How Is The Decision to Prosecute Made in Domestic Violence Cases?


How Is The Decision to Prosecute Made and What Happens After the Arrest? In recent years the emphasis by the prosecution and by law enforcement on domestic violence accusations has increased. Police will often make an arrest even in disputed cases, and the state attorney often finds it necessary to file a charge based solely upon the statement of the alleged victim.  Florida has a zero tolerance policy regarding domestic violence.


From a defense standpoint, many legal and constitutional issues are involved in domestic battery or domestic violence cases. Quite often alleged victims may change their version of what happened or may request not prosecute. The state attorney’s office is not required to honor their request not prosecute and often will proceed with a case where the alleged victim does not want to prosecute.  They may be permitted to go forward with the case and present it to a judge or jury.

As a form prosecutor Larry Sandefer was involved in the decision-making processes involving domestic battery arrests, from that of a front-line prosecutor, to a Lead Trial Attorney, and ultimately holding the position of one of only three Division Directors, who were charged with making the filing decisions and approval of dispositions. He understands how these decisions to file a charge, to modify a charge, or drop the case are made and what considerations go into these decisions.


The Legislature has seen fit to enact a law which states that there shall be no bond for a stated period of time for anyone who is arrested on a domestic battery or domestic violence charge. Even after bond is able to be posted there are restrictions upon contact by an accused person with the alleged victim either directly or indirectly.

What qualifies as a “Domestic” battery?

A battery, by law, is simply the touching of another person against their will. What qualifies an offense as a domestic battery is the status of the two persons. Domestic violence under Florida law includes any persons who have lived together as if a family, or persons who have a child together. This definition can include spouses, former spouses, girlfriends or boyfriends, brothers or sisters, parents or children, or the like.

What are my alternatives if I am charged with domestic battery?

Early intervention by your domestic battery defense attorney with the prosecution may be very valuable. Your defense attorney can provide information to the state attorney that may mitigate your case or may cause the state attorney not to file the charges. Just because you have been arrested does not mean the state attorney has to file formal charges. It is not the arrest that takes you in front of the Judge, it is the formal charge by the state attorney.  Information that may be of value for your attorney would be the lack of injury or the minor nature of injuries involved, prior criminal history, the nature of the relationship, the role of either alcohol or prescription drugs in the event, the feelings of the alleged victim, and other information.

Domestic violence intervention program – DVIP

Many people are eligible for a diversion program which will ultimately allow for the charges to be dismissed or dropped. Whether this is something that would be appropriate in your particular case or whether you qualify is something you should discuss with your domestic battery defense attorney. Not everyone is eligible, but for those who are and who are accepted by the state attorney, the program can be valuable in getting the charges dismissed. Your attorney can help you with the application process and assist in acceptance.

Plea negotiations – avoiding a conviction

If the DVIP program is not available or not appropriate, you may still be able to avoid a conviction without proceeding to trial. Lack of a conviction may help with your employment and would avoid a criminal conviction. The judge may be able to withhold adjudication on your case under the appropriate circumstances. Also, your domestic violence defense attorney can negotiate or bargain with the state attorney’s office and it may also be possible that your charge may be changed or reduced to a non-domestic or other charge.

Felony Battery or Aggravated Battery

A domestic battery can be classified as a felony battery if the accused person has any previous battery convictions, even misdemeanors. A felony battery can carry with it a much higher potential sentence than a misdemeanor domestic battery. If there are injuries, the extent of the injuries can play a part in sentences that may be considered. The Florida Punishment Code is a point system which the judge is required to consider when sentencing someone who has been convicted of a crime. Every existing and previous crime is given a point value. Additional points are assessed regarding an injury whether it is minor, moderate, or severe. These are matters which you need to discuss with your attorney if there is an injury, and it is a felony.  Aggravated battery is a battery where a person intentionally or knowingly causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement, or uses a deadly weapon. Under the punishment code, the scores out to a presumptive prison sentence if not appropriately mitigated.  Domestic battery by strangulation is also a felony regardless of injuries. Both a felony battery and a battery by strangulation are considered third-degree felonies, which are punishable by up to five years incarceration. Whether accused of a felony or a misdemeanor, domestic violence or domestic battery accusations are serious and should be taken seriously.

Hiring a Florida Domestic Battery Lawyer

An experienced Florida domestic violence attorney can be a valuable asset. At Sandefer law firm our priority is the client, you. We first look to see if the charge is valid or if there is a way to have the charge dismissed or not filed upon. We meet with you and discuss your individual situation thoroughly. If a case is filed, we will discuss with you defences, mitigation, and explore all alternatives which may be available to us.  Every domestic violence or domestic battery case is different. Not all domestic battery attorneys or domestic violence attorneys are the same. You should talk with an experienced domestic violence defense attorney about the individual circumstances of your arrest or charge and the relationship surrounding it. Larry Sandefer has over 30 years experience in criminal defense and domestic violence cases. He will be glad to meet with you and discuss all of these matters with you at your convenience. Even if you decide not to hire Sandefer law firm or proceed on your own, this initial consultation is free.

Both Pinellas County and Pasco County domestic prosecutions are handled by the same State Attorney. Procedures are similar for both counties. Hillsborough County has similar but different procedures and is a different elected State Attorney. Sandefer Law Firm, with over 30 years of criminal courtroom experience, is familiar with these procedures and can help guide you and assist you in your defense. Larry Sandefer is an experienced Clearwater Domestic Violence attorney, St. Petersburg Domestic Violence Attorney, Pinellas County Domestic Violence Attorney, and Pasco
Domestic Violence Attorney, and handles cases as well throughout the state of Florida. Let him help you.

Read more about Florida Domestic Violence

Contact Florida Domestic Violence Lawyer

Larry Sandefer – Criminal Defense Attorney

* Over 30 Years Courtroom Experience

* Former Lead Trial Lawyer & Division Director

* Over 5000 Criminal Cases Handled

* Hundreds of Jury Trials as sole or lead counsel


*  FREE Consultation with Larry Sandefer – Please feel free to contact us with a description of your needs, all initial consultations are free.

Sandefer Law Firm – Main Office
4625 East Bay Drive Suite 203
Clearwater, FL 33764

Clearwater: 727-726-5297
Toll Free: 866-786-5297