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Understanding Florida’s Domestic Violence Arrest Law

Understanding Florida’s Domestic Violence Arrest Law

On January 9, 2015, George Zimmerman was arrested in Lake Mary after his girlfriend alleged that Zimmerman threw a bottle of wine at her head. Although no one involved in the altercation contacted 911, police officers found out that the fight had occurred after performing a routine traffic stop on Zimmerman’s girlfriend earlier that night. According to the officer’s statement, Zimmerman’s girlfriend stated she was just involved in a domestic altercation with George Zimmerman.

During the arraignment, the judge set Zimmerman’s bond at $5,000, which Zimmerman paid that same day. Although Zimmerman’s girlfriend made no allegations that a firearm had been used during the altercation, the judge ordered Zimmerman to give any firearms that he owned to a family member or friend within a few days. 

Roughly 21 states in the country use a mandatory arrest policy for cases when reasonable suspicion or probable cause of specific instances of domestic violence is present. Many of these laws also take into account the current relationship between the parties. For example, Louisiana imposes a mandatory arrest requirement when the parties involved are current/former spouses, current/former cohabitants, or related through marriage or blood. Parties who have a child in common or who are in a dating relationship are not subject to the mandatory arrest law, provided none of the other categories apply. Had Zimmerman been located in one of these 21 states, the police would likely have arrested Zimmerman.

Instead of requiring arrest in domestic violence cases, Florida uses a special arrest policy. The Florida statute in question is Section 901.15(7), which states that “[a] law enforcement officer may arrest a person without a warrant when . . . [t]here is probable cause to believe that the person has committed an act of domestic violence . . . or dating violence . . . .”

Stated simply, in cases where probable cause of domestic violence is present, officers have the authority to arrest a suspect without a warrant, regardless of whether the victim agrees to the arrest and regardless of the relationship. Additionally, a police officer who arrests an individual based on this code provision cannot be sued in a civil case based on wrongful arrest or intentional battery. The statute also states that “[i]t is the public policy of this state to strongly discourage arrest and charges of both parties for domestic violence or dating violence on each other and to encourage training of law enforcement and prosecutors in these areas.”

If you have been involved in a domestic violence dispute, it is important to know the circumstances in which you may be subject to an arrest. Understanding Florida’s domestic violence arrest policy and the level of evidence that the police need in order to make an arrest is essential to ensuring that you aren’t arrested on insufficient evidence. The Hoffman Firm has nearly two decades of experience handling a wide variety of criminal matters, including domestic violence cases for individuals throughout Miami and South Florida. We offer a free consultation to discuss your legal rights. Contact us now at (305) 249-0090 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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