Florida has a vague domestic violence statute that seemingly encourages law enforcement to make an arrest whenever there are allegations or complaints of domestic violence. Law enforcement also apparently has a financial incentive to make arrests based on federal funding requirements. Domestic violence encompasses acts such as assault, battery, stalking, kidnapping, or any aggravation of these charges against a family member, spouse, girlfriend, former spouse or person with whom you once lived as if a family.
Incentive for an Arrest
The 1994 Safe Streets Act provides much needed federal funds for law enforcement agencies for programs or activities that support or protect women. The Act was designed to curtail or end funding if law enforcement is unable to provide arrest statistics to demonstrate the effectiveness of their policies. In other words, results means more funding.
Complaints of domestic violence either come from the victim, a member of the victim’s family, or from neighbors or strangers who hear screams, loud voices, threats, or other disturbances that might indicate that someone is being threatened or physically harmed.
Police who arrive at a home might find evidence of physical violence or that a fight broke out, or they may find a quiet home with no evidence that any disturbance occurred. Still, police rarely leave a home without arresting someone since they did have to come to the home in response to someone’s complaint and are concerned that violence may ensue once they leave.
The male is generally the physically larger individual and more capable of inflicting harm and officers might feel pressured to arrest him according to department policy to continue to receive funding for protecting women even over the objections of the spouse or girlfriend. Police have civil immunity from making a domestic violence arrest based on Florida Section 741.29(5), if based on probable cause. A judge determines whether probable cause existed and police officers are savvy enough to list any evidence that gives them probable cause to arrest someone, even though oftentimes it is based on opinion rather than fact.
If you find yourself being confronted by law enforcement on a domestic violence complaint, you will likely be arrested. Your best option when questioned by police is to exercise your constitutional right to remain silent and not admit to anything since even a single act that could be construed as a threat of violence could be enough to constitute probable cause to arrest you.
Promptly contact a criminal defense attorney if charged with a domestic violence offense since you face certain jail time and severe consequences to your life.