Sexual Violence Injunction Defense Lawyers in Clearwater, Florida
Protective injunctions, more commonly known as restraining orders, are issued by courts in Clearwater every day. Individuals facing criminal charges alleging sexual violence or any other type of violent conduct towards another person may also face a protective injunction. An injunction is a civil court order used in a variety of situations to force a person or party to cease certain conduct. Injunctions may be used in the context of business disputes but are more recognized in the context of disputes between two individuals.
Under Florida law, any person can file a petition in court to seek a protective injunction. Sexual violence injunctions are just one of five types of protective injunctions. In addition to sexual violence injunctions, a person may seek a domestic violence injunction, dating violence injunction, repeat violence injunction, or stalking injunction. A substantial number of protective injunctions issued in Clearwater involve relations between family or household members. Sexual violence injunctions often involve two individuals who know each other, but this is not always the case.
If you are facing a sexual violence injunction, you do not have much time to act to protect your rights. Individuals served with sexual violence injunctions are only afforded a short time to appear in court to defend themselves. Rather than appear in court alone, you should appear alongside a true advocate who will fight for your legal rights. The Clearwater Sexual Violence Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law dedicate their law practice to protecting individual rights in both criminal proceedings as well as civil injunction proceedings. Musca Law is a well-known law firm with a track record of successfully defending clients in court. To speak with a member of our legal team, contact Musca Law today by calling (888) 484-5057.
The Various Types of Protective Injunctions in Clearwater, Florida
Florida law allows individuals to seek five different types of protective injunctions. By filing a petition in court, the person seeking the injunction, known as the “petitioner,” is asking the court to issue an order forcing another person, known as the “respondent,” to refrain from coming into contact with the petitioner, among other requirements. Depending on the nature of the underlying conduct at issue, a person may file a petition seeking one of the following types of protective injunctions:
- Sexual Violence Injunctions;
- Domestic Violence Injunctions;
- Dating Violence Injunctions;
- Stalking Injunctions; and
- Repeat Violence Injunctions.
Regardless of why a person is seeking a protective injunction, the respondent in the matter faces an uphill battle whether the allegations are supported by evidence or not. Being on the receiving end of a protective injunction has consequences that cause long-lasting harm. As such, anyone served with a protective injunction should consider working with a Clearwater Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer as soon as possible.
What is Considered Sexual Violence Under Florida Law?
As previously stated, some sexual violence injunction matters may involve related criminal charges, while others do not. A person does not need to be facing criminal charges to be served with a sexual violence injunction. However, even without pending criminal charges, a respondent’s conduct must meet the definition of “sexual violence” under Florida law. If a judge overseeing a sexual violence injunction matter believes the evidence presented by the petitioner, the respondent could be facing a protective injunction and never be charged with any sexually violent crimes.
Per Florida Statute Section 784.06, the term “sexual violence” means one or more of the following:
- One act of sexual battery;
- One instance of a lewd or lascivious act “committed upon or in the presence of a person younger than 16 years of age;”
- One instance of luring or enticing a child;
- One instance of sexual performance by a child; and
- One instance of any “forcible felony wherein a sexual act is committed or attempted, regardless of whether any criminal charges based on the incident were filed, reduced, or dismissed by the state attorney.”
Under Florida Statute Section 794.011(1)(h), “sexual battery” is defined as “oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object.” Furthermore, Florida Statute Section 800.04 identifies various types of conduct that would be considered “lewd or lascivious” acts. Per Florida Statute Section 827.071, “sexual performance of a child” comprises a long list of sexual behavior that involves an individual under the age of eighteen (18). Crimes of sexual violence can encompass a broad range of conduct that can land a convicted person in jail for many years, if not decades.
Legal Requirements of Obtaining a Sexual Violence Injunction in Clearwater, Florida
A victim of sexual violence must meet certain requirements before obtaining a sexual violence injunction against another person. Per Florida Statute Section 784.046(2)(c), a person who is the victim of sexual violence or the parent/legal guardian of a minor living at home who is the victim of sexual violence, can file a petition in court, seeking a sexual violence injunction against the alleged perpetrator in the following cases:
- The victim of sexual violence has reported the conduct to a law enforcement agency and is cooperating with law enforcement officials in any criminal proceeding against the respondent (regardless of whether criminal charges relating to the sexual violence have been filed, reduced, or dismissed by the state attorney); or
- The respondent who allegedly committed sexual violence was convicted and served jail time for a sexually violent crime (or pled guilty), and the term of imprisonment has ended or will end within 90 days following the date the petition seeking the sexual violence injunction is filed in Clearwater.
A petitioner who cannot meet all legal requirements should not be granted the sexual violence injunction. However, if a respondent does not properly raise defenses in court, he or she could become the subject of a sexual violence injunction despite the petitioner’s failure to meet all legal requirements. As such, a Clearwater Sexual Violence Injunction Defense Lawyer should take control of an injunction matter right away to begin developing defenses to the allegations identified in a petition.
Sexual Violence Injunction Proceedings in Clearwater, Florida – What to Expect
Although sexual violence injunction proceedings in Clearwater do not last very long, there are many steps to complete before concluding the matter. The following steps provide a brief overview of what to expect if served with a sexual violence injunction in Clearwater:
- Step 1 – Filing the Petition – The first step to any protective injunction proceeding is the filing of the petition in a Clearwater court. A petitioner must use a court-approved form and identify (1) the type of injunction being sought, and (2) submit an affidavit under oath along with any supporting documentation that demonstrates why a sexual violence injunction should be issued.
- Step 2 – The Court’s Initial Ruling – A judge who handles civil protective injunction matters will review the petition seeking the sexual violence injunction along with all supporting documentation and determine whether grounds exist to issue the requested injunction. Because victims should always be taken seriously and a person’s safety or life may be on the line, judges are likely to grant temporary sexual violence injunctions. Such a decision does not presume the respondent is guilty of the alleged conduct, but rather that a judge is issuing the injunction to err on the side of caution and protect the petitioner’s (or petitioner’s minor child’s) safety. If a petition is clearly without merit, a judge will likely deny the request for the sexual violence injunction.
- Step 3 – Scheduling the Hearing – If a judge issues a temporary sexual violence injunction, a hearing date will be scheduled no more than fifteen (15) days after the injunction is entered by the court.
- Step 4 – Service of the Sexual Violence Injunction – Once entered by the court, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department will serve the respondent with a copy of the petition, the judge’s order granting the temporary sexual violence injunction, and a notice of the hearing date for when the respondent is to appear in court.
- Step 5 – The Hearing Date – If a respondent does not seek to continue/post-pone the hearing (which should be done with the assistance of a Clearwater Sexual Violence Injunction Defense Lawyer), he or she must appear in court on the date listed on the notice. Failure to appear will result in the court granting the petitioner’s requested sexual violence injunction.
- Step 6 – Present Arguments and Evidence at the Hearing – Both the petitioner and respondent will have an opportunity to present facts in the form of documents and witness testimony at the hearing. Because most communications today are in electronic format, documents may come in the form of text messages, voicemails, emails, photographs, videos, social media direct messaging, and social media postings, among others. Both parties can call witnesses to testify about their knowledge of the matter.
- Step 7 – The Judge’s Decision – After hearing from both the petitioner and respondent, the judge in the case will either grant or deny the requested injunction. The injunction may have an expiration date of one month, three months, six months, one year, or even longer. The duration of a sexual violence injunction will vary from case to case. The judge ultimately has the discretion to determine how long a sexual violence injunction should last.
- Step 8 – Compliance with the Sexual Violence Injunction – If the judge grants the requested sexual violence injunction, the respondent will be required to comply with the injunction. Failure to comply may result in the imposition of criminal charges.
All legal proceedings can be complicated, stressful, and uncertain. Because protective injunction matters require specialized knowledge of Florida criminal law, respondents facing sexual violence injunctions in Clearwater must allow an attorney to handle the step-by-step process. In doing so, respondents will be better equipped to present viable defenses in the courtroom.
The Consequences Resulting from a Sexual Violence Injunction in Pinellas County Florida
Respondents who become the subject of a long-term sexual violence injunction will experience a limitation on their legal rights. Examples of a few consequences of a sexual violence injunction include, among others, the following:
- The requirement to turn over firearms and ammunition in the respondent’s possession (which may last so long as the injunction is in effect);
- The requirement to undergo a mental health evaluation to be paid for by the respondent;
- The requirement to attend counseling for mental health and/or substance abuse; and
- The requirement to refrain from close contact with the petitioner (or petitioner’s minor child).
Except for the requirement to maintain a certain distance from the petitioner, many people may not realize that sexual violence injunctions can substantially limit a person’s rights on other ways, especially given that injunction matters are civil matters that do not themselves result in criminal penalties. However, violating a sexual violence injunction in any way can lead to the imposition of criminal charges. A first and second offense of violating a sexual violence injunction in Clearwater are first-degree misdemeanors. If convicted, each offense could lead to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. A third or subsequent violation of a sexual violence injunction is a third-degree felony, and conviction can lead to a maximum of five years in jail and a fine of $5,000.
Additional Long-Lasting Consequences
Both criminal charges and civil injunctions are a matter of public record (with few exceptions). As such, a person who is facing a sexual violence injunction may be branded a sex offender even if he or she is not facing any criminal charges. A quick background check will reveal if a person has a criminal record, has been divorced, has filed for bankruptcy, or has been the subject of a protective injunction, among other legal proceedings. Having a sexual violence injunction on one’s record will raise red flags in the minds of many despite a lack of criminal charges or lack of any other criminal history.
Having a tarnished record can be damaging to a person’s reputation, his or her livelihood, and his or her ability to get a job, attend school, or take any other step that requires a background check, such as applying for credit. Many respondents who have faced sexual violence injunctions in Clearwater do not fully appreciate how serious the matter is until the proceeding is over, and they are forced to comply with a series of restrictive requirements.
Terminating and Modifying Sexual Violence Injunctions in Clearwater, Florida
Because sexual violence injunctions are intended to last for a fairly long period of time, parties who wish to terminate or modify the injunction must do so by filing a motion with the court. The party seeking to terminate or modify the sexual violence injunction will need to provide a reason or reasons for why the injunction should be terminated or modified and provide documentation to support such reasoning. Examples of why a party may wish to terminate or modify a sexual violence injunction in Clearwater include, but may not be limited to, the following:
- The petitioner voluntarily wishes to terminate the injunction for any reason at all;
- The respondent wishes to terminate or modify the injunction based on a change in circumstances (such as moving out of the city, county, or state);
- The petitioner wishes to modify the injunction to strengthen the requirements the respondent must follow (this may occur if the respondent has allegedly violated the existing injunction); and
- The respondent wishes to terminate or modify the injunction based on new evidence that shows the petitioner’s allegations of sexual violence that gave rise to the injunction were false or misleading.
A petitioner who wishes to extend the duration of a sexual violence injunction in Clearwater must seek to do so by notifying the court no less than thirty (30) days before the injunction is set to expire. Failure to seek an extension of the injunction by the deadline will result in termination of the injunction upon the expiration date.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Attorney for the Job
Tens of thousands of experienced attorneys help Florida citizens every day for a variety of legal matters. Some attorneys have multi-purpose practices and may handle a broad spectrum of cases, including, among others, personal injury, criminal defense, medical malpractice, wrongful death, family law, and bankruptcy. While such firms may have experience in all of these practice areas, a law firm that handles only criminal law and protective injunction matters are highly specialized and may be better able to provide clients with excellent legal representation.
Musca Law is a purely criminal defense law firm that handles related civil protective injunction matters. Because criminal law is often intertwined in protective injunction matters, anyone facing a sexual violence injunction needs to retain a superior Clearwater Criminal Defense and Sexual Violence Injunction Defense Lawyer who has a record of success both inside and outside the courtroom.
Contact the Clearwater Sexual Violence Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Today
If you have recently been served with a sexual violence injunction/restraining order or believe you may be served with an injunction, act quickly to find out what your legal options are. A qualified Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer can help you fight an injunction that may limit your legal rights. At Musca Law, our Clearwater Sexual Violence Injunction Defense Lawyers have helped countless clients just like you from all across the state. Our lawyers are nationally-recognized for their trial skills and have more than 150 years of combined experience in criminal law and civil protective injunction matters. To speak with a lawyer about your situation, contact Musca Law today by calling (888) 484-5057.