Domestic Violence & Self-Defense
Being arrested and charged with domestic violence can leave a person shell-shocked, especially if they have never been in trouble with the law before. However, that shell shock can put you in even more serious trouble, because you may neglect to divulge any potential mitigating factors if you are too frightened or too stunned to speak up. If the alleged domestic violence was accidental, or if you acted in self-defense, you have a right to try and defend yourself with the help of an experienced attorney.
A Right To Defend Yourself
Domestic violence is a serious crime in Florida, and it is a crime that many States Attorneys choose to prosecute aggressively because of its societal implications. The definition is very broad, encompassing any criminal offense which results in injury or death (some examples are listed in the statute, such as kidnapping, assault, battery, and stalking) to a family or household member, perpetrated by another family or household member. In turn, the definition of ‘family or household member’ is broad as well, including not only spouses, but any family related by blood or marriage, former spouses, co-parents, and anyone who is residing (or used to reside) together as a family.
Because the stakes of a domestic violence conviction are so high, some choose to plead guilty. However, if you acted in self-defense, it is a bad idea to simply accept responsibility in hopes of avoiding a steeper sentence. You have the right to face your accuser and to defend yourself in court, and Florida law does recognize self-defense as an affirmative defense, meaning that it can be used to totally absolve a person of liability. If you assert self-defense in court, you are admitting that a violent act took place, but arguing that because you were defending yourself, it was not a crime.
Even A “Scintilla” Of Evidence
Florida law explicitly states that if a person reasonably believes that they are in imminent danger of experiencing unlawful force, they have the right to use non-deadly force to defend themselves. Deadly force can only be used if a person has a reasonable apprehension of deadly force being used against them – Florida’s notorious “Stand Your Ground” law. The person defending themselves also has no duty to retreat, meaning that if they eventually get the upper hand, it may not be held against them later.
If your case goes to trial, and you assert self-defense to try and argue that no crime took place, be aware that if you are able to demonstrate even a “scintilla” of evidence that supports your self-defense argument, you are entitled by law for the judge to instruct the jury that acquittal due to self-defense may be a possibility. However, there are factors that can trump that ‘scintilla’ of evidence – for example, if you try to assert another affirmative defense, the self-defense instruction may wind up off the table.
Call A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney
If you are accused of domestic violence, it is crucial to remember that you have the right to defend yourself, and the right to have your day in court. The West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. have handled several of these cases, and are ready to try and assist you with yours. Contact our offices today to speak to an attorney.