Find the Right Domestic Violence Lawyer in Stuart, Florida
Facing domestic violence charges in Florida can be an emotionally and legally overwhelming experience. The stakes of a domestic violence case are high, with potential life-altering consequences. Navigating the intricacies of the case requires expert knowledge, assertive representation, and familiarity with Florida law. It’s crucial to find the right domestic violence lawyer in Stuart, one who will fight for your rights and guide you through the complex legal landscape of domestic violence charges.
The team of expert domestic violence lawyers at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. are experienced in Florida law with deep knowledge of the intricacies of domestic abuse cases. We are committed to providing our clients with insight, guidance, and a rigorous defense to safeguard your rights.
We’re grateful to have earned our clients’ appreciation and respect, as shown in over 1,000 5-star reviews. We’re equally proud of our track record of thousands of wins in Florida courts.
We represent clients who face accusations of spousal abuse, child abuse, and other types of domestic violence. Start with a free initial consultation, and find peace of mind with expert legal guidance on your side.
Steps You Can Take When Accused of Domestic Violence
Have you been accused of assault or domestic violence? If so, police in Stuart and other Florida cities will most likely make an arrest, and here are some first steps to take to safeguard your rights:
- Cooperate with law enforcement
- Confirm your identity when asked, but don’t volunteer any other information
- Don’t agree to make or sign a written statement until you’ve spoken to a qualified domestic violence lawyer
- Upon your release by a judge, don’t violate any of the specific conditions of release – these could include contacting the victim, returning to the household, or carrying a firearm
- Immediately contact a qualified domestic violence lawyer
How to Choose the Right Stuart Domestic Violence Lawyer
Choosing the right domestic violence lawyer in Stuart is a crucial step in ensuring that your rights and future are protected. In your search, consider these factors:
Experience and Track Record
Does the potential lawyer have experience in similar domestic violence cases?
A proven record of success in handling domestic violence charges demonstrates an attorney’s knowledge in this area of law. This expertise of a lawyer for domestic abuse can play a big role in the outcome of your domestic violence case.
At Meltzer & Bell, our Florida domestic violence lawyers have extensive experience in cases like aggravated assault, sexual assault, sexual battery, false imprisonment, and other domestic violence crimes. Our team includes a former prosecutor, a former assistant state attorney, and a former public defender, so you can be confident in our ability to build a strong and effective defense.
Communication and Availability
Does the potential lawyer communicate with you clearly and respectfully? Are they available and responsive to your needs? A responsive, communicative attorney who is available to address your concerns throughout the legal process can provide invaluable support and guidance.
Good communication skills and availability can alleviate some of the stress of criminal charges while ensuring you are kept informed of the progress of the case at every stage. You deserve support and guidance at this challenging time, and an advocate for your best interests.
Defending Against Domestic Violence Charges in Florida
The potential consequences of a domestic violence conviction can be severe and long-lasting. The good news is that the team of lawyers for domestic violence at Meltzer & Bell in Stuart know how to employ the best strategies for challenging accusations and protecting your rights.
By working with an experienced domestic violence attorney at Meltzer & Bell and understanding common defense strategies, you can improve your odds of achieving a favorable outcome in your case.
In cases of domestic abuse, good Florida domestic violence lawyers understand how to examine and challenge all evidence presented by the prosecution. This can cover physical evidence such as medical records, photographs, and other documentation, as well as witness testimony.
With thorough analysis of the evidence, we can identify possible weaknesses or inconsistencies in the case against you. This builds a strong defense while casting doubt on the prosecution’s case of domestic violence.
Negotiating Plea Deals
A plea deal is a legal agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor’s office. In exchange for a reduced sentence or dismissal of other charges, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
With a plea deal, you may be able to avoid a domestic violence conviction, jail time, or other consequences. A skilled attorney from Meltzer & Bell can help you navigate the plea bargaining process, ensuring that any potential agreement is in your best interest and that your rights are protected..
Understanding Domestic Violence Laws in Stuart
Domestic violence is a criminal offense and a serious issue in the city of Stuart and the state of Florida. Under Florida law, domestic violence encompasses various criminal offenses involving family, romantic, or household members.
Understanding domestic violence law in Florida is the first step in building a solid defense strategy.
Florida law defines domestic violence as any criminal offense that involves violence or the threat of violence between family or household members. These include:
Stalking and Aggravated Stalking
When a person willfully and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person, causing them to feel threatened or fear for their safety. If the stalker makes a credible threat of death or serious bodily harm to the victim or their family, it is aggravated stalking and a felony offense.
Battery and Aggravated Battery
When a person intentionally touches or strikes another person against their will or intentionally causes bodily harm to another. Aggravated battery involves the use of a deadly weapon and the suffering of serious bodily injury or permanent disability by the victim.
Assault and Aggravated Assault
When a person intentionally threatens another with violence, causing the victim to fear they will be harmed. Simple assault is a misdemeanor, but if a deadly weapon is used, or if the assault results in serious bodily injury, it can be charged as felony aggravated assault.
These are not the only charges that can result under Florida’s definition of domestic violence, and the severity of charges and penalties may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
People Covered by Florida’s Domestic Violence Definition
In Florida, domestic violence refers to any one of several offenses occurring between people with a certain relationship.
The covered relationships include:
- Spouses and ex-spouses
- Blood relations that include parent and child, brother and sister, and grandparent and grandchild
- People living together as a family, which may include stepparents and stepchildren
- People who’ve lived together in the past as a family
- People with whom the defendant has a child
Individuals in same-sex relationships may also face charges of and convictions for domestic violence.
Dating violence falls under the umbrella of domestic violence in Florida. It’s defined in Florida Statutes Annotated § 784 as violent acts between people who’ve been in a significant intimate or romantic relationship within the last six months.
Child Neglect and Abuse in Florida
Under Florida Statutes Annotated § 827.03, an individual may be charged with any of the following crimes involving mental or physical injury to children:
Neglect of a Child: When a caregiver fails or omits to care for a child and/or provide the child with basic needs including food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child. It can also occur when a caregiver fails to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from neglect, abuse, or exploitation by another person.
Child Abuse: This involves the intentional infliction of mental or physical injury upon a child or an act that can be reasonably expected to cause physical or mental injury.
Aggravated Child Abuse: This involves committing acts upon a child such as aggravated battery, willful torture, malicious punishment, or willfully and unlawfully caging. It can also involve abuse to a child that results in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement.
People not covered under domestic violence law’s defined relationships can also face child abuse charges. People covered under the definition could be served with a restraining order that prevents them from seeing the child.
Understanding Protective Orders and Injunctions
Florida law provides for four distinct types of protective orders from an alleged abuser against violence. They are commonly called restraining orders nationally, and in Florida, they are legally called injunctions. The four types of protective orders are for:
- Domestic violence: Protects household or family members from harassment, threats, or acts of violence
- Repeat violence: Protects victims from continued threats, harassment, or acts of violence from the same perpetrator
- Dating violence: Protects people in a significant intimate or romantic relationship from further violence or threats
- Sexual violence: Protects people from sexual assault, sexual battery, or other acts of sexual violence, threats, or harassment
A judge may issue a protective order or injunction protecting alleged victims from further abuse in some domestic violence cases. These orders can impose significant restrictions on the accused which limit their freedoms and impact their lives.
A person accusing another of domestic violence may request a protective order under Florida Statutes Annotated § 741.30. In an ex parte hearing (which means the accused cannot have legal representation), the judge may then decide whether to grant a temporary order.
This order will often prohibit the accused from communicating with or going near the alleged victim. It may also prohibit the accused from consuming alcohol or carrying a firearm. The injunction can order the accused away from their home, or to pay for the victim’s lodging.
The judge must set a hearing for a permanent order within 15 days. At that hearing, the accused can be represented by a domestic violence lawyer or lawyers.
Violating a protective order in Stuart and other areas in Florida can result in potential criminal charges or penalties. Common violations of protective orders include:
- Contacting the victim
- Coming within 100 feet of the victim’s vehicle or 500 feet of their home
- Refusing to leave the shared residence of the victim
- Causing damage to the victim’s property
Violating one of the four domestic violence protective orders is a criminal offense, and can lead to a maximum sentence of 1 year of incarceration.
Consequences of Florida Domestic Violence Convictions
The consequences of domestic violence convictions under Florida law can be severe and devastating, impacting your personal and working life for years to come.
These consequences can include, but are not limited to:
- Community service
- Mandatory education or intervention programs
- Issuance of a no-contact order
- Revocation of professional licenses
- Loss of the right to purchase or carry a firearm
- Loss of child custody rights
- A permanent criminal record, which often can’t be expunged
- Jail time (for certain bodily injury cases)
Judges in Stuart and other Florida courts often order people convicted of domestic abuse to attend and finish a Batterers Intervention Program (BIP). Often mandatory, the Batterers Intervention Program is designed and monitored by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and lasts at least 26 weeks. The Batterers Intervention Program covers the root causes of domestic violence to help prevent participants from committing future acts of domestic violence.
The long-term effects of a domestic violence conviction can hinder your ability to secure employment, find housing, and even maintain personal relationships. A domestic violence sentence will remain on your record, even if adjudication is withheld. Records sealing or expungement cannot remove this kind of conviction.
Aiding by a seasoned domestic violence attorney, you can aim to curtail these long-term consequences and achieve a better outcome. By building a strong defense and utilizing their knowledge of Florida law, your attorney can help protect your future and mitigate the impact of a conviction.
If you have been accused of any type of domestic violence against a family member or romantic partner, it is important to act fast. A domestic violence allegation and the criminal offenses that can result from domestic violence charges can carry severe penalties.
A dedicated and experienced domestic violence lawyer from the law offices of Meltzer & Bell in Stuart can represent you both in protective order hearings and in any criminal proceedings that follow.
Call our team of Stuart domestic violence lawyers now to schedule a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to hire a domestic violence lawyer in Florida?
On average, criminal defense lawyers who handle domestic violence and other cases in Florida require an upfront retainer fee. Depending on the specific domestic violence charges, this fee can range from $2,000 to $10,000. The lawyer may also charge $332 per hour. The costs for first and second-degree felonies can range from $35,000 to $100,000.
Is verbal assault a crime in Florida?
Although verbal assault itself is not a crime under Florida law, verbal threats in combination with physical actions or gestures could rise to the level of an assault. This is considered a punishable crime in Florida.
How can a protective order be obtained in Stuart?
Individuals in Stuart alleging domestic violence can obtain a protective order through the Special Services Division of the Martin County Courthouse and Constitutional Offices. The Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court handles the filing and processing of all civil injunctions for protection in the local criminal justice system.
What if the alleged victim doesn’t want to press charges?
This may not result in the automatic dropping of charges. The prosecutor’s office may have gathered other evidence of domestic violence and won’t need to rely solely on the testimony of the victim. For anyone facing domestic violence charges, even when the victim declines to press charges, qualified legal representation is highly recommended.