Florida Bill Would Protect Domestic Violence Victims from Repeat Offenders
If merely breaking the law was a sufficient deterrent for offenders, then victims of domestic violence would be much safer. As it is, some offenders are not deterred by the misdemeanor offenses that currently safeguard victims from the threat of a violation of a protective order. To bridge the gap, Florida lawmakers have proposed an escalated penalty scheme designed to deter a broader class of potential offenders.
A Protective Order is an Option for Victims of Domestic Violence
If you are trying to escape a domestic violence situation, a protective order can be invaluable. A victim of domestic violence can go to a court and ask a judge for a protective order that will command a significant other to stay away. The order lasts a maximum of 15 days, unless further protections are put in place. During that time, as a victim’s attorney is working hard to keep them safe after that time is up, the victim of domestic violence is only as protected as the laws that back the protective order.
Currently, protective orders apply a misdemeanor for any potential offender who (1) refuses to leave a shared a home despite a protective order demanding they leave; (2) stalks a victim’s home, car, school, or work (or even the frequented home of a family member or friend); (3) physically injures the victim; (4) threatens the victim; (5) harasses the victim by telephone or similar means; (6) ventures within 100 feet of a victim’s vehicle; (7) defaces the victim’s property, such as their car; or (8) refuses to give up firearms. In fact, individuals subject to protective orders should not possess a firearm at all, subject to a misdemeanor.
Florida Law does not Yet Protect Against Repeat Offenders
Unfortunately, in Florida, the punishment is no more than a misdemeanor, and it remains a misdemeanor no matter how many times an offender violates the order. This year, Florida representatives are trying to change that to protect victims of domestic violence. The new bill would escalate the offense of violating a protective order, and slam repeat offenders– that is, anyone who violates a protective order for a third time– with a much harsher felony.
The bill would ideally target individuals who are not deterred by the threat of misdemeanors– individuals who may be particularly dangerous. However, critically, although sometimes injunctions can be provided without a bench or jury trial, the bill would require a conviction prior to the assessment of a felony. This means that the offender would either have to take a plea deal, or actually be found guilty by trial.
If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence, you should know your options. Speak to Florida attorney Julia Kefalinos today and tell your story. It may be possible to obtain a protective order to keep you safe in the short term, while your trusted Florida attorneys helps you develop a long-term plan for your safety. Developments in the legislature are important for victims across the state, but your safety can’t wait.