Dating Violence Injunction Defense Attorneys in Clearwater, Florida

Civil protective injunctions can wreak havoc on a person’s life. More commonly known as restraining orders or orders of protection, protective injunctions serve the purpose of protecting individuals from sustaining harm from another individual. Under Florida law, an individual can seek an injunction on his/her behalf or may seek an injunction on behalf of a minor child (or both). Injunctions not only apply to a variety of behavior but also involve a variety of relationships. Numerous injunction matters involve parties that are related by marriage or blood, but this is not always the case.

In Clearwater, Florida, an individual wishing to obtain an injunction has five options to choose from, including (1) domestic violence injunctions, (2) stalking injunctions, (3) sexual violence injunctions, (4) repeat violence injunctions, and (5) dating violence injunctions. Although each of these types of injunctions is slightly different, the result can lead to the same harsh consequences. Individuals served with protective injunctions must fight to protect their constitutional rights and should do so alongside a qualified Clearwater Injunction Defense Lawyer.

Dating violence injunction proceedings can be contentious, emotionally charged, and unpredictable. Facing a dating violence injunction can feel like facing criminal prosecution. Because dating violence injunctions – along with the other four types of protective injunctions – can lead to life-changing consequences, anyone facing a dating violence injunction should act quickly to retain the right attorney. At Musca Law, our Clearwater Dating Violence Injunction Defense Attorneys understand what steps must be taken to protect their clients’ rights to the fullest extent possible. To find out how Musca Law may be able to help you, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057. Our legal team is standing by 24/7 to help you in a time of need.

Protective Injunctions in Clearwater, Florida

Regardless of what type of protective injunction is being sought in Clearwater, the general process will be the same, and anyone facing an injunction should have a good understanding of this process. The individual wishing to obtain a protective injunction must file a petition in court, and this person is called the “petitioner.” The petition is a civil court filing, not a criminal matter. However, the person being served with the petition, known as the “respondent,” will experience what feels like a criminal matter when facing the injunction matter in court.

Once a petition is filed seeking one of the five types of protective injunctions available under Florida law (dating violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, and repeat violence), a judge will review the petition and supporting evidence (if provided by the petitioner) and make a quick decision to grant or deny the petition. While petitioners are not required to submit concrete evidence at the same time they file the petition in court, they must identify all facts, that if true, would be grounds to obtain a protective injunction.

Because protective injunctions serve the purpose of protecting victims from ongoing or imminent physical harm, judges reviewing petitions are likely to grant a temporary injunction in the petitioner’s favor. However, this temporary injunction is just that – temporary. In Clearwater, once a judge issues a temporary protective injunction, a hearing is scheduled to occur no more than fifteen (15) days after the judge issues the temporary injunction. The respondent in the matter is served with the petition, the court-ordered injunction, and the notice of hearing, which tells the petitioner to appear in court to address the merits of the protective injunction.

The protective injunction process from the time a petition is filed to the time a hearing is scheduled happens very quickly, and the ramifications of a permanent protective injunction are far-reaching. Once a respondent is served with a protective injunction in Clearwater, he or she has a very limited time to do the following:

  • Thoroughly read the petition, temporary injunction order, and notice of hearing, which is served by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department;
  • Contact a Clearwater Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer;
  • Seek to continue/postpone the injunction hearing date; and
  • Gather facts and build a defense with the assistance of a lawyer.

While the circumstances underlying every protective injunction in Clearwater will be different, the potential consequences of facing a long-term, and in some cases, even permanent, protective injunction can be catastrophic in many ways. Many individuals facing protective injunctions, including dating violence injunctions in Clearwater, Florida, choose to represent themselves in court to convince a judge why a petition for an injunction should be denied. Some respondents successfully defend themselves, but countless others do not. As such, no matter how serious the underlying allegations are that gave rise to a protective injunction, once a person is served with the injunction, the first phone call made should be to a Clearwater Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer.

What is Considered Dating Violence in Pinellas County Florida?

The specifics of a dating violence injunction in Clearwater implicates Florida law that defines the term “dating violence.” A petitioner seeking a dating violence injunction must establish that an act of “dating violence” has occurred. If the petitioner cannot prove he or she is the victim of “dating violence” (or that his/her minor child is the victim of such violence), a judge will not grant a long-term or permanent dating violence injunction.

Under Florida Statute Section 784.046(1)(d), the term “dating violence” is considered “violence between individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on the consideration” of the following questions:

  • Did a dating relationship exist in the six (6) months before the date a petition for a dating violence injunction in Clearwater is filed?
  • Was the nature of the relationship between the petitioner (or petitioner’s minor child) and the respondent one that was “characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement between the parties?” and
  • Was the “frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship” one that lasted over time and on a continuous basis?

Whether a dating relationship existed between a petitioner (or a petitioner’s minor child) and the respondent is the most critical component to a dating violence injunction matter in Clearwater. Therefore, successfully defending against a dating violence injunction requires the assistance of a superior Clearwater Dating Violence Injunction Defense Lawyer.

The Requirements for Obtaining a Dating Violence Injunction in Clearwater, Florida

After meeting the threshold requirement of establishing that a dating relationship existed between the petitioner (or the petitioner’s minor child) and the respondent, the petitioner must establish one or more of the following:

  • That the petitioner is the victim of past dating violence;
  • That the petitioner credibly believes he/she is likely to suffer repeat dating violence;
  • That the petitioner credibly believes he/she is likely to suffer dating violence for the first time; or
  • That the petitioner is the parent/legal guardian of a minor living at home who is a victim of dating violence.

A petitioner who wishes to obtain a dating violence injunction in Clearwater on behalf of a minor child (an individual under the age of eighteen) living at home, the petitioner must (1) be the parent or legal guardian of the minor child, and (2) credibly believe that the minor child is the victim of dating violence. In cases where the respondent in a dating violence injunction proceeding is another parent or legal guardian, the petitioner must convince the court that he or she witnessed an act of dating violence or obtain an affidavit signed under oath from a person or persons who were witness to the act(s) of dating violence.

While dating violence is a serious matter, and all allegations should be heard, the law allows for some individuals to successfully obtain a dating violence injunction when the underlying facts and circumstances do not support such a conclusion. Respondents served with dating violence injunctions are often caught by surprise and are not prepared to defend themselves in a matter of fifteen days. As such, to challenge a petition seeking a dating violence injunction, a respondent will need a strong team to identify how and why a petition does not satisfy legal requirements under Florida law.

Moreover, “dating” is a broad term that may not mean the same thing to everyone. For example, some individuals may consider dating to be casual or serious. If a respondent served with a dating violence injunction does not believe a dating relationship existed, he or she can raise this defense at the injunction hearing. However, only an experienced Clearwater Dating Violence Injunction Defense Lawyer will know how to properly present defenses to increase the chances of convincing a judge that a petition seeking a dating violence injunction fails on legal grounds. Although dating violence injunctions should be taken seriously, respondents have many options that can be utilized with the assistance of a lawyer.

What Happens at the Dating Violence Injunction Hearing in Clearwater, Florida?

On the day of the formal hearing that decides a respondent’s fate for the foreseeable future, a respondent should be present alongside his/her attorney. The petitioner will also be present and may or may not be represented by an attorney. The dating violence injunction hearing in Clearwater is not unlike a bench trial where the parties present evidence to the judge in the form of documents (emails, text messages, letters, social media postings and messages, photographs, etc.) and witness testimony. Rather than a jury deciding a respondent’s fate as would be done in a criminal proceeding, the judge will evaluate all evidence and reach a conclusion. The judge’s decision should be based on an evaluation of all available facts and the totality of the circumstances. The judge will either grant the requested dating violence injunction to last for a specific time period (or perhaps to last indefinitely), or the judge will deny the petitioner’s request.

The Harsh Consequences of a Long-Term or Permanent Dating Violence Injunction

If the judge in a dating violence injunction matter grants the requested injunction, a respondent will face an onslaught of negative consequences. First, injunctions are available for public view, just like criminal records. Therefore, a background check or a cursory search of court filings will reveal that a person is the subject of a protective injunction/restraining order. Second, in criminal matters, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. With injunction matters, a judge decides a respondent’s fate – not a jury of the respondent’s peers. Third, the judge issuing the dating violence injunction has the discretion to shape the scope of the injunction to fit the specific circumstances of the matter.

What this means is that a judge can determine what criteria a respondent must meet to comply with the dating violence injunction. Examples of such criteria include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The respondent must maintain a certain distance from the petitioner (which is common to most, if not all, protective injunctions/restraining orders);
  • The respondent must relinquish all firearms and ammunition in his/her possession (at least during the pendency of the dating violence injunction);
  • The respondent must undergo a mental health evaluation at his/her expense;
  • The respondent must undergo counseling to address violent behavior and/or substance abuse; and
  • The respondent will potentially face criminal charges for violating any portion of the dating violence injunction, no matter how minor or serious the violation.

To be clear, the above criteria may not be imposed on all respondents who are the subject of a dating violence injunction in Clearwater. Rather, such criteria provide an example of how far an injunction can go in terms of limiting a person’s rights and interests.

Criminal Penalties Associated with the Violation of a Dating Violence Injunction

A respondent who violates a dating violence injunction in Clearwater, such as failing to maintain a certain distance from the petitioner, faces potential criminal penalties. Although some respondents may already be facing criminal charges pertaining to alleged violence, not every respondent is in that situation. Some respondents who are the subject of a dating violence injunction have no criminal record. Therefore, the possibility of facing criminal charges for violating a dating violence injunction only adds stress and fear to an already tumultuous situation. A person alleged to have violated a dating violence injunction for the first time faces a first-degree misdemeanor, and conviction may result in jail time for up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000. A second violation of a dating violence injunction is also a first-degree misdemeanor, resulting in a potential one-year jail sentence and $1,000 fine.

Violating a dating violence injunction for a third or subsequent time may lead to third-degree felony charges, which can land a person in jail for up to five years along with the imposition of a potential $5,000 fine. Without question, a dating violence injunction in Clearwater, Florida, is a matter that becomes progressively more serious and consequential as time goes on. As such, respondents should fully understand the ramifications of (1) being the subject of a dating violence injunction, and (2) the criminal penalties associated with allegedly violating the injunction.

The Modification, Termination or Extension of a Dating Violence Injunction in Clearwater

Dating violence injunctions, like the other four types of protective injunctions/restraining orders in Florida, may be modified, terminated, or extended upon request by either the petitioner and/or the respondent. If a respondent’s circumstances change (such as moving out of the state of Florida), he or she may ask a judge to modify or terminate a dating violence injunction. Although such a request may not be granted, other circumstances may exist which warrant modification or termination of the injunction. For example, if the parties to the injunction begin dating again, both may wish to terminate the injunction and may do so by filing a motion with the court.

If, on the other hand, a petitioner wishes to modify a dating violence injunction to make the injunction stricter (perhaps because of an alleged violation of the dating violence injunction), he/she must present evidence to convince a court that grounds exist to modify the injunction. A petitioner who wishes to extend the duration of a dating violence injunction in Clearwater must seek to do so no less than thirty days prior to the expiration of the injunction. Dating violence injunctions typically have expiration dates, but in some cases, a court may issue an injunction that is to last indefinitely or until a future court order that terminates or modifies the injunction.

The only way to ensure respondents facing dating violence injunctions in Clearwater are taking all steps to protect their rights is to allow a skilled lawyer to handle the matter. Clearwater Dating Violence Injunction Defense Lawyers have been there before. They know the judges, know how the court system works, have trial experience, and have a background in criminal law that is intertwined with civil injunction proceedings. The cost of working with the best attorney for the job is well worth it when comparing this cost to the financial and emotional costs of losing rights and exposing oneself to potential criminal liability.

Contact the Clearwater Dating Violence Injunction Lawyers of Musca Law Today

If you have been served with a dating violence injunction or believe you may be served with a dating violence injunction, you need to take the situation seriously and act swiftly to speak with a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer. At Musca Law, our nationally-recognized trial lawyers has more than 150 years of combined experience representing clients from throughout Florida who have faced both criminal charges as well as civil protective injunctions. To find out more about how Musca Law can help to protect your rights, contact our office 24/7 by calling (888) 484-5057.

Get your case started by calling us at (888) 484-5057 today!