Role of Prosecutors and the Court in Domestic Violence Cases
Posted on December 15, 2015
Domestic violence issues extend well beyond the possible legal ramifications. Issues related to finances, social services, job training and the impact on learning abilities of children exposed to domestic violence are commonly found in homes where this behavior is present. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, community organizations in Miami that offer resources to domestic violence victims are making extra efforts to reach out those affected and to more generally educate the public on the impact of this crime on a community.
One segment of victims rarely discussed is men abused by their wives or partners. One man in Pinellas County used modern technology to prove that he was the victim and not the aggressor when he recorded abuse by his estranged using a GoPro camera, which ultimately led to her arrest. The role of police investigators in domestic violence investigations is generally known, but prosecutors and courts play equally important roles in these cases that are worth examining. A discussion of the role envisioned by the legislature for both prosecutors and courts will appear below to help those involved in these cases better understand the approach each takes to domestic violence matters.Prosecutors
Each state attorney must have prosecutors who specialize in domestic violence cases, and these attorneys, along with their support staff, must receive specific training on domestic violence issues. More importantly, the legislature wants prosecutors to aggressively pursue domestic violence cases so that these incidents are viewed as crimes and not private domestic matters. Additionally, the prosecutors are empowered to manage the prosecution of domestic violence cases over a victim’s objections, although this is not preferred.
When it comes to actually prosecuting a domestic violence case, the prosecutor is required to conduct an investigation into certain aspects of an accused’s criminal history to present to the court:
- previous arrests on domestic violence allegations;
- previous arrests for other crimes;
- previous injunctions for protection against domestic violence; and
- other complaints of domestic violence filed against the accused.
All this information is presented to the court at the first appearance, the bond hearing and at sentencing.Courts
As for the courts, the legislature wants the judiciary to focus its attention on the safety of the victim, the victim’s children and anyone else that could be danger if the accused is released. These considerations should be paramount from the first appearance in court by the accused and work against initial release.
Additionally, if the court decides to issue an injunction for protection against domestic violence, the judge is required to consider a number of factors designed to guard the safety of the victim and take specific action in certain situations. These factors and required actions include:
- taking into account the victim’s safety, which may necessitate barring the accused access to the couple’s home;
- instructing the accused and the accuser about how an injunction works, what happens if it is violated, and that neither party has the authority to change the terms of the injunction;
- verifying the parties understand their legal rights and obligations related to child support, visitation, retrieving personal property and enforcing or modifying the injunction;
- thinking about ordering temporary child support if there are not any existing orders for child support and if the issue is mentioned in documents filed with court;
- keeping in mind the safety of a child and the victim, and considering whether it is in their best interest to order supervised visitation, no visitation or some other arrangement;
- enforcing a violation of an injunction for protection against domestic violence through civil or criminal contempt proceedings; and
- deliberating on requiring the accused to complete a batterer’s intervention program.
Regardless of whether you are a victim or domestic violence or someone falsely accused of battering your spouse, speaking to an attorney about your rights and the criminal process in these cases is important to providing the best protection for yourself and your family. Stok Kon + Braverman, in Boynton Beach and Fort Lauderdale, offer legal services on domestic violence issues and are available to advise on your unique situation. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation.