I was arrested for domestic violence. What happens next?

If you have been arrested for domestic violence (DV), you need to know what happens next. You will need to appear before a judge before posting bond and ready yourself to go through the criminal court proceedings. Below, we provide a broad overview of what happens after you have been arrested for DV.

The penalties for DV are quite stiff. You may face up to a year of jail time or probation, not to mention having to suffer the consequences of having a damaged criminal record. You need qualified, aggressive defense attorneys like Summer Goldman and Maribeth Wetzel to help you navigate the system and fight for dropped or reduced charges. Call our office at 727-828-3900 as soon as possible after your arrest to begin working on your case.

Step One: Attending the First Appearance

With most types of crimes, you can bond out of jail before you see the judge. This is not the case after a domestic violence arrest in Florida. You will not be able to bond out immediately after your arrest. Rather, you must wait until you have your First Appearance (also referred to as an Advisory Hearing) with the judge to discuss bond. The state will likely set the hearing within 24 hours of your arrest.

As soon as possible after your arrest, call our office so we can attend the hearing with you. At the first appearance, we can ask that the judge release you of your own recognizance or set a reasonable bond so you can get out of jail.

There are several things you can expect at the first appearance:

  1. Before the hearing, the prosecutor will have conducted an investigation of your criminal history to see if you have any prior DV-related or other criminal charges in your past. She will present this information to the judge at the first appearance.
  2. If applicable, our team can stand up on your behalf and argue that the police lacked probable cause to arrest you. We will ask that the court release you or that the judge set a bond.
  3. The judge will advise you of the charges you are facing.
  4. The court will consider factors such as the gravity of the offenses, your criminal history, the safety of the victim, your ties to the community, and other relative information when determining your bond. The judge may also hear anything your family or employer may have to say on your behalf.
  5. The judge will set conditions of pre-trial release. With DV cases, the judge will issue a no-contact order that prohibits any contact between you and the alleged victim. If you violate any orders while awaiting your hearing, you will face a new criminal charge and possibly go back to jail.

Note: No-contact orders are separate and distinct from any injunctions that the victim may have sought. While both orders prohibit contact between the defendant and the alleged victim, no-contact orders are part of a criminal proceeding and typically dissolve when the case concludes, whereas injunctions are handled in civil court and can last indefinitely.

It is critical to get Goldman Wetzel involved with both DV charges and injunctions because without counsel, you run the risk of making mistakes at the hearings and implicating yourself in the criminal case.

Step Two: Handling the Arraignment

The next step in a Florida domestic violence case is the arrangement, where you will enter your plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. In almost all cases, we will recommend that you enter a plea of not guilty so that we have more time to work on your case. We can probably take care of the plea on your behalf, so you will not have to attend the arraignment, but we will let you know for sure when we speak with you.

Step Three: Making Pre-Trial Efforts

We can often resolve DV cases before they go to trial. There are various tactics we can try to use to accomplish this:

  • We may present evidence to the prosecutor in your favor or point out weaknesses in the state’s case. While it is ultimately up to the state whether to prosecute you, the victim’s opinions can influence the state’s decision. We can speak to the alleged victim and ask if she wants to proceed with the charges. If she wants to drop the case, she can complete a drop-charge affidavit to potentially influence the state to cease prosecution.
  • We may advise you to enroll in counseling, anger management, or substance abuse classes to demonstrate that you are taking responsibility for your actions and serious about making improvements in your relationship.
  • Lastly, we can negotiate with the prosecutor and look at the possibility of non-criminal resolutions such as a Pre-trial Intervention Program (PTP). If this was your first offense, the state might allow you to enter a PTP where you fulfill a set of requirements, such as classes, community service, restitution, etc. When you successfully fulfill the terms of a PTP, the state will dismiss your charges.

Step Four: Readying for Trial

If the case still has not resolved at this point, we will begin preparing for trial and filing any motions that might benefit your case. We must show the court that we are ready, willing, and able to proceed to trial. We will also draft and file motions applicable to your case. Used properly, pretrial motions can help with negotiations, get the DV charges reduced or dropped, and help settle the case before trial.

Examples of motions we may use include:

  • ‘Stand Your Ground’ motions
  • Motions in Limine (i.e., prevents the other side from bringing up certain evidence at trial)
  • Motions for Court Ruling
  • Motions to dismiss for insufficient evidence of a crime
  • Motions to suppress involuntary statements

Step Five: Going to Trial

Should your DV case reach trial, Goldman Wetzel will ensure that we are fully prepared to advocate for your best interests in the courtroom. We will build a solid defense strategy, e.g., discrediting the alleged victim, showing motive, showing you were acting in self-defense, and prepare the evidence accordingly. The potential penalties depend on the outcome of your trial.

If you are facing domestic violence charges in Florida, call Goldman Wetzel in St. Petersburg today at 727-828-3900.