In the State of Florida, when a person’s dog seriously injures or kills someone, the owner faces grave criminal penalties. If you are charged with a Misdemeanor or Felony offense because your dog bit and harmed someone, you must start building your West Palm Beach dog bite criminal defense as soon as possible.
Depending on the facts surrounding the dog bite attack, the owner may be ordered to pay a high fine and spend anywhere from a few months to a number of years in jail if convicted. One of our defense Attorneys at Leifert & Leifert can investigate the attack and examine all defenses available to reduce or dismiss your charges.
Defending Criminal Dog Bite Charges
Depending on how the dog bite attack happened, the owner may have several defenses against criminal prosecution. Since Florida adheres to strict liability theory when someone’s dog causes severe or fatal injuries, this narrows the potential defenses the owner can use if charged with a criminal offense if their dog attacks someone. In a strict liability state, even if the dog’s owner has no idea that their animal has hostile propensities, they can be held legally responsible if it bites and injures someone who is lawfully on the premises. If the dog did not belong to the accused person, but to someone else, this could also be a plausible defense.
Another possible defense that can be used is when the individual who was injured by the dog was not lawfully on the premises when the accident occurred. Sometimes, the criminal charges stemming from a dog bite attack may involve a case of mistaken identity. A West Palm Beach Attorney would carefully analyze all defenses that could be used in someone’s dog bite case.
The Dangerous Dog Act and Owner Responsibility for Attacks
Florida Statutes § 767.01 is the beginning of the state’s Dangerous Dog Act and affirms that dog owner is liable for the harm their animal inflicts upon others. An owner can also be held responsible if their failure to exert due care to restrain their animal results in their dog biting and injuring someone. Per Florida Statutes § 767.12, a dog being investigated by animal control as a potentially dangerous dog for biting and injuring someone can be seized and confined until a hearing is held or a decision is reached on the matter. If animal control does not seize the dog, the owner must keep the animal in a sealed area while the issue is unresolved. Per the Palm Beach County Code of Ordinances Section 4-2, dangerous dogs include those used in blood sports, who have viciously assaulted or harmed a person in a public place or on someone’s land, or on numerous occasions harmed or killed a domestic animal.
Penalties Upon a Finding of Liability in West Palm Beach
Once a judge affirms that a dog is a danger at the hearing, the owner will need to register the animal with local authorities, display signage to notify visitors about the animal, and keep the dog muzzled or in a restricted area at all times. If the dog has been identified as a dangerous animal previously, or attacks and kills someone, the judge can order the animal be put to death.
A dog-biting incident in West Palm Beach can leave an owner vulnerable not only to civil consequences but also to serious criminal punishments. If the dog was not previously affirmed to be dangerous, but the owner was aware the animal had vicious tendencies, and the dog injures or kills someone due to the owner’s negligence, the owner can be charged with a second-degree Misdemeanor.
A second-degree Misdemeanor is prosecutable by a $500 fine and two months in jail. If the dog in question has already been deemed a dangerous animal and injures or kills someone in an attack, the owner faces third-degree Felony punishments, which include a maximum jail term of five years.
Get Help Building Your Dog Bite Criminal Defense in West Palm Beach
Your West Palm Beach dog bite criminal defense is not something that should be left to chance. It is essential to understand your rights and where you stand under the law if you have been charged with a crime arising from an alleged attack by your dog. To discuss your defense and what legal options may be available, call the office today and ask to speak with a West Palm Beach Attorney at Leifert & Leifert.