George Zimmerman's recent Domestic Violence charges including aggravated assault were dropped according to the Orlando Sentinel today. Zimmerman's girlfriend filed an affidavit where she recanted the allegations according to the newspaper. Phil Archer, State Attorney for Seminole County cited the affidavit, a failure to cooperate with the ongoing investigation, and a lack of any other corroborating evidence as reasons for not pursuing the case.
WHY HIRING A LAWYER IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BATTERY ASSAULT CASES EARLY ON IS CRITICAL
Zimmerman was smart and had criminal lawyer involvement early on. A criminal attorney can make the difference early on the proceedings after a suspect has been arrested for DV charges. Just because you are arrested for Domestic Violence does not mean you will be charged. The police can handcuff an take an individual to jail based upon probable cause for the charges but it is up to the State prosecutor to decide to file the charges. A criminal lawyer can reach out to a potential victim to determine if they still want to prosecute the case and if their original story to the police was even accurate. In many cases, alleged victims will call the police out of anger and not tell the complete story of what really happened which results in the suspect being arrested. Sometimes the police will arrest someone they suspect was the primary aggressor when in reality, there was more than "meets the eye". In many domestic violence cases, the person arrested was actually trying to defend themselves and in some cases both parties were fighting and it is impossible to determine from the mutual combatants who started and who finished the fight. During heated arguments, some alleged victims will overstate the incident to police and sometimes downright false accusations are made. A lawyer can secure evidence, prepare an affidavit for an alleged accuser who wants to retract or recant their story and argue to the prosecutor their clients side of the story. It is critical to retain counsel BEFORE the State files charges because once the process starts it is often hard for a lawyer to influence the prosecutor to drop charges later on for political, practical and other reasons.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CHARGES ARE STIGMATIC AND CARRY MANDATORY PENALTIES
Sure George Zimmerman is a public figure with his recent trial and attention in the media. But what can it mean for the average person who is charged. The media will not really see it unless it is a juicy case? Right? Sure, for the most part you will be out of the public limelight but these charges will follow you around forever if they are not dropped. Domestic Violence Battery and Assault charges can carry mandatory jail time if you are convicted and you can not seal a Domestic Violence Charge unless you are found not guilty at trial. You can not expunge a Domestic Violence allegation unless you get the charge dropped. If you are convicted you can lose your right to carry a firearm and if you plead guilty and avoid a conviction, the public will still be able to see the allegation and sentence because you can not shield it from public view. Employers are hesitant to hire people who are arrested for Battery or Assault because they worry about workplace violence and the liability that ensures. For instance, employers can be sued if a person they hired, gets into a fight at the office and it is discovered by the injured party that the employee had a prior violent charge.
DON'T WAIT TILL YOUR FIRST COURT DATE TO SEE IF THE STATE WILL FILE CHARGES SO YOU CAN SAVE A BUCK
The first court date is the arraignment date where the State will announce their intentions to prosecute you. You must show up for that court date if you have not hired a lawyer or you can face additional arrest. If you hire a lawyer they can excuse your presence so you do not have to take time off work or have an employer ask you why you need the day off. The buck you save may come back to haunt you in spades if the State files and a conviction for domestic violence sticks as it can lead to job loss, career stagnation along with a number of other economic factors that can hurt your future income. Zimmerman was smart and had attorneys working on his case very early on and avoided a long trial later on!
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