Most injunctions and protective orders in Florida address matters of domestic violence and stalking, among other behaviors and crimes that pose a risk of injury or death to a person. Under Florida law, protective orders have been extended to cover a new class of conduct called “exploitation of a vulnerable adult or elderly person.” The law became effective July 1, 2018, and the statute, Florida Section 825.1035, states that a person may file a petition for an injunction if he or she is a vulnerable adult who is in “imminent danger of being exploited.”
Exploitation happens when a person illegally or improperly uses a vulnerable adult or elderly individual’s income or resources for the person’s own benefit, profit, or gain. Exploitation may result in the vulnerable adult or elderly person being left without the ability to obtain necessary resources, such as food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare, and is therefore considered “abandoned.”
Exploitation is undoubtedly a problem in Florida, and any person who is genuinely being exploited rightfully deserves protection under Florida law by filing a petition for an injunction or protective order. Allegations of exploitation of a vulnerable adult or elderly person are very serious and have consequences that can snowball out of control. Unfortunately, many petitions for an injunction for the exploitation of a vulnerable adult or elderly person are filed based on false or misleading information. As such, many people who are accused of exploitation are innocent, and an injunction, whether temporary or permanent, can be extremely harmful to a person’s life.
An injunction/protective order is a civil court remedy that is a matter of public record. Individuals served with injunctions are alleged to have committed criminal acts even though they may not have been charged with any crimes related to the allegations of the petition for injunction. Such allegations can paint an inaccurate and biased picture of an innocent person who has not committed the acts alleged in a petition for an injunction/protective order.
Have You Been Served with an Injunction Order in Florida?
If you have been served with an injunction order against the exploitation of a vulnerable adult or elderly person, you will need the assistance of a highly skilled and experienced Florida Criminal and Injunction Defense Attorney. Not every criminal defense attorney handles injunction matters, but because injunctions allege conduct that is usually criminal in nature, you must retain an attorney who handles criminal law regularly. By choosing to work with an attorney who specializes in criminal law and injunctions, you are taking a step to protect your rights when you go to court to defend against serious allegations.
Once you are served with an injunction order against the exploitation of a vulnerable adult or elderly person, you do not have much time to respond to the allegations and appear in court for your hearing. While many petitions have inaccurate or misleading information, judges are likely to grant temporary injunctions immediately after someone files a petition. The subject of the petition, who is called the “respondent” is subsequently served with the petition and temporary injunction order and is given notice of a hearing that will take place no more than fifteen (15) days after the temporary injunction is entered.
Because you only have fifteen (15) days until your initial hearing to address the injunction against the exploitation of a vulnerable adult or elderly person, you must find an attorney quickly. Fortunately, you can get a continuance at your first hearing which will reschedule the matter for a future hearing date. Your attorney will likely request a continuance as the extra time will be used to gather information about the underlying allegations of the petition. If a continuance is granted, the temporary injunction will continue to stay in place until the hearing which decides whether the temporary injunction will become permanent.
The Fact-Gathering Process – Building Your Defense
Just like a criminal defendant, a respondent who is the subject of an injunction has rights that must be protected. While awaiting a hearing which will decide the fate of a temporary injunction, your attorney will take the depositions of the petitioner seeking the permanent injunction and any other relevant witnesses. Your attorney will also seek to obtain any documents which are relevant to the matter (including text messages and emails). Understanding the intent behind filing the petition is crucial when determining whether the allegations are well-founded.
After you have gathered enough facts to present your side of the story at the injunction hearing, a judge will decide whether the facts support entering a permanent injunction or whether the temporary injunction currently in place should be terminated. Although injunctions are civil orders, they can feel like criminal convictions as the consequences are similar (aside from jail time, fines, and probation). Such similar penalties include, among others, the following:
- A tarnished record that is available for the public to see (a petition for an injunction is much like a petition filed in any other lawsuit, and lawsuits are public record);
- Difficulty keeping a job or getting a new job;
- Difficulty renting an apartment or home;
- Difficulty obtaining credit;
- Difficulty getting accepted into a college or university;
- Harm to reputation; and
- Custody disputes.
The mere fact that injunctions are public record exposes a person to harsh consequences, as background checks performed by many agencies will likely uncover the injunction which may not accurately represent who a person is, especially if the injunction is based on false information. Additionally, an injunction may open the door to a criminal investigation and potential criminal charges.
Contact the Florida Criminal and Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Today
A permanent injunction/protective order can ruin your reputation and place a mark on your record that never goes away. You have the right to defend yourself, but you must do so alongside the right attorney who can provide you with the best possible chance of reaching a favorable result. At Musca Law, our Florida Criminal and Injunction Defense Lawyers help clients throughout Florida fight permanent injunctions/protective orders that can have devastating and long-lasting consequences. To find out how Musca Law can help you, contact us today by calling (888) 484-5057. Our attorneys are standing by 24/7 to help you in a time of need.