We were happy to represent Alicia Byrnes and she gave us permission to share her story. In January of this year, Alicia slapped the father of her children with an open hand in response to repeated threats of physical violence made to her and to her children. In an effort to gain the upper hand in their child custody dispute, the alleged victim in this case (who is a foot taller than her and weighs approximately 100 pounds more than she does) called law enforcement and had her arrested for domestic violence. In making the decision to arrest her, law enforcement failed to consider that she was acting in self defense. They also failed to consider a prior incident in 2013 where this same alleged victim had punched her repeatedly in the face leaving her with a black eye and other injuries. Without counsel, Alicia entered a no contest plea and easily completed the requirements of probation. Immediately after she completed these probation conditions, the same alleged victim again called law enforcement and accused Alicia of “touching his arm in an aggressive manner.” She was arrested and charged with felony domestic violence. The 19th Circuit State Attorney’s Office pursued felony charges and extended a plea offer which would have made Alicia a convicted felon and required her to serve jail time. Prior to these two allegations, Alicia had no interaction with the criminal justice system and was the primary caregiver for her 4 year old son and 7 year old daughter. The trial court refused to admit photographs of Alicia’s injuries and a recording of the 911 tape which refuted the alleged victim’s story.
A St. Lucie County Jury took 20 minutes to return a Not Guilty verdict. Jury trials and Jury service are the only protection we have against a system that is often indifferent and negligent. This case wasn’t about the lawyers involved -it was about Alicia finally having the opportunity to be heard.