My question involves criminal law for the state of: Florida
My 17-year-old granddaughter has been charged with domestic battery after an argument with her stepmother. My granddaughter came home from school about 3 weeks ago and found that someone in the house had left a burner on, on the stove. She left a sarcastic note by the stove, turned off the burner, and went to her room. Her stepmother, upon coming home, found the note, and went to the granddaughter’s room, screaming and yelling hysterically. (My son met this woman over the internet, went to Romania and married her, then arranged for her to come to the U.S. She has only been here a year and a half.) The granddaughter after listening to her verbal abuse for several minutes moved towards her, wanting her to leave the room, but not touching her. The stepmother punched my granddaughter, knocking her down. My granddaughter admits to kicking her at this point to get the woman off her. According to my other 10-year-old granddaughter who arrived home from school in time to witness everything, the stepmother hit the ten-year-old and grabbed an iron, held it aloft, and threatened the 17 year old with it. (There have been previous instances of physical abuse by the stepmother to both girls that were never reported).
The younger girl ran outside, crying, and tried to call her father on the cell phone. A neighbor heard the little one crying and called the police. By the time the police arrived, the older granddaughter had taken her little sister with her and left the house.
The police have not talked to either of my granddaughters. They have only talked to the stepmother who later appeared with big scratches all over her back and arms. (The ten-year-old claims she saw the stepmother rubbing her back against the stucco on the outside of the house which could account for these marks.) But the granddaughter was served with a summons to appear in court next month. The stepmother has since returned to Romania (supposedly to visit her family for the holidays).
My granddaughter has never been in any kind of trouble at home or at school. She is a good student and has worked successfully after school at a retail store for the past year and a half. She is scared to death.
Do we need to hire a criminal lawyer for her? What are the chances of this case being dropped if the stepmother fails to return? Will the younger granddaughter be allowed to tell what she witnessed?