Testifying at a Jacksonville Domestic Violence Injunction Hearing

If you have been accused of domestic violence in Jacksonville, you could be facing a variety of legal problems in Florida.  Maybe you were arrested for Jacksonville domestic battery.  Maybe you are fighting Jacksonville domestic violence accusations as part of a Florida family law case, such as a divorce or child custody battle.  The alleged victim of the Jacksonville domestic battery may have filed for a Jacksonville restraining order, which is known as a Florida Petition for an Injunction Against Domestic Violence.  If someone has filed for a Jacksonville restraining order against you, the petitioner for the domestic violence injunction has requested that the Duval County court issue a Florida Injunction for Protection against violence.  If you do not show up and defend against the restraining order in Jacksonville, the judge will order a Florida injunction against you, the respondent.

In many Jacksonville domestic battery cases, the respondent in a Jacksonville domestic violence injunction hearing will also have a criminal case pending at the same time.  If you have been arrested for Jacksonville domestic battery and you have an open Florida domestic battery case, you will be reluctant to fight the injunction in Jacksonville, because you are scared of jeopardizing the criminal case.  You do not want to say anything at your Jacksonville injunction hearing that will hurt your chances of defending the Jacksonville domestic battery case.  Many people that want to stop a Jacksonville domestic violence restraining order from being issued, do not want to be forced to testify at the injunction hearing because of the pending Jacksonville domestic battery charges.

There are ways to fix this problem.  When it comes to a Jacksonville Domestic Violence Injunction hearing, the respondent fighting the Florida restraining order may be able to continue the Florida injunction hearing until after the domestic battery case is resolved.  If the hearing on the Jacksonville restraining order does take place, the respondent can testify at the Florida injunction hearing and invoke the fifth amendment’s right against self incrimination.  As long as the respondent does not testify on direct-examination about the matters pertaining to the Jacksonville domestic battery charge, he or she cannot be forced to testify on cross-examination about the Jacksonville domestic battery arrest.  Because “the right to be free from self-incrimination is a fundamental principle secured by the Fifth Amendment, waiver of the privilege will not be lightly inferred, and courts will generally indulge every reasonable presumption against finding a waiver.” Jenkins v. Wessel, 780 So. 2d 1006, 1007 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) (citing State v. Spiegel, 710 So. 2d 13, 16 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998).

The right against self-incrimination in Florida does not only apply to Jacksonville domestic violence restraining orders and Jacksonville domestic battery arrests.  The 5th Amendment protects all Jacksonville criminal defendants from being forced to testify in other Florida civil cases.  The Fifth Amendment is applied to Florida, and all the other States, through the Fourteenth Amendment.  It protects a person from self-incrimination and is meant to “assure that an individual is not compelled to produce evidence which later may be used against him as an accused in a criminal action.” Maness v. Meyers, 419 U.S. 449, 461 (1975).  A witness in a civil proceeding has the right to refuse to respond to a question on the grounds that his answer may tend to incriminate him. See Kastigar v. United States, 406 U.S. 441, 444-45 (1972). When a person invokes the privilege against self-incrimination, “it need only be evident from the implications of the question, in the setting in which it is asked, that a responsive answer to the question or an explanation of why it cannot be answered might be dangerous because injurious disclosure could result.” St. George v. State, 564 So. 2d 152, 155 (Fla. 5th DCA 1990).

Because of the 5th Amendment, a Jacksonville criminal defendant can testify at a Florida civil hearing or trial, and refuse to answer certain questions by invoking the 5th amendment privilege.  Even with this self-incrimination law acting as a protection in Jacksonville criminal cases, you must be very careful if you plan on testifying in a Jacksonville restraining order hearing or other Florida civil case.  If you are testifying, you do not want to do something that would waive your 5th Amendment rights by “opening the door” and talking about your Jacksonville domestic battery case.  Contact a Jacksonville Domestic Battery Lawyer for help with your Florida Domestic Violence case.  A Florida Attorney at 20 Miles Law can help you with your Jacksonville domestic case.  If you have a pending Jacksonville divorce of child custody problem too, call a Family Lawyer in Jacksonville.

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