Florida’s Laws on Stalking Injunctions
If you have been notified about a petition for a stalking injunction against you, contact Musca Law to begin building your defense. Florida law has specific requirements for someone to secure a stalking injunction, and a skilled criminal defense lawyer from Musca Law can help you refute the accusations against you.
Florida’s Definition of Stalking
Stalking, according to Florida Statute § 784.048, occurs when a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person.” Under the same statute, “harass” means “to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.”
A “credible threat,” as defined by § 784.048, is a “verbal or nonverbal threat … which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause harm.”
It is important to note that, while Florida lawmakers took care to define several key terms within the statute on stalking, they did not define “substantial emotional distress.” This can make proving or disproving a stalking case more difficult. In order for conduct covered under § 784.048 to be considered stalking, there must be at least two incidents.
Persons Eligible to Pursue Stalking Injunctions in Florida
Florida Statute § 784.0485 allows certain persons to petition for an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking. This petition may be filed by any person who is the victim of stalking (as defined above) or by a parent or legal guardian for a minor child living at home who is the victim of stalking. It is not necessary that a criminal proceeding or other cause of action involving the two parties be pending in order for a stalking injunction to be issued.
Petition Process for a Stalking Injunction in Florida
At the outset of any stalking injunction proceedings, the alleged victim (petitioner) will file a Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Stalking in the appropriate court. The petition can be filed in the circuit court where the petitioner resides, even if temporarily, where the respondent resides, or where the stalking took place. The petition is filed as a civil matter, not a criminal case.
The petitioner will also likely file supporting documents with the petition, such as affidavits. The court will review all documents submitted and could decide at this time to issue a temporary injunction against the person accused of stalking (respondent). This ex parte injunction will be in effect for 15 days, and the court will set a hearing on the petition before the ex parte injunction’s expiration. In the absence of a temporary injunction, the court will still set a hearing on the petition at the earliest possible date.
Prior to the hearing, the respondent will be served with a copy of the petition, a copy of the temporary injunction order (if one was granted), and notice of the hearing. The hearing provides both parties the opportunity to argue for and against the injunction. Florida law does not require that the parties have legal representation at this hearing, but we always tell our clients that hiring a lawyer gives them the best chance of defeating the petition.
It is possible that the hearing will be only a few days away by the time you are served with any kind of notice. In these situations, it is even more important that you contact a lawyer. An experienced stalking injunction defense attorney, like those at Musca Law, can request a continuance of the hearing to obtain enough time to prepare your case.
Order for Final Stalking Injunction
After the hearing has taken place and the court has considered all evidence, the court will make a determination about whether to deny a final injunction (and lift any temporary injunction) or to issue a final injunction. If the court grants a final injunction, the respondent will be enjoined from certain conduct, activities, and liberties.
Common terms included in final stalking injunctions include:
- Prohibitions against contact with the petitioner, including in person, over the phone, and by electronic communication;
- Prohibitions against being present at, or within 500 feet of, the petitioner’s home, work, school, or any places he or she regularly visits;
- Prohibitions against being present within 100 feet of the petitioner’s vehicle, regardless of whether the petitioner is in the vehicle;
- Mandatory surrender of respondent’s firearms and ammunition.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court might order more terms or different terms. Sometimes, the respondent will be allowed indirect contact with the petitioner for limited purposes, such as making arrangements for a child the two have in common.
As you can see, a lot is on the line when you are facing a stalking injunction in Florida. If a final injunction is granted, your life can be significantly affected. Contact Musca Law to begin fighting the allegations and protecting your rights.
Violations of Stalking Restraining Orders in Florida
Any violation of a Florida stalking injunction can result in criminal charges. Typically, a violation will be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
If a respondent is convicted twice for violating the injunction and commits a subsequent violation, the charges will be elevated to a third-degree felony. This can result in up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
Contact Musca Law Today for a Free Consultation
At Musca Law, we understand the difficulties surrounding stalking cases and injunctions against stalking. We have decades of criminal defense experience, and we know what it takes to fight stalking injunctions in the state of Florida. If you have been served with a stalking injunction petition, contact our office today for a free consultation by calling (888) 484-5057.