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Animal Cruelty and Abuse Charges in Florida

pet-carrier-300x198Criminal charges of Animal Cruelty, in the State of Florida, can be brought as Misdemeanor or Felony crimes. There can also be local civil penalties associated with animal neglect or animal cruelty infractions. Law Enforcement Officers, like the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and other local municipality Police Officers, are responsibility for investigation all criminal animal cruelty cases in the State of Florida. On the other hand, local Animal Care and Control Offices, like Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, are responsible for investigating all ordinance infractions of the local county government.

If the facts show that the actions of the animal owner fall into section 828.12 of the Florida Criminal Statutes, which in a nutshell hold that: A person who deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or kills any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner commits animal cruelty, a misdemeanor of the first degree. Punishable by up to one (1) year in the county jail and a fine of not more than $5,000.00 or both. The misdemeanor criminal act of animal cruelty is intended to punish those who act with negligence and without general intent. Intentional acts that cause the death of an animal if done so in a cruel way can result in the animal owner being arrested and charged with a felony. The felony animal cruelty statute in Florida reads in a nutshell:  A person who intentionally commits an act to any animal, or a person who owns or has the custody or control of any animal and fails to act, which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done, commits aggravated animal cruelty, a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to five (5) years in the Florida State Prison and a fine of $10,000.00 or both.

The Sheriff’s Office or Local Law Enforcement Officials investigate the animal cruelty complaints in all criminal cases in Florida. The Office of the State Attorney in the county where the crime of animal cruelty allegedly took place then decides if Misdemeanor or Felony charges should be filed or No Charges Filed at all. If charges are filed then the State of Florida must show beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt that the accused did commit the crime for he or she is charged. Remember in Florida, because of the way the Animal Cruelty Statute is written, the accused can only be charged with “one” county of animal cruelty and no more, irregardless of how many animals are possessed by the owner. The criminal courts are separate from the civil courts and the civil process in the laws of animal cruelty. Civil animal cruelty infractions are a creature of local ordinances and local officials.

Palm Beach County Commissioners are authorized to enact ordinances relating to animal control or cruelty, and these ordinances which are only civil in nature and only provide for civil infractions set by statute and cannot exceed a specific amount. Animal Care and Control Officers must have “probable cause” to believe an animal is neglected or in violation of one of the many county animal ordinances in order to issue the owner of the animal a “citation”. The animal owner can either pay the citation and not contest the infraction or request a court hearing. All animal care and control matters are properly heard in the County Court and not the Circuit Court.

If the animal owner is contesting the animal citation then the owner must follow the rules of evidence, rules of procedure and all rules of court. The animal owner may call witnesses, may provide evidence, may cross examine the Animal Care and Control witnesses, and has all the rights afford to them to defend the animal citation. The Animal Care and Control officials have the burden of proof and must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the animal owner violated the ordinance for which he or she was charged. If the owner is found not to have violated the ordinance then the case is dismissed, if on the other hand, the County Court finds that Animal Care and Control did prove its case beyond a preponderance of the evidence then the animal owner will receive a fine and court costs.

Recently in Palm Beach County, FL there has been a rash of animal cruelty investigations.  As reported in the Palm Beach Post and on local nightly news stations; Martina Alfonso recently had all of her animals taken off of her property after Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant on her property at 11989 Orange Grove Boulevard in the Acreage, Royal Palm Beach area of unincorporated Palm Beach County, FL. Martina Alfonso reportedly was keeping 56 dogs, two hedge hogs, three cats, a pig and a goat in what Animal Care and Control Officials have deemed “deplorable conditions.” Diane Sauve the director of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control said “charges” against the animal owner are inevitable.

Many times in Florida, Animal Cruelty charges are brought after a search warrant is issued on a property of an animal owner. The two step process for the animal owner then begins in the court system. The animal owner must fight Animal Care and Control Officials in the Civil County Court Case in order to have their animals returned; and the animal owner must also fight in the County or Circuit Criminal Courts to keep themselves out of jail.

Animal Cruelty Attorney Andrew D. Stine has been representing animal owners for over a decade in the courts throughout Florida in all animal cruelty cases. Animal cruelty cases are taken very serious in the State of Florida by the Animal Care and Control Officers and by the Sheriffs and local Police investing and prosecuting the crimes of animal cruelty. Animal cruelty criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine has travel throughout Florida from the Monroe County to Duval County from Okaloosa County to Pascoe County and in every county on the east coast of Florida including Palm Beach County, Broward County, Dade County Martin County, St. Lucie County, Okeechobee County, Indian River County and in Orange County to defend those who have been charged with animal cruelty. The most experienced animal cruelty defense attorney in Florida has honed his skills in his battle with prosecutors, Animal Care and Control Officials and Judges in protecting the rights of those arrested and accused of animal cruelty and animal neglect.

If you or a loved one are being investigated for animal cruelty charges, animal cruelty infractions or if a warrant was issued on your property because of an animal cruelty complaint, contact the Animal Cruelty Criminal Defense Lawyer Andrew D. Stine. West Palm Beach animal cruelty criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine has the most experience throughout the State of Florida in animal cruelty and neglect cases. Hire Stine or do the Time.

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