The act of stalking is a crime in Florida, and state law provides for temporary and permanent injunctions for victims of stalking. The law requires credible evidence to be presented for an injunction order, and persons accused of stalking have the right to defend themselves.
If you have been accused of stalking and have an injunction pending against you, it is extremely important that you hire experienced counsel to defend your rights and your reputation. Contact Musca Law today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our skilled Florida defense attorneys.
Definition of Stalking Under Florida Law
Florida Statute § 784.048 defines stalking as repeated following, harassing, or cyberstalking of another person that is willful and malicious. The same statute states that “harassment” is a pattern of conduct directed at someone else that causes that person substantial emotional distress. Under the law, in order for the conduct to be deemed harassing, it must have no legitimate purpose.
Cyberstalking involves online communication or hacking that causes another person substantial emotional distress. If a person combines the act of stalking with a “credible threat,” that person has committed aggravated stalking under Florida law. A credible threat causes the targeted person to fear for his or her safety or for his or her family members’ safety. The threat can be verbal or nonverbal.
As a crime, stalking is considered a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. Aggravated stalking will be charged as a third-degree felony in the state.
Florida’s Procedures for Stalking Injunctions
One of the remedies Florida provides to stalking victims is injunctions against the accused. Often, a court will issue a temporary injunction, and the accused will be able to argue against the issuance of a permanent injunction. The injunction process takes place in the civil system, rather than the criminal system, though an injunction might be granted in tandem with a pending criminal stalking case.
When a person desires a stalking injunction against someone else, he or she will file a Petition for Injunction Against Stalking by using the Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.980(t). This form requires the petitioner (the alleged victim) to prove that the respondent (the accused individual) has:
- A history of committing violent crimes or making threats of violence;
- A history of previous harassment, stalking, threats, or abuse involving the petitioner;
- An order or protection in place against him or her issued in another jurisdiction;
- Destroyed an item or items of personal property owned by the petitioner;
- Threatened the petitioner with the use or weapons or has used a weapon on the petitioner;
- Intentionally injured or killed the petitioner’s pet; or
- Stalked the petitioner.
The petitioner will need to submit evidence of any allegations from above and will need to be able to demonstrate that more than one incident has occurred. Stalking is not an isolated occurrence but a pattern of conduct.
If the judge finds the petitioner’s evidence credible, he or she can issue a temporary injunction against the respondent. It is important to understand that all of this can take place without the respondent’s knowledge. The judge has discretion to allow an ex parte injunction, and the respondent might not know about the petition until days or weeks after the temporary injunction has been issued.
Fighting a Stalking Injunction in Florida
Upon review of a Petition for Injunction Against Stalking, the court overseeing the matter will likely schedule a hearing that both the petitioner and the respondent must attend. However, by the time the respondent is served with the petition and any temporary injunction, he or she might have mere days to prepare for the hearing.
To effectively fight a permanent stalking injunction, you need to immediately hire a knowledgeable lawyer, like those at Musca Law. If little time remains before the hearing, your attorney might request a continuance in order to secure adequate time to prepare. Your attorney might also seek to take the deposition of the petitioner.
At the hearing, your lawyer will work to attack the allegations by arguing that they are false or exaggerated. Strategies to fight the injunction might include proof of a legitimate purpose for the contact with the petitioner, presentation of facts in conflict with the petitioner’s version of events, disputing that the conduct was willful and malicious, or disputing the nature of the petitioner’s distress.
The injunction itself is a civil matter, but it requires proof that the crime of stalking has occurred, which is a first-degree misdemeanor. Because of what is at stake, you do not want to take the injunction lightly, and you will want to hire the best representation to fight the allegations.
Florida Penalties for Violation of a Stalking Injunction
If a final injunction is granted, the respondent must adhere to its terms for the time period specified by the judge. The injunction will be in effect for the full period, unless the court agrees to modify or dissolve the injunction upon petition from one or both of the parties. Either of the parties can move to modify or dissolve the injunction at any time.
A respondent can violate the terms of the injunction by going to the petitioner’s home or a family member’s home, going to the petitioner’s work or school, contacting the victim (provided the injunction does not allow for indirect contact), or committing another act of stalking. The respondent can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor or a third-degree felony for injunction violations, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Contact Musca Law to Speak to a Florida Attorney about Stalking Injunction Defense
If you have been served with a Petition for Injunction Against Stalking or with a temporary injunction against stalking in Florida, contact Musca Law today. We provide confidential consultations at no cost, and we can be reached at (888) 484-5057. Time is essential leading up to your injunction hearing, so do not delay in contacting us about your case.