Defendants charged with crimes are innocent until proven guilty – a standard that we are all familiar with. However, a person facing an injunction, such as temporary injunctions/restraining orders or permanent injunctions/protective orders, can feel as though he or she is presumed guilty for allegations of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, among other crimes or conduct. An individual seeking an injunction to prevent another person from coming into close contact must file a petition in court. In most cases, a Tampa court will grant the individual filing the petition (called the “petitioner”) a temporary injunction/restraining order, which lasts for fifteen (15) days.
The individual who receives a temporary injunction or restraining order is the “respondent,” and this individual is not afforded many rights to fight the injunction until the protective order hearing, which happens no sooner than fifteen (15) days after the temporary injunction is granted. Given how soon a respondent must appear in court, the respondent must consult with a Florida Criminal and Injunction Defense Attorney right away. A respondent needs to have a qualified attorney present at a Florida Protective Order hearing to ensure his or her rights are adequately defended.
The Florida Protective Order Hearing
A respondent facing a permanent injunction/protective order has an opportunity to present his or her side of the story at the Protective Order Hearing. After the judge hears arguments from both the petitioner and the respondent, the judge will either deny the petitioner’s request for a permanent injunction/protective order, which effectively terminates the temporary injunction/restraining order, or the judge will grant the injunction, making the existing temporary injunction permanent.
Any person facing a permanent injunction/protective order should retain a Florida Criminal and Injunction Defense Attorney who has extensive experience representing clients at Protective Order Hearings. When a person’s legal rights are on the line, having the right attorney who specializes in handling criminal matters and protective orders helps to ensure a respondent is in the best possible position to show the court that a permanent injunction/protective order is unwarranted.
Injunctions are Civil Matters, Not Criminal
Some criminal charges and convictions can be sealed or expunged from a person’s record. However, civil injunctions/protective orders are not criminal matters which comes as a surprise to many people. While the allegations of a petition for an injunction may be criminal in nature (typically dealing with allegations of domestic violence, dating violence, repeat violence, stalking, and cyberstalking, among others), the matter itself is civil in nature. What this means is that a civil order will be viewable to the public, laying out criminal allegations that may never have resulted in criminal charges, and the civil order can never be sealed or expunged.
Understanding the Seriousness of Injunctions and Protective Orders in Tampa
In 2017, one Tampa court received more than 6,000 applications/petitions for domestic violence restraining orders. The number of applications is staggering; however, many applications are not based on accurate or complete information. While victims of domestic violence rightfully deserve to receive protection from the court, false allegations have resulted in innocent individuals being deemed criminals even though insufficient evidence exists to charge these individuals with crimes. As such, the consequences of being the subject of a permanent injunction/protective order can be devastating, especially when the allegations underlying the injunction are inaccurate or embellished.
Potential consequences of being the subject of a permanent injunction/protective order include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
- Harm to reputation;
- Loss of employment and/or difficulty getting a job;
- Trouble getting into a college or university;
- Custody disputes (when children are involved);
- The potential for future criminal charges to be filed against the respondent; and
- A public record that reveals to the world that the respondent has been accused of acts of domestic violence, dating violence, repeat violence, stalking, cyberstalking, and any other crimes that pose a risk to a person’s safety.
Background checks are likely to uncover any civil judgments, and because a protective order is a civil judgment, the matter will always remain on a person’s record. Such a judgment can be just as harmful as a criminal conviction.
You Have Legal Rights – Know What Steps You Can Take to Defend Yourself in Court
Respondents facing a temporary injunction/restraining order are given minimal time to appear in court to defend themselves. If you are facing an injunction, it cannot be stressed enough that you should contact an attorney right away. An attorney can appear alongside you in court and can request a continuance, which allows the matter to be postponed until a later date. Being fully prepared to defend yourself at a Protective Order Hearing may take longer than fifteen (15) days. By seeking a continuance, your attorney will have more time to understand the facts, your version of what happened, and will be able to take depositions of witnesses and obtain documents through the discovery process.
If your attorney is granted a continuance, the temporary injunction/restraining order will remain in effect during the time the matter is continued. The fact-gathering process that happens during this time allows your attorney to build the best case to defend against the allegations outlined in the petition. Hearing a person speak about the matter is much different than reading words in a petition. You have the right to hear testimony from the petitioner and any other witnesses as well as obtain any documents that support or deny the petitioner’s claims. With ample information and evidence, your attorney will be prepared to present your case in court to convince the court that a permanent injunction/protective order is both unnecessary and harmful to you.
Contact the Florida Criminal and Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Today
Facing a protective order can make you feel like a criminal, even if you have not been charged with any crimes. The consequences of a protective order can be devastating and long-lasting. As such, act quickly to speak with the Florida Criminal and Injunction Defense Attorneys of Musca Law. Our excellent legal team has a reputation for helping clients fight injunctions and helping them regain their rights. To discuss your situation with one of our attorneys, contact Musca Law today by calling (888) 484-5057. We are available 24/7 to provide you with the guidance and advice that you need.