not be prosecuted.
__ I acknowledge that I have been provided information about injunctions for protection and about programs and services in the community which can assist with safe housing, counseling, relocation assistance, and in developing a safety plan.
__ Having been provided with information about resources, I understand that if the charges are dropped, the State Attorney’s Office will be unable to provide me any assistance in seeking protection from this defendant.
__I acknowledge that I have been counseled about the escalating pattern of domestic violence and have been advised of the possibility that this defendant could seriously harm or injure me.
__ I acknowledge that the State Attorney’s Office will be unable to assist me in seeking restitution from this defendant if the charges are dropped.
__ I am requesting this of my own free will and no threats or promises have been made to me or my family to induce me to make this request.
__ I understand the decision to prosecute or not prosecute this charge lies with the State Attorney’s Office and this Request to Drop Charges is only an expression of my wishes.
The Interview with a Victim/Witness Counselor
After answering questions at the scene and filling out a written statement, the alleged victim might later be contacted by a Victim/Witness Counselor at the State Attorney’s Office.
The Victim/Witness Counselor will complete a Domestic Violence Recommendation form that is marked “Work Product – Not Discoverable” at the top. This means that the defendant’s criminal defense attorney might not be provided a copy. Although the prosecutor and the State Attorney’s Office has a duty to provide any exclupatory or potentially exculpatory evidence (Brady material) to the criminal defense attorney, they often fail to live up to that duty.
The Victim/Witness Counselor will often complete an interview with the Alleged Victim and complete a DV intake form. The victim interview intake form will ask the alleged victim’s contact information along with many other questions.
The questions listed below were cut and paste from a form used by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. The domestic violence units in other counties use similar forms.
During the intake process – especially if you want the no contact provision lifted, you might be asked the following questions. Keep in mind that you are required to answer all of these questions, particularly if the answer might tend to incriminate you because it contracts an earlier statement you gave to law enforcement. But if you do decide to answer the question, you should be truthful.
- What is the relationship between victim and defendant?
- (Note type of relationship, the length of the relationship and other pertinent details).
- Are there children in the home?
- What is the relationship between defendant and children?
- Was this incident witnessed by the children?
- What did they see?
- Were the children in danger during the incident?
- Get names, ages, and social security numbers of children if possible.
- Does victim have concerns regarding the defendant’s treatment of children?
- Does victim have concerns regarding leaving children alone with defendant?
- Note any abuse or violence toward children.
- Look for scoresheet multiplier.
- Are you pregnant?
- Did the defendant know you were pregnant?
- If the children have been victims or witnesses to violence, Florida Law requires this be reported to the Florida Department of Children and Families abuse hotline. 1-800-96-ABUSE (If police report indicates law enforcement called hotline, it is not necessary to call again).
- Date report made to hotline:
- Report taken by:
- (name of abuse registry worker and I.D.#)
- (what information can you obtain about prior abuse)
- (look for Williams Rule Evidence of prior bad acts).
- Toward victim/others.
- Type of abuse and injuries.
- Has victim ever called law enforcement on this defendant before?
- Is victim aware of others having been abused by this defendant?
- Prior violent acts.
- Is there abuse, or threat of abuse toward children or animals?
- Inquire about mental health problems or prior mental health treatment.
- (Victim and defendant)
- Are there weapons in the home?
- Have there ever been threats with weapons?
- What was the nature of the contact?
- (Explain meaning of no contact order).
- (Get injunction case # and county of issuance).
- Has victim ever gone to an abuse shelter?
- If so, get pertinent information which might assist you in the case.
- Was medical care required?
- Name of hospital or treatment providers.
- OBTAIN MEDICAL RELEASE if applicable.
- Inquire if PHOTOS were taken by the medical provider, a family member, shelter care center, friend, other.
- Who took photos and where were they taken?
- Are there witnesses to victims injuries?
- Get names, address, and phone numbers.
- Prior arrests or convictions.
- (Look for Brady Material).
- Has anyone made threats or promises to victim or family concerning this case?
- What Happened? _______________________.
In some cases, the State Attorney’s Office will ask the alleged victim to acknowledge that they have been given information regarding the five (5) education classes required to have the No Contact Order dismissed to allow peaceful contact between the alleged victim and the defendant.
The State Attorney’s Office might also ask the alleged victim to sign and initial a “Domestic Violence Request to Drop Charges” form (although you can use your own form to put it in writing that you want the charges dropped without discussing the facts of the case).
Statement of the Alleged Victim of Domestic Violence
I, ________________ hereby make this statement to _______, who I know to be a Deputy Sheriff of Hernando County, Florida.
I have been advised that I have the right to remain silent, that anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law, that I have the right to have an attorney present while I am being questioned and if I cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be appointed to represent me before any questioning.
No threats, promises, or rewards have been made or offered to me. No force as been used, nor have I suffered any mistreatment, physical or otherwise by any member of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office or anyone else. I make this statement voluntarily and of my own free will, desiring, to tell the truth about this matter…..
I hereby share or affirm that the above statement is true to the best of my knowledge. I further understand that in the event I intentionally provide false information, I can be prosecuted for making a false official statement under F.S.S. 837.06.
This article was last updated on Friday, May 25, 2018.