Biography: Good afternoon Reddit! I am Florida criminal defense attorney Brian Leifert (https://www.leifertlaw.com/our-firm/brian-leifert/) at Leifert & Leifert. As a former prosecutor and a current criminal defense lawyer, I have an abundance of knowledge and experience when it comes to our criminal justice system. We saw an uptick in domestic violence cases when we began quarantining, working from home, and practicing social distancing. In Florida, we have seen a 5.3% increase in domestic violence cases this past year. I am here to answer questions about the legal rights of someone in a domestic violence case and the causes of the rise in domestic violence in the last year.

Here is my proof (https://www.facebook.com/LeifertLaw/posts/10158043125401559/), my website (https://www.leifertlaw.com/), and information on the topic "Domestic-violence deaths rise in year of COVID-19, Jacksonville study shows” https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/crime/2020/10/01/domestic-violence-homicides-rise-jacksonville-study-shows/3586702001/

Disclaimer: The purpose of this Ask Me Anything is to discuss laws surrounding domestic violence cases in Florida. My responses should not be taken as legal advice.

This AMA was on November 17, 2020 from 12 pm to 1 pm EST. Please contact me if you have more questions about domestic violence.

Comments: 701 • Responses: 30  • Date: 

cdsquair524 karma

What can a person do when the police don't "believe" their assault actually happened, or even take the side of their abuser? What can someone do when their evidence (photographs, eyewitness) have been dertroyed or manipulated by the abuser? How can they get their case taken seriously if this happens?

B-Leifert486 karma

It's a tough road without quality evidence. If a criminal charge is not viable as a result of weak or lack of evidence, a victim of domestic violence may be able to pursue a civil injunction . . . also called a restraint order. The standards of proof for a civil case are lower than is required for a criminal charge (proof beyond a reasonable doubt).

cdsquair151 karma

And what happens if you do call the police to your home and they remove/arrest the abuser? Do they immediately offer protection, assistance, other housing to the victim? Or are they just left alone to figure it all out?

B-Leifert235 karma

Individuals arrested for domestic violence here in Fort Lauderdale must see a judge before being released. If warranted, the judge will order that the Defendant have no contact with alleged victim and may also an electronic monitor to track the Defendant's whereabouts.

aslfingerspell242 karma

In your experience, what seems to be the exact causal mechanism of more abuse from the pandemic? Is it simply that spending more time around an abusive person is worse? Is the psychological stress of the pandemic/economic downturn/general 2020 nonsense causing abusers to lash out more? Is it because abuse victims are "socially distanced" away from witnesses or people to protect and support them? Some other reason?

B-Leifert346 karma

Lack of support systems from victims of domestic violence along with an inability to change tolerance levels and people spend more time with another.

Big_Willyy01106 karma

How has COVID impacted the rate at which these cases can be processed? Does having to wait longer result in a more dangerous situation for the victim?

B-Leifert134 karma

Great question! Here in South Florida cases are extremely backlogged which results in lack of closure for all parties. I haven't seen it yet personally, but the additional stresses of a domestic violence case that lingers on certainly could increase the risk of further violence. Not as many places for a victim of domestic violence to retreat during a pandemic.

Igotfivecats96 karma

Has the severity of the abuses gone up as well?

Is the increase due to more first time offenders, or more re-offenders? Or people who have escalated from verbal to physical?

B-Leifert160 karma

I have seen an increase in cases where people were already prone to domestic related issues. In other words, the majority of the recent case since the pandemic are individuals who have been charged in the past.

B-Leifert70 karma

Good morning! Happy to see some questions coming in early . . . thank you for joining me today.

ChicagoGuy5339 karma

Often people feel trapped emotionally and financially by thier abusers but don't want them in prison or to flea. They really just want the abuse to stop.

Do you know of any solutions that appear to stop abusers from continuing thier abuse or reversing course before things get too bad?

B-Leifert37 karma

If counseling is not an option, I have seen some domestic violence victims turn to civil remedies (restraining orders) before getting the criminal justice system involved. Of course if violence is severe and safety is an immediate issue, calling the police is the best option. For those who are perhaps looking to modify their abuser's behavior, the threat of an injunction is a lot less severe and restrictive than a criminal arrest.

Laglassey34 karma

Hi, thanks for doing this AMA.

We've seen a dramatic uptick in domestic violence up here in Canada as well due to quarantine. It's being referred to as the "silent pandemic". Women's shelters aren't getting the support they need from the provincial governments, and it's really up to the government workers to hold it together out of sheer empathy, it seems.

What resources are in place down in Florida to help get (usually) women out of abusive environments?

The ripple effect from Covid isn't only people dying from Covid, there are so many lives affected. My hat goes off to everyone helping however they can.

B-Leifert42 karma

Florida has become more and more proactive over the past few decades. Police officers can more easily make arrests for lower level (misdemeanor) offenses. Florida has established separate domestic violence units within the state attorneys offices as well as within the court system. Florida has also recently increased penalties for domestic violence cases.

keurigg33 karma

What are some ways that women can bolster their cases against violent husbands?

B-Leifert81 karma

Evidence, evidence, evidence! Eyewitnesses, photographs, preserved 911 calls are all ways a domestic violence victims can bolster their cases.

CrashMirandacoot29 karma

What about domestic mental abuse - is that a thing? If someone is regularly belittling you and tearing you down on a personal level. What sort of results can you even hope to achieve with taking legal action against someone like that?

B-Leifert53 karma

No criminal causes of action for this sort of abuse.

i_like_the_idea27 karma

Do you find that drugs or alcohol play a part in the increase?

B-Leifert78 karma

Absolutely. Substance abuse usually plays a huge role in domestic violence cases.

doctorwhoisathing21 karma

whats the gender ratios like normally ? just curious ?

B-Leifert63 karma

90% men

10% women

in the cases I have handled

bingold4919 karma

In your experience, how often does a domestic abuse case actually go all the way to trial?

B-Leifert42 karma

The majority of cases are resolved without trial. Cases are often dismissed for lack of evidence, uncooperative victims, diversion programs and changes of charges.

czarnick12319 karma

What percentage of women return to an abuser? What tools can a normal person offer when they know a woman in an abusive relationship? Does florida have special laws for choke cases?

B-Leifert32 karma

Strangulation (choke) cases are treated as third degree felonies in Florida - punishable by up to five years in prison.

kevinpalmer10 karma

Wait, you have an actual quarantine in Florida? Is the problem worse in states that actually have one?

B-Leifert25 karma

There is no stay at home order in Florida.

RothkoRathbone10 karma

How do cases come to you? And what are your personal feelings about it?

B-Leifert18 karma

More often than not an individual is arrested for Domestic Violence and we are either contacted by the arrestee or their family.

KosmicTom9 karma

We saw an uptick in domestic violence cases when we began quarantining,

Florida quarantined?

B-Leifert18 karma

Florida has seen an uptick in domestic violence cases somewhere around 7% compared to last year and certainly as a result of quarantining.

P1cklesniffer12 karma

We all aren’t as bad as they show on tv lol

B-Leifert17 karma

Are you referring to the "Florida Man (woman)" reference?

hking127 karma

How much worse do you think this is in closed states such as California?

B-Leifert16 karma

The more "locked down" a jurisdiction is, the more likely it is to see an increase. Florida is reporting somewhere around 7% (but CA could be very different).

alexbovs6 karma

Who is most vulnerable to experiencing domestic violence (aside from the obvious fact that women are most likely to suffer)? Are certain ethnicities, age groups, sexual orientations, etc. more likely than others? If so, which?

B-Leifert15 karma

I haven't seen any groups stand out over the years. It's often connected to substance abuse and (alleged) infidelity.

1spicytunaroll6 karma

Hi, since Minnesota set the precedent for mandatory charging of abusers (in the 90's?), have there been any other big changes to assist victims out of the "circle of abuse" at a similar scale? It's really difficult to help those that don't see they need help

B-Leifert13 karma

Tougher penalties, more restrictions as a condition of release and specialized courts that solely deal with Domestic Violence cases.

B-Leifert5 karma

Thank you all so much for joining me today. I greatly appreciate all of your questions and will do my best to get to them all later today or this evening. Thank you for making my first AMA experience a pleasant one!!! Best of health and happiness to everyone.

InfamousNorth44 karma

Are you aware of any cases where false allegations of DV have been prosecuted?

B-Leifert16 karma

Yes. I have seen cases where alleged injuries have been self inflicted and cases where the alleged victim was the initial aggressor.

Csherman922 karma

Have gun sales increased in Florida? Do you think this is silencing a lot of victims?

B-Leifert16 karma

Gun sales have increased for sure but I am not aware of any correlation.

PanickingArmistice2 karma

Is there a clear line between Florida’s definition of domestic violence and domestic battery or assault?

B-Leifert6 karma

Domestic battery and domestic assault are both considered "domestic violence" under Florida Statutes.

Chaosritter2 karma

Does the rise show more men hitting their wives or more women hitting their husbands?

B-Leifert37 karma

The majority of individuals who get arrested are men. I haven't seen any change to that trend since the pandemic.

Milestailsprowe0 karma

What is the ratio of women abusing men to men abusing women among your cases?

B-Leifert14 karma

I haven't officially tracked those stats but I would estimate as follows:

90% men

10% women

therealwags-6 karma

Rise in domestic violence cases due to stay at home orders and quarantines

What proof / hard evidence is there that stay-at-home orders and/or quarantines are directly related to the said increase?

B-Leifert10 karma

Soley an increase in the number of cases compared to the same period the prior. Certainly too soon to know for sure if this increase will continue upward post pandemic or drop back down. Time will tell but I suspect the stay-at-home orders and economic markets are contributing the the increases.