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Expunging A Domestic Violence Arrest Or Conviction
A person who has been arrested for a crime of domestic violence in Florida should be aware that they are facing serious charges. Florida law does not recognize just one crime called ‘domestic violence;’ rather, the state will charge a person with the underlying offense (such as assault, battery, or false imprisonment) and treat domestic violence as a sentencing enhancement if they are convicted. Despite this, the mere fact of being charged with a domestic violence offense is serious business, not least of all because such charges or convictions cannot be expunged.
Domestic Violence Arrests/Convictions Are Serious
Florida’s domestic violence law is very broad, and it is not unheard of for individuals to face charges for crimes of domestic violence without having any idea that their actions qualified. The statute defines domestic violence as any criminal offense that results in “physical injury or death” to a family or household member, perpetrated by another family or household member. (A family or household member may be a spouse, ex-spouse, co-parent, relatives by blood or marriage, or anyone who is or has previously resided together as a family.)
An arrest or conviction for domestic violence is a serious thing to have on one’s record, not least of all because anyone doing a background check will not get your side of the story – they will only see that you were cited for allegedly abusing your loved one or loved ones. While sometimes these records can be sealed, expungement (total erasure) is a better idea if at all possible. However, Florida law has a series of offenses it has deemed ineligible for sealing or expungement as of this writing. Domestic violence is on that list.
Do Not Plead Guilty!
Be advised that both arrests and convictions for domestic violence-related offenses cannot be sealed or expunged. Arrests for domestic violence are very common, but it is not unheard of for a state’s attorney to decline to prosecute for a variety of reasons – most commonly, a lack of evidence against a defendant and/or the victim’s refusal to cooperate in pressing charges. It is not a good idea to count on this – but if it does happen, the arrest may still be on your record if someone like a future employer decides to investigate, even if you are not convicted.
Because of the fact that these events cannot be removed from your criminal record, it is crucial not to plead guilty or no contest to domestic violence-related charges, even if you might believe that it would be a good idea to ‘get it over with.’ An experienced attorney may be able to help you plead the charges down to an offense that can be expunged, or may be able to cast enough doubt to prevent your being convicted of any crime.
Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney
Obviously, the best way to avoid a domestic violence arrest or conviction on your criminal record is to never commit an alleged act of domestic violence. However, life is unpredictable – if you find yourself arrested and charged with a crime of this type, a West Palm Beach criminal attorney from the firm of Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can help try and guide you through the legal process in a way that protects your rights at all times. Call our office today at 561-721-0552 to speak to an attorney.