Winter Park Police Chief Arrested On Domestic Violence Charges
In January 2022, Winter Park police chief Michael Deal was arrested on domestic violence charges after an argument with his wife. Their two daughters were present, and supported their mother’s version of events in which Deal attempted to leave the home after the argument had deescalated. Deal stated that he had attempted to “get around” his wife in order to leave, but stated that he “never laid a hand on her.” While it remains to be seen what charges, if any, will be laid at Chief Deal’s door, it is worth noting that it is common for domestic violence cases to mirror this pattern of behavior.
“Domestic Violence” Charges Do Not Exist In Florida
One thing to be aware of is that technically, “domestic violence” charges do not exist in Florida. State law defines domestic violence as any criminal action which causes physical injury or death to a “family or household member,” perpetrated by another family or household member. A family or household member is not only a spouse, but also a former spouse, a co-parent, anyone related by blood or marriage, and anyone with whom the perpetrator was (or had in the past) held themselves out as a family.
Because the definition is so wide and vague, it is not possible to simply point to one specific crime of “domestic violence” in Florida. Rather, the designation is most often used as a sentencing enhancement – for example, if someone commits false imprisonment against their ex-spouse, they would be charged with false imprisonment (not with “domestic violence”). If they were convicted, they might face a stiffer sentence than one might normally face for false imprisonment.
Charged With Domestic Battery
After the initial arrest, it was clarified that Chief Deal was held at the Seminole County jail on charges of battery, without bail. Battery is an offense in Florida that is committed when someone “actually and intentionally” touches or strikes another person against that person’s will, or intentionally causes bodily harm to another person. Mrs. Deal told the arresting officer that her husband had pushed her, which does meet the definition of battery if the statement is correct. Florida recognizes what is known as domestic battery, which is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail, plus fines and costs.
Domestic battery is a crime with several potential defenses, most commonly self-defense, the so-called “vindictive victim” argument where the credibility of the plaintiff is impugned, and factual disputes about the nature of the incident itself. It remains to be seen how the situation with Chief Deal will play out, but if he is convicted, it may place his job in future jeopardy. Domestic violence-related offenses cannot be expunged from one’s criminal record in Florida, which may cause issues later on, particularly if personal character is an issue.
Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney
Regardless of one’s position in the community, if you commit battery against a family or household member, you may face charges for it, which in turn can affect your future. The West Palm Beach criminal attorneys from the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. are ready and willing to try and assist you with your case. Contact our offices today to speak to an attorney.