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The Collateral Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction in Florida

A domestic violence conviction in Florida can lead to devastating collateral consequences that go far beyond any criminal penalties imposed by the court. While the actual criminal penalties may seem minor for a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, the additional civil penalties and restrictions can negatively impact almost every area of a person's life for years to come. That’s why it is essential that you hire an experienced domestic violence attorney to defend you.

Loss of Gun Rights

One of the most severe collateral consequences of a domestic violence conviction in Florida is the loss of your Second Amendment right to bear arms. Under federal law, anyone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under the Lautenberg Amendment.

This gun ban applies even if you only received probation or some other minor penalty for the offense. It also makes no difference if you used a weapon during the crime or not. The prohibition on firearms possession lasts for life.

The only way to restore your gun rights after a domestic violence conviction is to obtain an expungement or a pardon - both very difficult to achieve in Florida. Absent that, you will permanently lose one of your core Constitutional rights.

Difficulty Finding Housing

Another major collateral consequence of a domestic violence conviction is the impact on your ability to find rental housing. Most landlords nowadays conduct criminal background checks on all applicants. A domestic violence conviction will make you effectively unrentable in the eyes of many landlords.

Under federal law, public housing authorities can deny housing benefits to those with a domestic violence conviction. Private landlords who accept Section 8 vouchers can also refuse applicants with a record of domestic violence.

Even private landlords who don't accept vouchers can still legally deny housing to applicants with a domestic violence conviction in their past. Expect to encounter significant discrimination in the rental housing market.

Trouble Finding Employment

In addition to housing, a domestic violence conviction can also make it much harder to find employment. Again, most employers nowadays conduct criminal background checks prior to hiring. A domestic violence conviction is usually seen as a big red flag.

While employers cannot have an absolute prohibition on hiring those with criminal records, they can consider domestic violence convictions on a case-by-case basis when evaluating applicants. Expect the conviction to significantly diminish your employment prospects.

Certain fields will be particularly difficult to enter with a domestic violence conviction. Any job requiring the handling of firearms or a security clearance will likely be off limits. Healthcare, education, childcare, banking, and other fields involving moral character will also pose challenges.

Negative Impact on Custody

If you have minor children with the victim of domestic violence, a conviction for the offense can negatively impact future child custody determinations. Family court judges have wide discretion when awarding custody, and a domestic violence conviction may sway the court against your receiving primary or shared custody.

Even if you ultimately retain custody, the conviction can still be used to impose restrictions like supervised visitation or mandatory counseling. It also provides justification for the victim to seek a protective injunction limiting contact with your children.

Difficulty Traveling Internationally

Those convicted of domestic violence may also face restrictions traveling internationally, especially to Canada. Canada strictly enforces inadmissibility of those with domestic violence records under its Immigration Act.

While a single misdemeanor domestic violence conviction does not automatically bar you from Canada, it does allow border officials to deny you entry if they deem you as potentially dangerous. Expect much closer scrutiny and questioning when entering Canada after such a conviction.

Some other countries may also restrict entry for those with domestic violence records. Be prepared for problems anytime you must complete customs declarations and face background questions when traveling abroad.

Sex Offender Registration

In the most extreme circumstances, a domestic violence conviction can even subject you to Florida's sex offender registration requirements. This occurs when a dating partner or spouse was the victim of an alleged sexual battery during the incident.

Courts can require registration if they decide the domestic violence "had a sexual element." This is obviously one of the most damaging potential consequences, as you will face public shaming, residence restrictions, and other serious penalties required of registered sex offenders.

Risk of Future False Allegations

Finally, a domestic violence conviction can leave you more vulnerable to false accusations from the same partner in the future. Although a person who makes repeated allegations that are shown to be false can face criminal charges themselves for filing a false police report, a prior domestic violence conviction lends credibility to accusers, making it less likely the state will prosecute them for false allegations since you were already found guilty of similar acts in the past.

In summary, a domestic violence conviction can negatively impact your Constitutional rights, housing options, job prospects, custody status, international travel, sex offender status, and vulnerability to false allegations. The collateral consequences often turn out to be far worse than the actual criminal penalties. To avoid them, be sure to hire an experienced domestic violence defense attorney and fight the charges vigorously.

About David Edelstein

David Edelstein has been practicing criminal defense in Miami, Florida for over 25 years. He represents clients in both state and federal courts.