COVID-19 has affected millions of people throughout the world. Here in Florida, the number of confirmed cases is among the highest in the nation. People continue to become infected daily, and the range of symptoms can certainly vary among those who have tested positive. However, apparently a new symptom, according to one Florida man, is the urge to commit an act of domestic violence.
The domestic violence incident in question occurred in Palm Beach County. As per a local news report, the victim, a 34-year-old woman, woke up in the middle of the night to her partner hovering above her. The man, with whom she has a young child with, said he had some sort of religious vision and felt that he should remove a demon that he alleged was possessing his girlfriend. He then proceeded to strike his girlfriend repeatedly with a belt, which resulted in deep and painful welts.
Police arrested the man, who was identified as 45-year-old Luis Suriel after the incident. However, Suriel’s family explained to authorities that he was sick with COVID-19 at the time of the domestic violence crime. The family claims Suriel’s behavior was caused by the virus after suffering from a fever that resulted in hallucinations and delirium.
As shocking as that may sound, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office did note that Suriel was behaving erratically at the time of arrest. So much so, in fact, that officers imposed the Baker Act and had him committed under suspicion of possible mental illness.
Although this may very well be the first instance of domestic violence attributed to the effects of an illness, the novel coronavirus has posed a range of symptoms and it has been near to impossible to determine exactly how a person will react once they become infected. Surely doctors would have to run extensive tests to determine whether Suriel was, indeed, affected by coronavirus symptoms when he struck his girlfriend.
Officials did not mention whether this was the only domestic violence act committed by Suriel or if others had been previously reported. If it was the first, and if medical professionals can prove Suriel was in a delirious state due to COVID-19 at the moment of the alleged crime, there is a good chance that his charges could be dismissed.
As unique as this case is (and especially due to the novelties surrounding the alleged perpetrator’s behavior), it is in the family’s best interest to speak with a local criminal defense attorney, such as South Florida-based Michael D. Weinstein, PA, for guidance on the matter.
Domestic violence is a serious charge and can result in imprisonment for those convicted. Many times, individuals are falsely accused of hurting their partner or spouse. Anyone who has been accused of this action should seek legal counsel right away with a Florida criminal defense lawyer.