Find an Expert Vero Beach Domestic Violence Lawyer
Navigating a domestic violence case can be overwhelming, and the consequences of a conviction can impact your life in many ways. Like any criminal offense, claims of domestic abuse in Vero Beach can result in severe penalties like restraining orders, jail time, and significant fines.
If you are facing domestic violence charges, it’s crucial to choose the right domestic violence lawyer in Vero Beach, who will not only protect your rights but also guide you through the legal process.
Meltzer & Bell, P.A. has a team of expert domestic violence lawyers experienced in Florida law who know the local criminal justice system, understand the intricacies of domestic abuse cases and can provide the insight and guidance to safeguard your rights and future.
At Meltzer & Bell, we are committed to providing the robust defense and advocacy you deserve to navigate the complex legal landscape of domestic violence cases, safeguarding your future every step of the way. With over 1,000 5-star reviews and thousands of wins throughout Florida, no other law firm is more prepared to ensure you receive the best outcome.
Contact us and start with a free initial consultation.
Understanding Domestic Violence in Vero Beach and Florida
Domestic violence is a criminal offense and a serious issue in Vero Beach, West Palm Beach, and across the state of Florida. The legal definition of domestic violence or domestic abuse has a broad scope encompassing numerous criminal offenses involving family or household members.
Understanding the definition and consequences of Florida domestic violence is the first step toward securing the best domestic abuse defense attorney and building a solid defense strategy.
What Is Florida’s Definition of Domestic Violence?
Florida law, which covers Vero Beach and surrounding areas, defines domestic violence as any criminal offense involving violence or the threat of violence between family or household members.
Florida domestic violence cases can involve a variety of criminal charges and may result from the following offenses:
- Assault: When someone intentionally threatens another person 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 a felony.
- Aggravated Assault: When a person commits an assault with a deadly weapon or with the intent to commit a felony. Aggravated assault is a felony offense.
- Battery: The intentional touching or striking of another person against their will or the intentional causing of bodily harm to another person. Like assault, battery can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the severity of the offense.
- Aggravated Battery: Similar to aggravated assault in that it involves the use of a deadly weapon or the intent to commit a felony. In this case, the victim suffers serious bodily injury or permanent disability and it is a felony offense.
- Stalking: The willful and repeated following, harassing, or cyberstalking of another person that causes them to feel threatened or fear for their safety. It is a misdemeanor offense, but can be charged as a felony in some circumstances.
- Aggravated Stalking: When a person commits stalking and makes a credible threat of death or serious bodily harm to the victim or their family. It is a felony offense.
- Sexual Assault: Sometimes called sexual battery, this is any type of unwanted sexual contact forced on one person by another.
- Aggravated Sexual Assault: Committing the act while in a position of authority, using violence during the act, assault on an incapacitated victim, among other factors.
While these are the most common domestic violence charges, they are not the only charges that can result under Florida’s definition.
Also, the severity of the charges and penalties in domestic violence cases can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
What Is Florida’s Definition of Dating Violence?
Dating violence is defined in Florida Statutes Annotated § 784 as violent acts between individuals in a significant romantic or intimate relationship within the last six months. These offenses also fall under the umbrella of domestic violence in Florida.
What Is the Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect in Florida?
Under Florida Statutes Annotated § 827.03, a person may be charged with any of the following crimes regarding physical injury to children:
Child Abuse: 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: Committing any of the following upon a child:
- Aggravated battery
- Willful torture
- Malicious punishment
- Willfully and unlawfully caging
- Abusing a child in a manner that causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement
Neglect of a Child: When a caregiver is alleged to have failed or omitted to care for a child and/or provide for the child’s basic needs, including providing medical care, in a way that causes physical injury like great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.
Who Is Covered by Florida’s Domestic Violence Definition?
In Florida, criminal acts that fall under the state’s definition of domestic violence are found under Florida Statutes Annotated § 741.28.
Domestic violence, under the law, means any one of several offenses that may occur between people who have a certain relationship.
The covered relationships include:
- Husband and wife
- Former husband and wife
- People related by blood, including parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, or brother and sister
- People residing together as a family, including stepparent and stepchild
- People who have resided together as a family in the past
- People with whom the defendant has a child
Although Florida does not yet recognize marriage equality, people in same-sex relationships may also face charges and be convicted of domestic violence.
Child abuse charges do not need to occur between parent and child or any other relationship covered under domestic violence law. However, when they do, the accused or alleged abuser may face a restraining order preventing them from seeing their child.
Types of Domestic Violence Charges in Florida
Domestic violence charges in Florida cover a wide range of offenses, from misdemeanors to felonies. The specific charges and their severity depend on factors such as the nature of the domestic violence crime, the presence of aggravating factors, and the defendant’s prior criminal record.
It’s crucial to understand the various types of domestic violence offenses and their potential consequences so you can make informed decisions when seeking legal representation.
What Are Misdemeanor and Felony Offenses?
Misdemeanor and felony offenses related to domestic violence in Florida include a variety of charges, such as assault, battery, and child abuse. In general, misdemeanors are considered less serious than felonies, with punishments for misdemeanors including up to one year in jail.
Felonies, on the other hand, can carry more severe consequences, including longer prison sentences and potentially significant financial penalties. In Florida, felonies are classified into five degrees, with capital felonies being the most severe.
Some common domestic violence charges in Vero Beach include felony battery by strangulation, as outlined in Florida Statutes 784.041.
What Are Aggravating Factors?
Certain factors can exacerbate the penalties associated with domestic violence offenses, leading to more severe consequences. Aggravating factors in Florida include:
- The prior criminal record of the defendant
- How the defendant committed the offense
- A defendant’s lack of remorse
- The location of the offense
- The type of victim
- The crime’s affect on the victim
These factors can result in heightened penalties, such as longer jail sentences, higher fines, and other repercussions.
What Are the Consequences of Florida Domestic Violence Charges?
The State Prosecutor’s office and judges in Florida take domestic violence charges very seriously and will not treat alleged offenders lightly. The consequences of Florida domestic violence convictions can be severe and devastating, impacting your personal and professional life.
The consequences of domestic violence in Vero Beach, Florida can include, but are not limited to:
- Issuance of a no-contact order
- Community service
- Mandatory education or intervention programs
- Revocation of professional licenses
- Loss of civil liberties, including the ability to purchase or carry a firearm
- Impact on child custody rights
- Permanent charge on your criminal record, which can’t be expunged in certain cases
- Mandatory jail time in certain bodily injury cases
Judges in Vero Beach and other Florida courts often order convicted domestic abusers to enroll in and complete a Batterer’s Intervention Program (BIP) as a mandatory condition of their probation.
The BIP is an intensive program, lasting at least 26 weeks, designed and monitored by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). The BIP addresses the root causes of domestic violence and prevent participants from committing acts of domestic abuse in the future.
What Are Protective Orders and Injunctions in Vero Beach?
In some domestic abuse cases, protective orders and injunctions may be issued to protect alleged victims from further abuse. These court orders can impose significant restrictions on the accused, potentially limiting their freedoms and impacting their daily lives.
A person making an accusation of domestic abuse may file a petition for a protective order under Florida Statutes Annotated § 741.30. At that point, the judge may decide whether to issue a temporary order. In most cases, he or she will grant it. This is decided in an ex parte hearing, meaning the accused is not able to be represented.
The temporary order, generally, will prohibit the accused from communicating with the alleged victim, or going near the victim. It may prohibit the accused from possessing a firearm or from consuming alcohol. It can order the accused away from his or her home, or to pay for the residence of the victim.
Within 15 days, the judge must set a hearing for a permanent order. At that hearing, the accused can be represented by the team of domestic violence lawyers at Meltzer & Bell.
Types of Protective Orders for Domestic Violence
There are various types of protective orders or injunctions available in Vero Beach, each serving a specific purpose and designed to protect victims from different forms of domestic violence. These include injunctions for:
- Dating violence: Protects individuals in a significant romantic or intimate relationship from further violence or threats
- Domestic violence: Protects family or household members from acts of violence, threats, or harassment
- Repeat violence: Protects individuals from continued acts of violence, threats, or harassment from the same perpetrator
- Sexual violence: Protects individuals from acts of sexual violence, threats, or harassment
Violations of Protective Orders
Violating a protective order in Vero Beach, West Palm Beach and other areas in Florida can result in serious consequences, including potential criminal charges and penalties. Some common domestic violence violations include:
- Not leaving the shared residence of the alleged victim
- Making contact with the alleged victim
- Coming within 500 feet of the alleged victim’s dwelling or 100 feet of the victim’s vehicle
- Damaging the alleged victim’s property
Disregarding a domestic violence protective order is a criminal offense, with a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail.
Steps to Take When Accused of Domestic Violence
Even in cases where the alleged victim doesn’t want to press charges, police in Vero Beach and other Florida cities are likely to make an arrest when investigating domestic violence offenses.
Have you been accused of domestic violence? If so, here are some practical first steps to take to safeguard your rights:
- Do not volunteer any information, but do confirm your identity when asked
- Cooperate with law enforcement
- Until you’ve spoken to a qualified domestic violence lawyer, don’t agree to make or sign a written statement
- If you are released by a judge, do not violate any of the release’s specified conditions – such as returning home, contacting the alleged victim, or possessing any firearms
- Contact a qualified domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible
How To Defend Against Florida Domestic Violence Accusations
Facing domestic violence or domestic abuse accusations can be a daunting experience, and the potential consequences of a conviction can be severe.
Fortunately, the domestic violence lawyers at Meltzer & Bell in Vero Beach are experts in employing strategies for challenging these accusations and protecting your rights.
By understanding the various defense strategies available and working with an experienced domestic violence attorney at Meltzer & Bell, you can significantly improve your chances of achieving a favorable outcome in your case.
Examining and challenging the evidence of domestic abuse presented by the prosecution can include witness testimony and physical evidence, such as photographs, medical records, and other documentation.
By thoroughly analyzing the evidence and identifying any weaknesses or inconsistencies, we can build a stronger defense and potentially cast doubt on the prosecution’s case of domestic violence.
Negotiating Plea Deals
A plea deal is a legal agreement in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence or the dismissal of other charges.
By negotiating a favorable plea deal, you may be able to avoid a domestic violence conviction and the associated long-term consequences.
How To Choose the Right Domestic Violence Lawyer in Vero Beach
Selecting the right domestic violence lawyer in Vero Beach is a crucial step in ensuring that your rights and future are protected. When choosing a domestic violence attorney, it’s important to consider factors such as:
- Track record
The Florida domestic violence lawyers at Meltzer & Bell understand the local domestic violence laws. We started as a former prosecutor and public defender and understand the local domestic violence court.
At Meltzer & Bell, we represent clients who face accusations of spousal abuse, child abuse, and any other crime that would be classified as domestic violence. You can start building your defense by contacting our skilled Vero Beach team of domestic violence attorneys for a free initial consultation.
Experience and Track Record
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a domestic violence lawyer in Vero Beach is their experience and track record in handling similar cases. An attorney with a proven record of success in domestic violence cases demonstrates their expertise and knowledge in this area of law, which can significantly impact the outcome of your case.
The lawyers for domestic violence at Meltzer & Bell have extensive experience in criminal defense cases, having formerly served as prosecutors and public defenders. By selecting our team of domestic violence attorneys with a proven track record of success, you can be confident in our ability to build a strong defense strategy and effectively represent your interests in court.
Communication and Availability
Another critical factor to consider when choosing a domestic violence lawyer in Vero Beach is their communication skills and availability. A responsive, communicative domestic violence attorney who is available to address your concerns throughout the legal process can provide invaluable support and guidance.
This can not only help alleviate some of the stress associated with your domestic violence case but also ensure that you are kept informed every step of the way.
Selecting a domestic violence attorney who is easily accessible and responsive to your needs can make a significant difference in your overall experience and the outcome of your case. By prioritizing communication and availability in your search for a domestic violence lawyer, you can find a professional who will truly advocate for your best interests.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a domestic violence attorney charge in Florida?
On average, criminal defense lawyers who handle domestic violence and other cases in Florida require an upfront retainer fee ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the charges and may charge $332 per hour. For first- and second-degree felonies, costs can range from $35,000 to $100,000.
Is verbal assault a crime in Florida?
Verbal threats in combination with physical gestures or actions may rise to the level of an assault and be punishable as a crime in Florida, but verbal assault itself is not a crime.
How can a protective order be obtained in Vero Beach?
Individuals in Vero Beach alleging domestic violence can obtain a protective order by submitting a sworn petition to the court, and the judge may grant a temporary protective order valid for up to 15 days.