CAN VICTIMS FORCE THE DISMISSAL OF CRIMINAL CASES BY FILING A REQUEST NOT TO PROSECUTE IN FLORIDA

Clearwater criminal defense attorneys are often asked if a victim has the right to stop a criminal case from proceeding in the State of Florida. 

Here’s a typical question I recently received from a man charged with Domestic Violence against his wife.

This courtroom in Tampa Bay Florida is where domestic battery cases are prosecuted.My wife signed a request not to prosecute two days after I was arrested by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department. Since my wife no longer wants to proceed against me on the domestic battery case, how can the state still prosecute me? 

Neither of us was even injured. They arrested me because I admitted spitting on her during a heated argument before she called the police. My employer will not let me go back into work until this case is resolved without a conviction. What can I do to get these charges dropped?

The law in Florida forces officers on the scene of an established domestic violence case to make an arrest even if the victim does not want to prosecute. 

But could mere spitting (Oops! Sorry, didn’t mean for that spray to hit you as I speak.) really be a criminal act? Any unwanted intentional touching of one person against the will of another person is a battery. Spitting is considered an unwanted touching. When the husband admitted that he spit on his wife, he gave the Tampa Bay investigating officers reason to believe that he’d committed a domestic violence battery. 

Here the victim by signing a request not to prosecute has unambiguously demonstrated to prosecutors that she does not want to move forward with this prosecution. Yet the State of Florida presumes that Florida itself is also a victim in every criminal case. In a sense it must be because it is the State of Florida that pursues or fails to pursue every criminal case even those such as drug crimes which have no apparent victim.

Therefore law enforcement is not prohibited from prosecuting any Defendant just because the person who was harmed does not want to prosecute. However, a smart prosecutor who understands that he may have to prove the case at trial will take the request not to prosecute into consideration with other facts and circumstances of the case. An effective Tampa Bay Defense Lawyer will do everything possible to persuade prosecutors that this nonviolent act should be dismissed, because the shameful arrest itself has served as a sufficient punishment and deterrent. 

WHY MUST OFFICERS INVESTIGATING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN FLORIDA ALWAYS MAKE AN ARREST

Your favorite Clearwater criminal defense lawyer was recently asked this question about domestic violence:

I was arrested for a Battery against my girlfriend in Tampa Bay, Florida. We were both fighting not just me. We have a child together. We were going to get married, but put it off until this is behind us. She has signed a Request Not to Prosecute. I’m wondering if the State of Florida decides not to prosecute me can they still bring the charges back up in the future if she changes her mind and wants me prosecuted? How long do I have to wait to be certain that charges won’t be filed? If charges are filed against me what will happen?

Abbasi's Painting of Two Lovers so tranquil and languid before the domestic violence of a battery or assault which in Tampa Bay, Florida could be resolved without either lover going to jail.
Reza Abbasi, Two Lovers, 1630

The first consideration for law enforcement is the safety of your girlfriend as well as the child. Under Florida law whenever domestic violence is alleged, officers by law must make an arrest of someone in the home if any evidence of a battery or assault is found. Why was this enacted?
Because more officers are killed while investigating domestic violence than in any other type of investigation they undertake. 
Think about that, more than in burglaries, robberies and grand thefts. When officers are called to any domestic violence situation they are well aware of the risks as well as the fact that domestic violence affects a large portion of the American population.
Recent domestic violence statistics establish that the problem is pervasive with nearly 25% of women and 7% of men being the victim of an assault or battery by a spouse, co-habitating partner or date. 
When any crime is committed in Florida, the State of Florida views itself as being an interested party. In practice this means that even when a victim does not want to prosecute a case, the State of Florida can proceed with prosecution. Other than the statute of limitations there is no legal limit to how long prosecutors can take to make a filing decision.
If charges are filed against you and if you don’t have any prior criminal record, then you may be able to apply for a diversionary program such as Pretrial Intervention where the charges will eventually be dismissed. Tampa Bay recently established a new Domestic Violence Court in Pinellas where the focus will include counseling with Batterer Intervention Programs rather than simply giving jail.