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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / Is Character Evidence Admissible In Domestic Violence Cases?

Is Character Evidence Admissible In Domestic Violence Cases?


Domestic violence is considered a serious crime in Florida, as it should be. While defendants accused of domestic violence offenses have the same rights as anyone else, there are some slight variations that can be an unpleasant surprise to someone who is unaware. One of the main ways domestic violence cases differ from other criminal trials is in the matter of character evidence.

Balancing Rights

Domestic violence in Florida is defined quite broadly, with any criminal offense “causing physical injury or death” to a “family or household member” of the alleged perpetrator falling under the umbrella. (A ‘family or household member’ is defined as a spouse, ex-spouse, unmarried co-parent, people related by blood or marriage, or people who are (or have previously) resided together as a family.

If you have been charged with a crime of domestic violence, know that this offense is prosecuted aggressively because it is seen as a crime against society. This must be balanced against the defendant’s rights to a fair trial and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty – while those rights must never be abrogated, sometimes courts will rule on the side of the alleged victim in a way that slightly affects the defendant. Character evidence – specifically, evidence of prior bad acts – is one significant way in which this occurs.

Why Admit Prior Bad Acts?

In most criminal cases, evidence of prior bad acts is not admissible in court, simply because a person’s past actions should not define them. While there are situations in which this is not the case – for example, evidence of a past character for greed or unscrupulousness might be relevant in a case of embezzlement or grand theft – as a rule, U.S. law does not allow a person to be condemned on the basis of what they might have done.

That said, the recent trend in Florida is to allow certain character evidence in domestic violence cases – specifically prior acts of violence. Domestic violence cases are somewhat unique in that it is extremely common for the victim to refuse to testify, depriving prosecutors of the linchpin of many cases. Admitting prior acts of violence into evidence can help to establish a pattern of deliberate, intentional violence – which can be a major part of finding a defendant guilty.

Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney

While it remains to be seen what path Florida courts will take, it is important to be aware that any past acts of violence may be used against you in court. A West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can protect your rights in court. Contact our office at (561) 721-0552 to speak to an attorney.



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