Send Domestic Violence Victims To Jail?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Wednesday, October 14, 2015.

Domestic violence injunctions are critical for safety in divorce, but unlike other crimes, domestic violence victims sometimes fail to appear at trial. Can a victim go to jail?

I’ve written about domestic violence (D.V.) before. And anyone scanning the headlines in the Miami Herald knows that the dangers of domestic violence are all too real.

But in D.V. cases, a victim’s non-cooperation by failing to appear at trial, or recanting testimony, is a well-known problem. Some estimate up to 90% of D.V. victims recant or minimize reports of abuse.

The usual response to a failure to appear and recanting, (or even false statements) in D.V. cases is to turn a blind eye. After all, who wants the bad press for prosecuting – or sentencing to jail for contempt – a poor, battered, traumatized domestic violence victim?

On the other hand, turning a blind eye to a crime committed by domestic violence victim, such as perjury or disobeying a subpoena, has its own repercussions. This is a big conflict in D.V. court.

Earlier, a Seminole County domestic violence judge resolved the conflict by scolding the victim and then sentencing her to 3 days in jail for failing to appear to testify against her attacker.

The link below has a video of the proceedings in July as a sobbing woman tried to explain why she didn’t attend the trial for the father of her 1-year-old son – even though a subpoena required her presence and the judge seated a jury.

“Your Honor, I’m very sorry for not attending …,” said the woman. “I’ve been dealing with depression and a lot of personal anxiety since this happened …”

As deputies placed the woman in handcuffs, she begged Collins for a different outcome. But the judge closed her binder and told the woman to “turn around.”

In addition to the wasted resources, because she refused to testify against her attacker, the defendant was sentenced to only 16 days in jail, minimizing a violent crime.

There is a conflict about how to handle victims who fail to appear or lie in a domestic violence cases. There is little guidance over when and if a victim should be charged can be arbitrary.

The video and story can be seen here.