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September 2015

How to Handle Your No Contact Order and Your Domestic Violence Charge

150 150 Joel Leppard

 When there is a no contact order placed against you, it is an extremely difficult time. Here are some frequently asked questions and helpful answers for you. If you are ever unsure about anything, contact your attorney and ask for his/her advice.

There is a no contact order in place against me, what does that mean?

A “no contact order” means you are prohibited from having any contact with the alleged victim, directly, indirectly. You cannot see or visit the alleged victim, you cannot call, you cannot write or e-mail the alleged victim. You cannot drive by their residence. Contact through a third party can also be a violation of the court’s order. Even if you attend the same church, temple, mosque, school, or other function that the alleged victim is attending, you should not go to that event. No contact means no contact.

What happens if I violate the order?

You will be arrested and have a higher bond set, or possibly have no bond. You may also have additional charges brought against you for violation of a domestic Violence order or injunction.

How will anybody know if I violate the order?

There are many ways the court can determine if you have violated a no contact order. Eyewitness testimony, phone records, social media and voice mail can provide evidence that you have violated an order. Letters and e-mails can also be shown as evidence. The burden of proof can be considered relatively low.

What if the alleged victim doesn’t want to press charges?

The State of Florida makes a decision to proceed with the charges or not. The alleged victim can contact the State Attorney’s or an attorney to file a Declination of Prosecution, which is the first step in resolving the case in your favor. The order will still be in place and will not be removed until the case is over or the court modifies it. Any modification of this condition requires a motion before the court and must be filed by your attorney.

Will I violate the no contact order if the alleged victim invites or initiates contact?

Yes. If the order states that there is to be no contact and you communicate back with the alleged victim, you will be in violation of that order.

Will I violate the order if we continue to live together?

Yes. If the order states that you must maintain separate residences or must not have contact with the alleged victim, then you are in violation of the order if you continue to live together.  Even if the alleged victim invites you to come home, you will violate the order. Only the judge can change or dismiss an order.

What if I own the house where we both live? Do I have to move out of my own house?

Not necessarily. If you own the house or lease (meaning that your name is the only name on the deed or lease), you will need to ask your attorney to have the conditions of your release modified so you may safely and legally get the alleged victim out of your home or pick up your belongings. Make sure you ask your attorney or the judge for this special condition, but if you do not own the house or lease, you must not ask to have the alleged victim removed.

Is there a violation of the order if I am required to vacate the residence, but I move in with the alleged victim at another address?

Yes. You must not move in with him or her at another address.

What if the alleged victim continues to come and see me at my place of business or new home?

Politely refuse to see or speak with the alleged victim and immediately contact your attorney. Go to a separate room or part of the building and shut the door. Have a co-worker or friend politely tell the alleged victim that there is an order in place, that you can have no contact with the alleged victim, and to please leave the premises. You can also file a petition to have an injunction against the alleged victim. You can call the Domestic Relations Division of the Orange County Clerk’s Office at (407) 836-2054 to get more information on filing an injunction.

What if I want to see my children and the alleged victim is the one living with them?

You must go through the court system to get visitation of your children when there is a no contact order in place.

How can we get the order removed?

Once the case is resolved, all conditions of your release are no longer enforceable. You may request your attorney to file a motion with the court to modify the no contact order.

What if the court has ordered no-hostile contact?

No-hostile contact means you can see or visit the alleged victim, you can call, you can write or e-mail the alleged victim. You may also share the same residence. You cannot have any contact with the alleged victim that rises to the level of violence or hostile behavior. The alleged victim will largely get to decide what is and is not hostile contact.

Definitions of Commonly Used Terms in Criminal Law

150 150 Joel Leppard

Acquittal – A release, absolution, or discharge of an obligation or liability. Commonly in criminal law, this can happen when a jury finds a defendant not guilty of a criminal charge.
Adjudication – Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree; the judgment given. This term is common used when a judge finds and adjudicates a defendant “Guilty.”
Adjudication Withheld – A court decision at any point after filing charges to continue court jurisdiction but stop short of conviction. The court will not reopen unless the person violates a condition of behavior.
Affidavit – A written declaration of facts, confirmed by oath of the party making it before a person with authority to administer the oath.
Affirmed – In the practice of appellate courts, the word means that the decision of the trial court is upheld.
Appeal – A proceeding brought to a higher court to review a lower court decision.
Arraignment – The hearing at which the accused is brought before the court to plead to the criminal charge in the indictment, affidavit, or citation. He/She may plead “guilty,” “not guilty,” or where permitted “nolo contendere.” (See Preliminary Hearing.)
Bond – A written agreement by which a person insures he/she will pay a certain sum of money if he does not perform certain duties properly. (See Cash Bond and Surety Bond.)
Capital crime – A crime punishable by death.
Cash Bond – A written agreement in which a defendant, or another person on the defendant’s behalf, ensures he/she will perform duties as outlined by the Court while awaiting trial by depositing bail money (cash) with an authorized official equal to the bail bond set by the Court.
Citation – A writ or order issued by a court or law enforcement agency commanding the person named therein to appear at the time and place named; the written reference to legal authorities, precedents, reported cases, etc., in briefs or other legal documents.
Concurrent sentences – Sentences for more than one crime that are to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other.
Consecutive sentences – Successive sentences, one beginning at the expiration of another, imposed against a person convicted of two or more violations.
Conviction – A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.
Court Appointed Counsel – Government lawyer who provides legal defense services to a person accused of a crime who cannot afford a private attorney. The defendant must be declared indigent and is responsible for paying an application fee and any reduced legal fees assessed by the Court. See also Public Defender.
Defendant – The person charged with a crime in a criminal prosecution.
Extradition – The surrender of an accused criminal by one state to the jurisdiction of another.
Felony – A serious criminal offense. Under Florida law, it is any offense punishable by
imprisonment for a term exceeding one year or death.
Grand Jury – A jury of inquiry whose duty it is to receive complaints and accusations in criminal matters and if appropriate issue a formal indictment.
Hearing Officer – (also known as a Magistrate) Judicial officer exercising some of the functions
of a judge.
Judgment – The official and authentic decision of a court of justice upon the rights and claims of parties to an action or suit submitted to the court for determination.
Jurisdiction – The power or authority of a court to hear and try a case; the geographic area in which a court has power or the types of cases it has power to hear.
Jury – A certain number of citizens selected according to law and sworn to try a question of fact or indict a person for a public offense.
Lien – An official claim against property for payment of a debt or an amount owed for services rendered.
Magistrate – (also known as a hearing officer) Judicial officer exercising some of the functions of a judge.
Misdemeanor – A criminal offense lesser than a felony and generally punishable by fine or by imprisonment other than in a penitentiary. Includes criminal traffic violations.
Motion – A request made to a court or judge which requests a ruling or order in favor of the applicant.
No True Bill – This phrase, endorsed by a grand jury on the written indictment submitted to it for its approval, means that the evidence was found insufficient to indict.
No Bill or Notice of No Information – Issued by the State Attorney when the charges against a defendant are dropped prior to formal charges being filed by the State.
Nolo Contendere (No Contest) – A plea made by a defendant to a criminal charge, meaning he/she will not contest the charge, allowing the judge to find him/her guilty. This is also known as a “plea of no contest.”
Nolle Prosequi – This Latin phrase means that the prosecution or State Attorney will no longer prosecute the criminal case. In some circumstances, the case can be again be brought up for prosecution.
Non-jury trial – Trial before the court but without a jury; also known as a “bench trial” –which is a reference to a judge’s “bench.”
Opinion – A judge’s written explanation of a decision of the court or of a majority of judges.
Order – A mandate, command, or direction authoritatively given. Direction of a court or judge
made in writing.
Ordinance – A rule established by authority; may be a municipal statute of a city council or a county statute of a county commission, regulating such matters as zoning, building, safety, matters of municipality, etc. An ordinance violation can be criminal or non-criminal. A violation could be punishable by a court appearance, a fine, and possibly by confinement in a county jail.
Plea – The written or verbal response by an accused defendant to each charge of the commission of a crime. The defendant’s answer to the charges made in the indictment or information.
Preliminary hearing – (also preliminary examination) A hearing by a judge to determine whether a person charged with a crime should be held for trial. (See Arraignment.)
Pretrial Conference – Conference among the opposing attorneys and the judge called at the discretion of the court to narrow the issues to be tried and to make a final effort to settle the case without a trial.
Pretrial Diversion – The process of removing some minor criminal, traffic, or juvenile cases from the full judicial process, on the condition that the accused undergo some sort of rehabilitation or make restitution for damages.
Probable cause – A reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the typical basis for lawful searches, seizures, and arrests.
Probation – An alternative to imprisonment allowing a person found guilty of an offense to stay in the community, usually under conditions and under the supervision of a probation officer. A violation of probation can lead to its revocation and to imprisonment.
Prosecutor – A trial lawyer representing the government in a criminal case and the interests of the state in civil matters. In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute. They are also known as a State Attorney.
Public Defender – Government lawyer who provides legal defense services to a person accused of a crime who cannot afford a private attorney. The defendant must be declared indigent and is responsible for paying an application fee and any reduced legal fees assessed by the Court.
Recuse – The process by which a judge is disqualified from hearing a case, on his or her own motion or upon the objection of either party.
Regional Counsel – (also known as the Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel)
Government lawyer who provides legal defense services to a person accused of a crime who cannot afford a private attorney. The defendant must be declared indigent and is responsible for paying an application fee and any reduced legal fees assessed by the Court.
Released on own recognizance – (also known as ROR) Release of a person from custody without the payment of any bail or posting of bond, upon the promise to return to court.
Remand – To send a dispute back to the court where it was originally heard. Usually it is an appellate court that remands a case for proceedings in the trial court consistent with the appellate court’s ruling.
Restitution – Returning to the proper owner property or the monetary value of loss.
Reverse – An action of a higher court in setting aside or revoking a lower court decision.
Revoke – To cancel or nullify a legal document.
Sentence – The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime.
Stay – A court order halting a judicial proceeding.
Subpoena – A command to appear at a certain time and place to give sworn testimony upon a certain matter.
Subpoena Duces Tecum – A court order commanding a witness to bring certain documents or records to court.
Summons – A document commonly used to commence a civil action or special proceeding; the means of acquiring jurisdiction over a party.
Surety Bond – A written guaranty which is purchased from a bonding company (bail bondsman) by the defendant or on his/her behalf, to guarantee some form of performance, including showing up in court.
Trial – A judicial examination of issues between parties to an action. The issues could be
presented solely to the judge for a ruling or also to a jury of the defendant’s peers. (See Jury.)
Vacate – To set aside.
Verdict – A conclusion, as to fact or law, which forms the basis for the court’s judgment.
Warrant – Most commonly, a court order authorizing law enforcement officers to make an arrest or conduct a search. An application seeking a warrant must be accompanied by an affidavit which establishes probable cause by detailing the facts upon which the request is based.
Writ – A judicial order directing a person to do something.

 

Policing for Profit

150 150 Joel Leppard

GOOD-Cops-Main

Civil forfeiture laws allow police to seize your property, sell it and use the money to fund agency budgets. This means your car, cash, real estate or other property can be taken from you even if you are not convicted or charged with a crime.

I’m sure you are wondering how your property can be taken from you if you are not involved in any criminal activity. The answer to that is: Civil forfeiture is basically a way for the courts to try inanimate objects for their involvement with criminal activity. That is why civil forfeiture actions are in rem proceedings, which means “against or about a thing.”

Originally, civil forfeiture was created to drain resources from powerful criminal organizations, but today it has become a way of funding for law enforcement agencies and has also led to personal gain.  According to a 2003 article in the St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Bay police seized and kept cars for their own use. “The seized fleet consisted of some 42 cars, including a Lincoln Navigator, a Ford Expedition, and, Police Chief Bennie Holder’s favorite, a $38,000 Chevy Tahoe.”

In Florida, law enforcement must prove with clear and convincing evidence that the property being seized was related to criminal activity. Although this is a higher standard than most other states, it still puts property owners at a disadvantage. This is because unlike a criminal forfeiture case, in which the government has to prove someone is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standards in a civil forfeiture case are much less rigorous. According to the Institute for Justice, “law enforcement in Florida still receives 85 percent of the funds generated from civil forfeiture.”

It is also a misconception that most people who have their property seized are wealthy. Some low-income families who do not have the resources to get their property back are also targeted by law enforcement. Regardless of socioeconomic status, it is not fair that likely innocent people are being stripped of their property without ever being convicted of a crime.

 

For more information, please read:

The Institute for Justice’s Initiative to End Policing for Profit

The Huffington Post article “Above the Law: New DPA Report Finds ‘Policing for Profit’ Gone Wild”

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