Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped in Florida?

Domestic violence cases are inherently complex. They are often filled with strong emotions and complicated circumstances. Many people dealing with these types of cases ask the question, “Can domestic violence charges be dropped?”

Depending on the case, it could be possible to get domestic violence charges dropped. The best course of action is to pursue the dropping of charges as early in the case as possible. If a defendant pleads guilty and/or is convicted, the charges will be on their permanent criminal record.

Domestic violence laws in Florida require certain processes and legal actions to take place to get charges dropped. It is important to clearly understand the legal parameters and nuances in the criminal justice system when determining if this is appropriate and possible in your particular case.

Differentiating Between Misdemeanor and Felony Domestic Violence Charges

Before explaining the answer to the question, “Can domestic violence charges be dropped in Florida?” it is necessary to distinguish the difference between misdemeanor and felony charges.

Under Florida Statute 741.28, domestic violence means:

“Any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.”

Misdemeanor domestic violence charges include:

  • Stalking
  • Cyberstalking
  • Battery
  • Assault
  • Other charges as listed per Florida law

Felony domestic violence charges include:

  • Aggravated battery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Domestic Battery by Strangulation
  • Other charges as listed per Florida law

Domestic violence cases that include felony charges are very serious and come with severe consequences upon conviction.

Generally speaking, the severity of the alleged offense/abuse will correlate with limitations in seeking dismissal. The more severe the alleged offense/abuse is, the greater the limitations.

Can Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped?

The charges can be dropped in a misdemeanor domestic violence case, depending on the details. A thorough examination of the case would be required.

A primary reason charges could be dropped is a lack of evidence. For example, if one spouse accuses the other of domestic battery, but there is not enough evidence to prove that it occurred, the charge could be dismissed.

If the defendant is innocent, the charges could also be dropped. The defense attorney would need to prove this. For example, a couple may have had a verbal argument, but no bodily harm occurred. Note: If a person reports a false claim of domestic violence, they could potentially be prosecuted themselves.

An additional reason misdemeanor domestic violence charges could be dropped if the defendant agrees to take an anger management course, a certain number of counseling sessions, or a similar program. This would need to be agreed upon by the prosecutor in the case.

Overall, the details and severity of the case, as well as any previous criminal history, will affect the possibility of dismissal of charges.

Can a Felony Domestic Violence Charge Be Dropped?

With the more serious charges that are considered felony domestic violence, the path to dropping them is more challenging but potentially possible, depending on the circumstances.

As with misdemeanor charges, a comprehensive case analysis needs to be performed. A defense attorney would examine the details of what occurred, including the extent of injuries and any evidence.

While a victim alone cannot drop domestic violence charges, one potential avenue is for them to file an affidavit stating their wishes. This could be utilized in the overall case but typically would not stand alone as a way to dismiss felony charges.

If there are mutual accusations, individual testimony, evidence (such as video), and witness evidence can play a role in potentially dropping charges. Similarly, if there is evidence in the defendant’s favor that proves that the charges are false, this could lead to domestic violence charges being dropped as well.

As in misdemeanor charges, the facts of the case, the severity of any injuries, and the defendant’s criminal history will all be considered prior to potentially reducing or dropping charges.

The Legal Path to Dropping Charges: Process and Possibilities

Specific legal criteria must be met if any charges can be dropped. Additionally, the state has a legal process that must be followed.

After an arrest, the arraignment (formal court hearing) date is set. At this hearing, the prosecutor decides whether or not to file domestic violence charges. If so, the details of the charges will be presented in court.

During this time, it is common for the Family Law Court to order a domestic violence injunction as a civil matter. A domestic violence injunction is a court order that puts restrictions on what a person can do and where they can go to prevent them from harming someone.

There are options prior to and during the arraignment to get charges dropped or reduced, which include:

  • Demonstrating a lack of probable cause. If an attorney can prove a lack of evidence for the charges, they may be able to be dropped.
  • Negotiating a suspension of your case for a pretrial diversion program. This focuses on rehabilitation instead of prosecution.
  • Striking a plea agreement. Charges may be potentially reduced from higher-level crimes to lower-level crimes.
  • Proving that the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated. This could be due to law enforcement not informing the defendant of the details of felony charges or other reasons.

If charges are filed by the prosecutor at the arraignment, it is still possible to have them dropped later, depending on the circumstances of the case. If the victim does not cooperate and the prosecutor decides not to move forward with charges or other circumstances that lead to the charges being dropped, the case will be “nolle prosequi.” This is when the prosecutor voluntarily ends the case after charges are filed.

Misdemeanors, as a whole, are dropped more often than felony domestic violence charges. Serious crimes involving violence or sexual abuse are not eligible for a reduction to a misdemeanor. Depending on the circumstances and severity of injuries to the victim, a felony domestic charge may potentially be reduced or dropped.

Consulting with legal counsel as early as possible after an arrest is recommended.

Role of the Victim in Dropping Charges

During an active investigation, judges and prosecutors do everything they can to ensure the victim stays safe and unharmed from the alleged abuser. Due to this mission, victims alone are unable to drop domestic violence charges.

Once an arrest is made and a report is filed, the case is in the hands of the prosecutors. They want to ensure that the victim is not being harassed or bullied into getting the charges dropped.

If the victim independently decides that they want the charges dropped, they can state their wishes by filing a ‘Waiver of Prosecution.’ This notarized legal document serves as a sworn statement, also known as a ‘Request Not To Prosecute.’ This document can play a role in a case but is not, on its own accord, the only deciding factor in the dropping of domestic violence charges.

Prosecutorial Discretion and Legal Criteria

While prosecutors must follow the domestic violence laws in Florida, they do have a certain amount of prosecutorial discretion on whether they decide to move forward with charges.

First, they will consider the facts of the case. The prosecutor will analyze the details of what occurred prior to the arrest and any evidence of injuries, including their severity. Another major factor is whether there is a history of abuse and/or domestic violence between the two people or a history of other violent crimes.

Prosecutors will also factor in the victim’s involvement and whether or not they want to pursue charges. It is important to reemphasize that the victim alone cannot drop charges. Defendants should not attempt to influence the victim’s decision, which could lead to additional charges (there is often a no-contact order) and harm a case when pursuing the dropping of charges.

Prosecutors serve as aggressive advocates for victims and seriously consider all aspects of the case when deciding whether to drop charges or proceed with prosecution.

Legal Barriers and Considerations For Dropping Charges

It is necessary to understand the hurdles and considerations in dropping domestic violence charges. Each case will have its own circumstances that will factor into the outcome.

Evidence such as medical records of previous injuries, photos or videos of injuries, the victim’s testimony, witness testimony, and communications involving harassment or threats, among other related items, are all considered by the prosecutor.

The prosecutor also considers whether or not dropping charges is in the public interest. When violent behavior is involved in a crime, it is their role to keep not only the victim safe but the public, too.

If there is a recantation by the victim, this will also play a strong role. While prosecutors often do not move forward with charges if this occurs, it does not mean the charges will always be dropped – particularly if there is any evidence that the victim was harassed or threatened into recanting their version of events in the case.

The Impact of Dropping Charges On Your Record

When domestic violence charges get dropped, there are impacts on your record and your future. There are also effects on societal interactions.

Once the charges are dropped, if there was no guilty or no-contest plea, your record will no longer have them. However, many individuals would need to complete a diversion program to get the arrest off their criminal record, which a defense attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor.

Getting domestic violence charges off a criminal record can help with obtaining and retaining employment, make it easier to find safe housing, and help facilitate better relationships with society as a whole.

There are impacts on victims as well. This will depend on the circumstances. Domestic violence causes severe psychological and physical harm. Having charges dropped does not give permission for someone to harm or continue harming another person.

If the original charges were a true misunderstanding or the accused is successfully rehabilitated through a diversion program and/or counseling, the victim and the individual initially charged will benefit.

Getting domestic violence charges dropped is complex and requires comprehensive knowledge of the processes and legal parameters.

Seeking Legal Assistance in Florida

Professional legal guidance is critical in domestic violence cases. These types of charges affect the lives of all involved. From victims to alleged abusers and their families, the future is at stake.

This is not a time for hesitation. Take action now.

Reach out now to consult with Dean Tsourakis for legal advice and representation. He has extensive experience and understands the intricacies of domestic violence cases, helping people with their cases every step of the way.