Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers in Clearwater, Florida
The law in Florida set out a procedure for a stalking victim to apply to a court for protection. In Clearwater, Florida, a judge may issue an order for an injunction, also referred to as a restraining order or a protective order. These orders are designed to prevent further criminal activity against an alleged crime victim. Stalking and cyber-stalking are crimes in Florida. The state's prosecutors take these crimes seriously. Additionally, a judge in Clearwater can order an injunction for protection against future stalking incidents.
Almost everyone comprehends something about the consequences of facing criminal charges. That being said, most people do not comprehend the significance of being subject to an injunction order for the protection of another. Florida law gives judges extraordinary powers to limit a person's freedom without being charged with a crime. When a person is the subject of a restraining order, he or she must abide by every single term of the order. Otherwise, the person could face criminal charges, jail time, and hefty fines. Moreover, an injunctive order for protection in Clearwater Florida, has the effect of restraining people from their jobs, seeing their loved ones, and surrendering their firearms to the government. Consequently, defending against any injunction, including stalking injunctions and cyberstalking injunctions, is vital to preserving your freedom.
Judges in Clearwater, Florida, courts can issue several different injunctions depending on the circumstances presented to the court. Judges can issue any one of five protective order injunctions listed below, depending on the situation presented by the petitioner. Florida's law gives the judges wide latitude to issue all conditions the court believes is appropriate and necessary to ensure the victim is protected from future harm.
Some of those injunctions contain allegations of:
- Stalking or Cyberstalking Injunctions;
- Sexual Violence Injunctions;
- Repeat Violence Injunctions;
- Dating Violence Injunctions; and
- Domestic Violence Injunctions.
An individual who is faced with defending against an injunctive order for protection in Clearwater must have a thorough understanding of the protective injunction process. Understanding how injunctive order cases are filed and defended is vital to safeguarding all of your invaluable legal rights.
The process begins when a person who is called the petitioner under Florida law files a pleading in the court called a petition for injunctive relief. The relief that the petitioner requests will depend on the nature of the case, taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the incidents that the petitioner recites in the petition. The individual who the petitioner requests protection from is called the respondent.
The anomaly involving petitions for injunctive relief under Florida law relates to the lack of criminal charges necessary to seek injunctive relief. In other words, a person, in most circumstances, does not have to press criminal charges to seek an order for protection from the court. As a result, the court system in Florida considers petitions for injunctive relief to be civil rather than criminal matters.
The distinction is important because of the standard of proof required to obtain a protective order. In Clearwater and every other court in the United States, the civil standard of proof is referred to as the preponderance of the evidence. Conversely, in criminal court, the standard of proof borne by the prosecution is beyond a reasonable doubt, which is mandated by the Bill of Rights incorporated into the United States constitution.
The lesser burden of proof is no indication that protective orders are insignificant legal matters. In fact, many times, the allegations contained in the petition set out probable cause for police to arrest the person from whom the victim seeks protection. Therefore, preserving your rights by aligning yourself with an experienced Clearwater, Florida, stalking injunction and criminal defense attorney is vital to safeguarding your legal interests and protecting your constitutional rights. For example, the respondent enjoys the right not to incriminate himself or herself as guaranteed by the 5th amendment to the US constitution. An experienced, aggressive, and skillful attorney who has a vast knowledge of the Florida court system will be able to strategize a successful defense while preserving your rights.
The Clearwater, Florida, stalking injunction and criminal defense attorneys from Musca Law have the experience, skill, and knowledge you need to protect your rights. Musca Law's protective injunction and criminal defense attorneys have acquired a sterling reputation for their effectiveness as advocates in courts all across Florida, including courts in the Clearwater area. Musca Law's protective injunction and criminal defense lawyers have found that relying upon their collective experience is necessary to successfully defend a client. They have also learned that respect from judges, other lawyers, and court personnel is exceptionally beneficial to their clients as well. Call Musca Law today at (888) 484-5057 to learn how Musca Law's protective order and criminal defense attorneys could help you defend against an injunction for protection against stalking or cyberstalking in Clearwater, Florida today.
Stalking and Cyberstalking Laws Enforced in Clearwater, Florida
Having a thorough understanding of Florida’s criminal law regarding stalking and cyberstalking provides a solid foundation to begin defending against requests for injunctive relief. Section 784.048(2) of the Florida Statutes defines stalking and sets forth the punishment for an offender convicted under that statute. Section 784.048(2) indicates that the person found guilty of stalking faces the punishment commensurate with a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. A conviction for a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida carries the potential of one year in the local jail as well as a fine not to exceed $1000.00.
Stalking under that statute is defined as malicious, willful, and repeated harassment or following of another individual. Cyberstalking is also included in that definition. Section 784.048(2) refers to other sections of the Florida statutes to define key phrases or words. For example, “harass” without an additional explanation is a vague concept. However, Florida law defines harassment as a particular course of conduct directed toward another without any legitimate purpose and which causes the subject of the harassment substantial emotional distress. The phrase “course of conduct” must also be defined. Under Florida law, "course of conduct" means a series of acts that occur within a defined time frame that shows the actor's continuity of purpose.
Cyberstalking also has a specific definition in Florida law. Cyberstalking is defined as a course of conduct that directly, or through a third party, communicates in language, words, or pictures in an electronic medium, when the communicate is meant to harass the victim and causes substantial emotional distress. Using any electronic medium could satisfy Florida's prohibition against cyberstalking, including email, text message, social media messaging, group chat posts, or other electronic means.
Cyberstalking has a secondary meaning under Florida law as well. Cyberstalking also refers to attempts to access online or electronic accounts of another person without permission from the account owner that has no legitimate purpose, except to cause the person substantial emotional distress.
Florida law considers cyberstalking to be a first-degree misdemeanor. A person convicted of, or who admits to, a first-degree misdemeanor faces no more than one year in the county jail and no more than $1000.00 in fines.
Aggravated Stalking Laws Enforced in Pinellas County Florida
Florida law recognizes aggravated stalking as a felony. A person convicted of aggravated stalking in Florida faces up to five years' incarceration in the state's prison and a fine not to exceed $5000.00. Florida Statutes §784.048(3) mandates punishment for a person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harassers, or cyberstalks another and the victim believes that the actor has made a credible threat of harm against himself or herself.
Phrases such as "course of conduct," "cyberstalking," and harassment mean the same as they do under the misdemeanor stalking statute. The crime of aggravated stalking contains an additional element that the state's attorney must prove to win a felony conviction under the statute.
Prosecutors must prove that the victim believed there was a credible threat of harm to his or her person. Credible threats, including non-verbal threats, either communicated directly, indirectly, or through electronic means, imply through a course of conduct that the accused can carry out the threat. The subjective intent of the accused is irrelevant. The only consideration relevant under the statute is whether the victim perceived the accused to have the capacity to carry out the acts communicated.
Severe consequences await a person convicted of aggravated stalking, misdemeanor stalking, or cyberstalking. A person convicted of these offenses will face varying lengths of jail time or prison time as well as fines and a term of probation. The court sets the terms of probation. They could include mandatory mental health counseling, stay-away orders, as well as monetary restitution.
Collateral consequences of a conviction under Florida's stalking laws are substantial as well. Collateral consequences include irreparable damage to the offender's reputation, loss of potential educational opportunities, and loss of employment.
If an individual cooperates with the prosecution of a stalking offense, then it is highly probable that he or she will ask for the protection of the court from an injunction against stalking. The stakes are immeasurably high. Therefore, a person who faces stalking charges or a stalking injunction in Florida must avail himself or herself of all defenses legally available under Florida law. Engaging a seasoned criminal and stalking injunction defense attorney from Musca Law will ensure that their clients receive the best defense to which they are entitled.
Stalking Injunction Procedure in Clearwater, Florida
Having a complete understanding of the procedure associated with obtaining an injunction for protection in Clearwater, Florida, will increase the likelihood of success for the respondent. Trying to represent oneself in a Florida court is fraught with danger. Florida judges, especially those sitting in courts that service Clearwater, will hold the self-represented party to the same standards applicable to licensed attorneys. That means the self-represented litigant is responsible for understanding all laws, procedures, and the facts associated with the case before the court. A judge will not ease its expectations just because an individual chooses to represent himself or herself. Additionally, the self-represented party could unwittingly surrender his or her rights not to incriminate by responding to the allegations in court without an attorney.
Under Florida's protective injunction statutes, only specific individuals are allowed to file petitions for protection. Victims of stalking have the right to file a petition for protection from stalking. Additionally, an adult can file a petition on behalf of his or her minor child who is the victim of stalking and still lives in the parents' or guardian's homes. The person who has the right to file a case in court is said to have "standing." A person without standing has no right to ask the court for protection unless §784.085 of the Florida Statutes permits.
The petitioner has an obligation to file a complete and thorough petition when requesting an injunction against stalking. After the petitioner completes the required paperwork and submits it to the court for review, a judge in Clearwater, Florida, will review the petition for sufficiency under Florida law. The judge must follow the statutes relevant to the petition as well as case law decided by Florida's appellate courts on the subject.
Two recent appellate decisions issued by Florida's appellate courts provide petitioners and respondents with significant insight as to the legal requirements of a petition. A judge sitting in a Clearwater, Florida, court cannot issue an injunction against stalking unless the petitioner describes at least two separate and distinct stalking incidents. The appellate court hearing the case of David v. Schack, 192 So. 3d 625 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) ruled the petition has the burden to convince the court that at least two separate stalking incidents happened. Additionally, the judge must find that the petitioner set forth sufficient evidence that the judge believes is substantial and competent to justify issuing the injunction, as required by a different appellate court in Touhey v. Seda, 133 So. 3d 1203 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014).
A judge has the authority to issue a temporary restraining order, or temporary injunction, against the respondent if the petitioner makes out a case for protection in the petition. A temporary restraining order is only in effect for fifteen (15) days. Once the judge issues the temporary restraining order, Florida law, as well as the Due Process Clauses under the 5th and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution, requires that the defendant receive notice of the court's decision. Without that notice, any adverse action taken against the respondent by the government or court will violate the respondent's due process rights. Therefore, the sheriff of the county in which the respondent resides, or a law enforcement officer duly authorized to serve process, must serve notice of the temporary restraining order and the court date for the final hearing upon the respondent. The respondent will be bound by the terms of the temporary restraining order once he or she is formally made aware of the contents of the order.
At that time, a person who is subject to a temporary restraining order must contact a highly experienced criminal and stalking injunction defense attorney from Clearwater, Florida, to defend against the allegations. Failing to contact an attorney immediately can damage your case significantly. Experienced injunction defense attorneys understand the system and know how to protect people's rights.
Fifteen days is often insufficient to develop a successful defense strategy when there is so much at stake. Seasoned lawyers know that a judge will usually grant a continuance of the final hearing if requested by the defendant for good cause shown. The judge will keep all temporary orders in place during the extension; however, the court will allow the respondent and his or her attorney sufficient time to prepare an adequate defense.
The judge will weigh all the evidence as well as the credibility of all witnesses who testify at the final hearing. A skilled defense attorney will understand how to present his or her client's case. Defenses can range from a misidentification to showing the petitioner has a bias toward the respondent, which diminishes the credibility of the petitioner in the judge's eyes.
If the judge does not believe the petitioner, then the respondent wins the case. But the court must issue an injunction if the petitioner satisfies the burden of proof. Most people think that judges will favor the person who claims to be a victim. Notwithstanding, a Clearwater, Florida, attorney with extensive experience and skill will level the playing field and give the respondent the best opportunity to win the case.
If a judge finds in favor of the petitioner, then the respondent must abide by all of the terms of the injunction set forth by the court. Any misstep could result in criminal charges, a jail sentence, and perhaps a hefty fine. A judge has the discretion to limit the duration of the protective order, or the judge can make it a permanent order. If the order is permanent, then there is no expiration date. However, if there is a date established by the court after the hearing, then the injunction will expire on the date specified by the court.
Modifying or Terminating an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking in Clearwater, Florida
The consequences of' living subject to an injunctive order are numerous. The judge has the discretion to erode many of the freedoms people enjoy daily. A judge will order the respondent to surrender all firearms and ammunition, as well as order the respondent to stay away from particular locations and stay away from specific individuals. The judge could order the respondent to enter and complete court-ordered therapy at the respondent's expense. Therefore, understanding how to modify or terminate a protective order is essential to protecting one's freedom.
As explained above, an order would terminate if the judge specified an expiration date. However, if the order is permanent, then the petitioners must seek the advice of a Clearwater, Florida, criminal and injunction defense lawyer to learn how to modify or terminate the injunction.
A petitioner has the ability to ask the court to extend the order if the judge sets an expiration date. Under Florida law, the petitioner must file the appropriate pleadings more than 30 days before the order will terminate. If the petitioner does not follow the correct procedure for extending a protective order, then the judge can dismiss the order on the date it is set to terminate.
Contact Musca Law to Defend Your Legal Rights!
Call Musca Law today at (888) 484-5057 to schedule a free case evaluation. Musca Law's Clearwater criminal defense lawyers are ready to defend your rights aggressively. Musca Law's experience, depth of knowledge, and skill give you the advantage you need to protect against an injunction to prevent stalking in Clearwater, Florida.