Do you wish to know more about how domestic violence cases are treated by the legal system in Pinellas County? We did.
Fortunately, Jessica Koch, an attorney in our Club invited Dora Komninos, Supervisor for the Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Division in the State Attorney’s Office for Pinellas and Pasco Counties to educate us at our June meeting.
Dora supervises four attorneys who prosecute criminal domestic violence complaints. The State Attorney’s website explains that domestic violence is:
a violent confrontation that explodes in the home between family members; between two people in a relationship who live together; or who live apart but share a mutual child, or who are divorced, or who at one time lived together. It can happen between a father and daughter, mother and son, an adult child and an elderly parent, but most often it occurs between a couple living together, married or not, with the woman being the victim in the majority of the cases. Sometimes weapons are used, sometimes property is damaged, but most often the abusive partner in the relationship causes injuries using physical force.
According to Dora, they process 7,000-8,000 criminal complaints each year, of which 34% are prosecuted. Prosecutors consider evidence such as police reports documenting the seriousness of the injury or damage, criminal history, and 911 call records (if they exist). Dora also looks at other situational characteristics. She will consider whether it is a first-time offense; defendant’s remorse, victim’s willingness to testify, and current stress factors such as job or home loss, household income insecurity, health issues or death of a close family member.
First time offenders are usually directed to BIC–Batterers Intervention Control–which is counseling, 90 minutes once a week for six months, with licensed mental health counselors. The program works to keep all but 13% of graduates from committing future abusive acts as they learn how to overcome negative role models from their past and redirect their anger in more positive ways.
Women are still more often victimized than men but women are become more likely to hurt others. Dora reported that the percentage of women physically hurting other adults has zoomed from 15% to 35% of the cases.
Dora also chairs the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force. She invited us to the Task Force meetings which are the 3rd Tuesday of the month, the next being on July 19 at 2:00.
Dora is taking her 14 years of prosecution experience in the Domestic Violence Misdemeanors section to run for an open seat for Pinellas County Judge in Group 8. Zonta does not endorse candidates but we appreciate her past public service and wish her well. We also learned a lot from her presentation. Thank you, Dora.