In Miami-Dade County, Florida, misdemeanor crimes are heard in County Court. Misdemeanors, such as possession of marijuana, as well as criminal traffic offenses such as DUI and driving while license suspended (DWLS), are handled by Miami-Dade prosecutors assigned to a particular County Court division. County Court has a number of locations. Check out the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts website to find the nearest location.
In Miami-Dade, a separate County Court division exists solely to handle misdemeanor domestic violence cases. In fact, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, my former employer, has an entirely separate unit of specially-trained Assistant State Attorneys to handle these types of charges.
The Domestic Violence Division in County Court is located at Courthouse Center, which can be found at 175 NW 1st. Avenue, Miami, Florida 33128.
Misdemeanor domestic violence charges can range from second-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to 60 days in jail, 6 months probation, and a $500 fine, to first-degree misdemeanors, which are punishable by up to 364 days in jail, 1 year of probation, and up to a $1000 fine.
Misdemeanor domestic violence charges include: assault, battery, criminal mischief, indecent exposure, violation of injunction, stalking, and trespass.
Florida law defines domestic violence as, "any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member."
A "family or household member" means spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married.
As I have explained in earlier blog entries, these specially-trained prosecutors are taught how to prosecute accused domestic batterers without the assistance of a testifying witness. In other words, the State of Florida can prosecute an accused person without an alleged victim on board.
Also, in the Domestic Violence Division, plea offers are stiffer due. As a former Miami-Dade prosecutor, I happen to know that the Domestic Violence Division plea guidelines are as follows:
1) Pretrial Diversion for offenders with no prior history and alleged victim approval.
2) A withhold of adjudication followed by 12 months of reporting probation for offenders with one or two priors, or where the alleged victim will not approve PTD.
3) Adjudication (conviction) followed by 12 months of reporting probation for offenders with multiple priors. Alleged victim approval for PTD will not help in this instance as the accused is likely ineligible for PTD.
4) Jail, up to 364 days, for repeat offenders.
These are far tougher guidelines than those seen in non-domestic County Court charges. Also, since 12 months of probation is often attached to a sentence, probation violations in the Domestic Violence Division are common.
Much like non-domestic County Court charges, if you enter in pretrial diversion and successfully complete your program, your charges will be dismissed and you may be eligible to have your criminal record cleaned, or expunged.
However, Florida statutes carves out an exception for sealing domestic violence charges. You simply cannot do it. Florida will not permit a record to be sealed if the underlying charges were related to domestic violence. It is unfair, but it is the law.
That is why it is so important to fight your domestic violence charges. As a criminal defense attorney who handles domestic violence crimes here in Miami, I know the weaknesses that exist in most misdemeanor domestic violence cases. It's often a he-said/she-said situation. Even if the alleged victim is not on board, it is still important to retain a qualified attorney to help you avoid being stuck with a criminal record for life.
Call my office today to discuss domestic violence charges. I may be able to help.