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The Felony Domestic Violence Pre-File Process

Florida is a “no drop” state. That means that if the police get called out on a domestic violence call, an arrest will be made. Long gone are the days when the cops would come to a house after receiving a call, calm everybody down, and then leave without taking further action.

In Florida, a 911 call regarding a domestic violence matter will always lead to an arrest.

Now that an arrest has been made, the “no drop” policy further states that the state attorney’s office can proceed on a prosecution even if the alleged victim doesn’t want to continue to press charges.

In fact, changes in the law over the last ten years have made it considerably easier for prosecutors to file charges in cases where the alleged victim is not onboard.

All the state really needs is some independent proof that a crime was committed. This can be achieved through a 911 tape that qualifies under the “excited utterance” hearsay exception (a 911 tape made by a caller who is agitated, stressed, or clearly in an excited state), photographs of injuries, the testimonies of independent eyewitnesses, or a combination thereof.

Don’t think for a minute that a domestic violence case will go away simply because the alleged victim wants the charges dropped.

This is especially true with felony domestic violence cases, as opposed to misdemeanor domestic violence cases which have a less stringent pre-file screening process.

The felony domestic violence pre-file process is a critical time. For 21-30 days after the arrest, a felony prosecutor will evaluate the evidence, subpoena witnesses, and determine what felony domestic charges, if any, should be filed.

Even if a victim does not want to proceed, that decision rests solely with the prosecutor, not the victim.

The first 21-30 days of any felony domestic violence are the most critical. If you are going to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney, the time to do so is immediately following your arrest.

The pre-file prosecutor has wider discretion and can dismiss a case much easier than one that has already been filed.

Eric Matheny is a Miami domestic violence lawyer and Broward domestic violence lawyer.