If you are facing a domestic violence charge in Florida, you are probably concerned for your future. Being convicted of a domestic violence-related crime can have a negative impact on your job prospects, housing options, or even educational opportunities. It can also negatively influence your personal life. Unfortunately, you cannot have your domestic violence charges sealed or expunged if you plead guilty or no contest to the charge.
If you would like to keep your eligibility for your domestic violence charge to be expunged, you need to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Do not go to court by yourself or enter your plea without fully understanding all the ramifications of your choice.
Why a Domestic Violence Conviction Cannot be SealedThere are several different types of cases that cannot be sealed under Florida law when a person accepts a plea bargain and receives a withhold of adjudication. These types of crimes are known as dangerous crimes in Florida. Under Florida law, domestic violence is considered a dangerous crime. As a result, a court cannot seal domestic violence cases if the defendant accepted a guilty plea to a domestic violence-related charge and received a withhold of adjudication. Instead, the only way to try to seal a domestic violence case is for the individual to go to trial and be found not guilty by a judge or jury. There is always a risk that comes with going to trial. Even if you are innocent, the judge or jury may decide that you are guilty.
What to Do After a Domestic Violence ArrestIf you would like to have the opportunity to get your domestic violence charge expunged, it is essential that you do not confess or plead guilty to the charges. You have a right to a criminal defense lawyer, and it is important that you use that right. Most domestic violence charges will be sent to a special domestic violence court division. After your arrest, you will be held in custody without bond until you appear in court for the first time.
The judge may require you to have no contact with the alleged domestic violence victim as a condition of your bond. If you violate that order, the judge may revoke your bond, and you may have to remain in jail until your case is resolved. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may file a bond motion requesting that the court modify or remove that condition.
What if the Alleged Victim Does Not Want to Press Charges?Sometimes, people accused of domestic violence assume that they will not be convicted if the alleged victim does not want to press charges. Victims can sign a waiver of prosecution. However, the decision to prosecute is ultimately up to Florida state attorneys, also known as prosecutors. Prosecutors can file charges and pursue prosecution even when there is no physical evidence of domestic violence or abuse. The only real evidence is the testimony of the alleged victim.
When you work with a skilled criminal defense lawyer, your lawyer can contact the prosecutor and negotiate with him or her, outlining why the alleged victim does not want to press charges. Your lawyer can argue that it is in the best interest of everybody involved for them not to prosecute you. The prosecutor may drop the charges, but the prosecutor may decide to go forward with them.
Do Not Plead No Contest Or Guilty Without Talking to a LawyerThe important takeaway is that you should not go to court and plead guilty or no contest without discussing your options with a skilled criminal defense lawyer. If you do, you will not be able to have your domestic violence records sealed or expunged, even if the court ultimately withholds adjudication in your case. Instead, your guilty plea will become a matter of public record, affecting your employment and career prospects in the future. A potential employer may run a background check on you and see that you plead guilty to domestic violence, and it will affect your ability to get the kinds of jobs you want.
When Can a Domestic Violence Charge be Expunged?Under Florida law, a domestic violence arrest will only be expunged from a person's record if the prosecutor drops charges against the defendant. In almost all cases, only an experienced criminal defense lawyer who works hard to get the charges completely dismissed will achieve this type of result. To get the arrest expunged from your record, your lawyer will need to negotiate your placement in a diversion program.
Instead of entering a guilty plea, you can agree to go to a diversion program. You will need to complete the program and all of the requirements of the program. You may need to undergo domestic violence counseling. At the end of this process, your charges will be dropped. You will be able to expunge your arrest record.
Another option would be for your lawyer to convince the prosecutor to change the charge against you to something other than a domestic violence-related charge. The state attorney should acknowledge that the new charge is not related to domestic violence. If this happens, you may be able to accept a withhold of adjudication and still be eligible to have your criminal record sealed.
Consult With an Experienced Criminal Defense LawyerDepending on the facts of your case in your criminal history, you may have other options available. If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime, we recommend speaking with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The next steps you take could determine whether the charges against you can be sealed or expunged on the line. Attorney Mark Solomon has decades of experience successfully representing clients who have been charged with domestic violence. Contact him today to schedule your initial consultation to learn more about how he can advocate for your rights.