Criminal Versus Civil In Domestic Violence Situations

Generally speaking a domestic violence injunction is a civil matter. There are times when it can become a criminal matter. This usually occurs when there are violations of the domestic violence injunction, whether temporary or permanent. In such a situation, the Court will issue an Order to Show Cause requiring the respondent to appear to demonstrate why he or she should not be held in contempt. Often the court will conduct a proceeding call Indirect Criminal Contempt and appoint a prosecutor and a defense attorney. The Orange-Osceola County State Attorney, Jeff Ashton, recently started a program that places a state attorney in the courtroom where domestic violence injunction hearings are held to act as a facilitator between the civil and criminal courts with regard to domestic violence matters.

Indirect Criminal Contempt proceedings look almost exactly like other criminal proceedings. There is an initial appearance, arraignment, bond, and a trial. In such a case, the trial is a bench trial, which means there is only the judge and no jury. The judge is limited as to the amount of time he or she can sentence a violator if found guilty. That usually is 179 days in the county jail for each violation. If the state attorney decides to move forward with criminal charges, the statutes governing the charges will guide the judge as to how long a violator can be sentenced. Possible criminal charges could include stalking, aggravated stalking, and violation of a domestic violence injunction, or worse. These would be in addition to the civil indirect criminal contempt matter.

At Mercedes R. Wechsler, P.A., we are very experienced in domestic violence cases. We can guide you from the filing the initial petition for protection to the return hearing to helping process violations of the injunction and the potential criminal ramifications. We can assist provide you expertise and guidance in defending and dismissing an injunction, and even assisting in dealing with the effect an injunction could have in other cases.