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The following article is a reproduction of the pamphlet provided by the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office to alleged victims of domestic violence:
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN PINELLAS COUNTY
Breaking the Cycle of Violence
This brochure was prepared by my office to
assist you with any questions or concerns
you may have as a victim of domestic violence.
Sixth Judicial Circuit
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Domestic Violence is a violent confrontation that explodes in the home between family members; between two people in a relationship who live together; or who live apart but share a mutual child, or who are divorced, or who at one time lived together. It can happen between a father and daughter, mother and son, an adult child and an elderly parent, but most often it occurs between a couple living together, married or not, with the women being the victim in the majority of the cases. Sometimes weapons are used, sometimes property is damaged, but most often the abusive partner in the relationship causes injuries using physical force.
WHAT IS THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE UNIT?
The Domestic Violence Unit of the State Attorney’s Office is a special unit formed to prosecute misdemeanor domestic violence cases in Pinellas County. The Unit consists of a specially trained staff of attorneys, a criminal investigator, victim advocates, and support staff. The Unit was formed in an effort to diminish the violence occurring in Pinellas County homes. Law enforcement in Pinellas County responds to over 9,000 domestic violence calls annually, including both misdemeanors and felonies.
WHY WERE CHARGES FILED?
If you are the victim in a case being prosecuted by the Domestic Violence Unit, the individual who hurt you had a criminal complaint filed against him/her by the State Attorney for the following reasons:
The police officers who responded to the emergency call believed that a crime against you had been committed. They wrote this information in a report and sent it to the Domestic Violence Unit with a request that the defendant be prosecuted for breaking the law.
A prosecutor in the Domestic Violence Unit read this police report and also believed that a crime against you had been committed.
If the defendant has a criminal history including acts of violence against you or others, a computer print-out of this information was reviewed and attached to the case file.
If photographs were taken by the police, at the time of the incident, showing your injuries and/or damage to your property, these were studied and included in the case file.
If a 911 emergency call was made, the prosecutor ordered a tape-recorded copy of that call from the police department, listened to it, and made it part of the case file.
The prosecutor may ask the Domestic Violence Unit investigator to interview you and any witnesses to the violence. The investigator’s written report then becomes part of the evidence in the case.
If the case goes to trial, all the above information will be used as evidence in the courtroom to prove that the defendant is guilty of the charges filed by the State Attorney’s Office. This will be in addition to the live testimony of the police officers who responded to the 911 emergency call, as well as any witnesses to the incident.
WILL THE DEFENDANT GO TO JAIL?
It would be unusual for first-time domestic violence offenders to go to jail for a misdemeanor offense. [Effective July 1, 2001 Florida Statute Section 741.283 now requires a five-day minimum jail sentence for a first-time offender convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence when an injury resulted from the battery. – F. Russo] First-time offenders are generally ordered by the court to enroll in a batterer’s counseling program. They are also placed on probation for one year and ordered by the judge not to break any more laws. The judge will follow up and require the defendant to show proof of enrollment and completion of a batterer’s counseling program. If the defendant does not do what the judge’s orders, then the judge has the power to send the defendant to jail.
WILL I HAVE TO TESTIFY?
You only have to testify in court if you receive a subpoena from the State Attorney ordering you to appear in court to testify in a trial. Most domestic violence cases are resolved without going to trial. This is how it works:
When a criminal complaint has been filed, the defendant is ordered to go to court and enter a plea of either “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.” This first step is called the Arraignment. If a second court date is scheduled it is called the Pre-trial.
At the Pre-trial, the defendant will appear. By this time the defendant or his/her attorney will have had a conference with the prosecutor from the Domestic Violence Unit and reviewed all the evidence that the prosecutor will use in court to prove that the defendant committed a violent act against you. The prosecutor will offer to recommend a particular sentence to the judge, in exchange for a “Guilty” or “No Contest” plea from the defendant.
If the defendant refuses the prosecutor’s offer at the Pre-trial hearing, then a date is set for trial. It is important for you to know that if a defendant pleads “Guilty” at either the Arraignment or the Pre-trial hearing, there will be no trial, you will not receive a subpoena, and you do not have to testify in court.
WILL I HAVE TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY?
No. You do not have to hire an attorney because you are the victim of a crime. When this individual abused you, a criminal act was committed that violated the laws of the State of Florida. The prosecutor from the Domestic Violence Unit of the State Attorney’s Office represents the People of the State of Florida. The People of the State of Florida are prosecuting the defendant for the criminal act that was done to you.
I’M FEELING PRESSURED TO “DROP CHARGES”
Tell the defendant that it is impossible for you to drop the charges because you are not the one who filed the charges. The charges were filed by the State Attorney’s Office after reviewing the evidence against the defendant. It is important for the defendant to realize that people must live within the laws of our society and that violent actions against you, or anyone else, have no place in our community. It is also important that the defendant get the help needed whether it is counseling or whatever else may be appropriate.
IT’S BEEN PROMISED IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN, WILL IT?
Unless the defendant receives counseling for the violent behavior directed towards you, the defendant may not be able to stop being violent on his/her own, even though intentions are sincere. Many batterers grew up in violent homes where they themselves were abused or where they saw an abusive parent physically hurt the other parent. This behavior may be all that they know in a relationship. In order to stop the pattern of violence in your relationship, the partner or family member who is hurting you must come to understand their behavior. This is why the Domestic Violence Unit insists that they complete a course in batterer’s counseling to help gain insight into the problems that exist, the odds are against the defendant being able to positively change behavior. If the defendant cannot control his/her own behavior, then you remain in danger.
WHAT KIND OF COUNSELING WILL BE RECEIVED?
When a batterer is ordered by the court to receive counseling, he/she must select a program from a list of certified counselors and will be monitored by the court. There are several different locations, as well as day and night sessions. The costs are nominal and payments may be made over a period of time. The batterer learns to examine their life, seeking out the reasons for the violent behavior. The defendant learns to walk away from a potentially explosive situation rather than indulge in it. The defendant learns that the relationship with you cannot be controlled through the use of violence.
If you believe that alcohol or other drugs are part of the problem as well, the prosecutor can ask the judge to order evaluations and treatments for these such problems.
WHO SHOULD I CALL FOR HELP?
If you are in a crisis situation, call 911. If you need a safe place to stay, counseling, information, or referrals call the information hotline listed below…
information and referral
If you are a victim in a domestic violence case
currently being prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office,
and you need someone to talk to, call the
Victim Advocate’s Office
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE UNIT
State Attorney’s Office
P.O. Box 5028
Clearwater, FL 33758
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.