Florida Domestic Violence Victim Jailed For Contempt Of Court For Failing To Testify
Victims of domestic violence who call the police following an attack or threat of an attack may often only cooperate with the prosecution of the attacker up to a certain point and then decide to drop the charges or refuse to testify. In some cases, a person may falsify a domestic violence report against their partner as punishment for a wrong and later wish to drop the charges or fail to testify in court.
Recently, a judge in Florida raised eyebrows by ordering a domestic violence victim to be jailed for three days for failing to testify against the father of her child, who was accused of domestic battery. The judge jailed the woman because she violated a court order to appear and testify, and the judge found her in contempt of court. The judge also noted that the woman’s failure to appear interfered with the prosecution’s case.
Victims do not have final say on whether or not charges are dropped. Therefore, if a victim changes their mind after reporting violence against them, the prosecution has to make a decision whether or not to continue with the case without the complaining witness. While this may make the case more difficult for them to win, it does not mean the prosecution will always drop the charges.
Contempt of Court
When someone is ordered by a court to do something, like appear before the court and testify, it is usually not an optional request, and unless excused, the person has to do as ordered. Failure to do this can lead to criminal or civil sanctions. Civil sanctions for contempt are usually fines, which, depending on the conduct, can be quite high. On the other hand, the consequences of being found in criminal contempt of court can be jail for a time to be determined by the judge, within reason.
Direct and Indirect Criminal Contempt of Court
Criminal contempt can be direct or indirect. Direct criminal contempt results from someone doing something improper while in front of the judge. Indirect criminal contempt on the other hand occurs outside the court, but is action that can be seen as obstructing justice. While a judge can punish someone immediately for direct criminal contempt of court, the judge has to grant the person allegedly in violation of a court order a separate hearing in order to sentence her to jail for indirect criminal contempt. If you are facing a criminal contempt hearing for failing to do something a court ordered, it is best to consult with a criminal defense attorney before the hearing.
While the judge may have the discretion to order a victim to testify under certain circumstances, judges do not often do this, especially not in cases involving domestic violence victims whose failure to testify may be due to fear of the accused. In the case mentioned above, while this judge’s approach may be seen as a way to discourage false reporting and later dropping charges, there are other ways to discourage this, for example through charging false reporters criminally.
Contact a Clearwater Domestic Violence Attorney
If you are a victim of domestic violence and are seeking an order of protection, or if you have been accused of domestic violence, contact an experienced Clearwater domestic violence attorney at Roman & Roman, P.A. for a consultation today.