Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders

January 13, 2015

George Zimmerman was arrested on Friday, January 9th, in Lake Mary, a town near Orlando, on suspicion of aggravated assault and domestic violence with a weapon. Zimmerman, who was acquitted of second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, allegedly threw a wine bottle at his girlfriend. Judge John Galluzo released him on a $5,000 bond and barred him from contacting the victim or from entering Volusia County, where the victim lives. He also required him to surrender all his weapons.

This is the second arrest for aggravated assault for Zimmerman. He was also arrested in November 2013 for domestic violence, battery, and criminal mischief, but against a different woman, girlfriend Samantha Scheibe. In a police report, she claimed that he’d broken a table with a shotgun and then pointed the gun at her. The judge who released Zimmerman on bail ordered several conditions for his release, including an order that he not contact the victim and that he surrender his weapons. However, Scheibe asked that charges be dropped and that the no-contact order be lifted, denying that Zimmerman had pointed a gun at her. The prosecution decided to drop the case.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a serious problem and a crime that can have both criminal and civil penalties. In Florida, victims of domestic violence have several legal tools that can be used to protect themselves from abusers and offenders. An important tool is the ability to ask the family law court to order an abuser not to contact a victim and to stay away from the victim.

For an act to constitute domestic violence in Florida, two requirements must be met: first, the abuser must have committed a certain type of act or made a threat, and second, the abuser must be a family or household member of the victim. Acts that qualify as domestic violence include:

  • Assault or aggravated assault,
  • Battery or aggravated battery,
  • Sexual assault or sexual battery,
  • Stalking or aggravated stalking,
  • Kidnapping or false imprisonment, and
  • Any criminal offense that results in injury or death.

A person qualifies as a family or household member of the victim if the abuser and the victim have lived together in the same household and the abuser is:

  • A spouse or former spouse,
  • Someone related by blood or marriage,
  • People who are living together or who have lived together as a family, and
  • People who have a child together, whether or not they have ever been married or lived together.

Since perpetrators of domestic violence necessarily have familial ties to their victims, it can be difficult, as in Samantha Scheibe’s case, to seek help.

What Does a Restraining Order Do?

An injunction, or restraining order, is an essential legal tool for protecting victims from domestic abusers. An injunction is a court order prohibiting or ordering someone to do something. A restraining order, a form of injunction, usually requires an abuser to stay a certain distance away from a victim, prohibits all contact, or requires the abuser to surrender all weapons. Restraining orders can be either temporary or permanent. Temporary restraining orders may be granted without a hearing, while permanent restraining orders require the victim to show the court that he or she has been or is likely to be a victim of domestic violence.

If you have been the victim of domestic violence, a restraining order is an important source of protection and relief. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation. He has had decades of experience and can help you to get legal protection and to feel protected from domestic violence.