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October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By Randall Grantham Community Columnist Oct. 1, 2023

Domestic Violence Laws Hit Close to Home

If the wife and I are fussin',

brother that's our right.

‘Cuz me and that sweet woman's

got a license to fight.

Mind Your Own Business, Hank Williams, Sr.

Unlike the days of Hank Williams, Sr., domestic violence allegations are now the source of the biggest increase in court intervention into our daily lives and are the laws most subject to abuse by women and men alike who attempt to use the legal system to gain an advantage in a divorce action or otherwise enforce a grudge against their significant other.

The days when a person could call the police to simply have their spouse quiet down or go to a hotel to sleep off one too many beers are long gone. In the not-too-distant past, a police officer called to an argument between members of a household was not allowed to make an arrest unless he actually witnessed a misdemeanor being committed. Now, however, Florida Statutes require that somebody go to jail.

There need not be any physical evidence nor witnesses to the argument as long as one party alleges that they were physically touched.

In my experience there is never just one party at fault for most family arguments and you might think that if the police respond and both parties say that the other person hit them, then both people would go to jail, but it's not that simple.

Florida Statutes specifically provide that State policy“strongly discourages the arrest of both parties” and it is left up to the police officer to decide which party goes to jail. No longer can they merely separate them and tell them to sleep it off.

And the arrest is just the beginning of State intervention into this situation.

Unlike a person who is arrested for drugs, robbery or other serious offenses, a person who is arrested for a misdemeanor battery (non-consensual touching) of their partner is required to be held in jail, without any bond, until they are brought before a judge. This usually occurs within twenty-four hours but can, and often does, take longer.

Assuming that the judge sets a bond for the arrested spouse there are invariably additional conditions imposed on the person, whether their partner asks for the conditions or not.

A judge will typically instruct the person arrested that they are to have no contact whatsoever with their spouse or partner. This includes direct contact as well as telephonic, written or contact through a third party. They are instructed not to return to the residence (which they may own outright).

In many instances, both parties beg An arguing during a joint drinking session and the next morning all is forgiven and the person who did not go to jail wants to forget the whole thing as an over-reaction and get on with their lives.

Unfortunately this is not possible in today's political climate.

Prosecutors often have a zero-tolerance policy and, regardless of the "victim's" desires, will file formal charges against the person arrested and require they defend themselves in court. The"victim" is told that they have no say-so on whether to prosecute and even the decision to arrest “does not require the consent of the victim nor a consideration of the relationship of the parties.”

While this may be appropriate in a limited number of instances, in my experience, it can be over-kill or just not appropriate at all.

In a worst case scenario it is not uncommon for one party to make accusations in order to obtain sole use of the joint residence, sole custody of their children or to otherwise harass or punish his or her spouse for perceived wrongs.

The insinuation of the court system into people's private lives is not limited to the criminal courts.

Florida Statutes provide that a person who has been harmed or or even just threatened by their significant other may apply for anInjunction and, without any notice, can obtain a court order awarding them sole possession of the house, the children and even awarding them support payments from the alleged threatener.

While the Injunction must be served on the alleged ne'er-do-well and he is entitled to a hearing before a judge within two weeks, once a Preliminary Injunction is granted, chances are it will be made final and the mere allegation that the aggrieved party has seen their spouse within 100 yards of the residence will result in his immediate arrest and incarceration, again without bond until a judge reviews the case.

Hank must be rolling over in his grave.