Stalking Injunctions Defense Lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Stalking under Florida law can lead to not only criminal charges, but also the issuance of a protective order, also known as an injunction or protective injunction. While physical stalking is certainly not an uncommon crime in Florida, many allegations of stalking relate to stalking by electronic means, also known as cyberstalking. Victims of alleged stalking or cyberstalking in Fort Lauderdale can seek a stalking injunction to prevent the alleged perpetrator from continuing the same conduct. While the subject matter of an injunction proceeding involves alleged criminal conduct, an injunction is a civil court order. However, many injunction proceedings are often related to a simultaneous criminal investigation.
Florida law allows individuals to seek five different types of injunctions/protective orders/restraining orders, all of which serve the same purpose – to stop violent and/or potentially violent conduct from continuing, as such conduct has caused harm or may cause harm to someone. The five different types of injunctions can be sought by filing a petition in a Fort Lauderdale court include the following:
- Stalking Injunctions;
- Domestic Violence Injunctions;
- Sexual Violence Injunctions;
- Dating Violence Injunctions; and
- Repeat Violence Injunctions.
The person seeking an injunction is known as the “petitioner,” and the person receiving the injunction is the “respondent.” Regardless of the type of injunction being sought, the person who is served with the injunction should be prepared to go through a process that will be very similar to a criminal proceeding. While an injunction does not lead to the issuance of criminal charges, the violation of an injunction can lead to criminal charges. As such, anyone facing an injunction should contact a qualified Fort Lauderdale Criminal and Injunction Defense Lawyer.
Musca Law is a well-known criminal defense law firm that serves clients throughout the state of Florida. With offices in all areas of the state, our legal team can reach anyone at any time who may be facing a criminal matter or protective injunction matter. The Fort Lauderdale Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law are standing by 24/7 to help you with your legal matter. To schedule a consultation, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057.
Florida Stalking and Cyberstalking Laws
Even if a stalking injunction does not relate to a criminal matter involving the same facts, anyone facing a stalking injunction should have an understanding of what constitutes stalking or cyberstalking under Florida law. Per Florida Statute Section 784.048(2), a person may face stalking charges if he or she “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.” If convicted, the person faces a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
“Harass” under Florida law is defined as “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose,” and defines “course of conduct” as “a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose.” Additionally, “cyberstalking” per Florida law, is defined as “a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person,” or to “access, or attempt to access, the online accounts of Internet-connected home electronic systems of another person without that person’s permission, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.” Cyberstalking, like stalking, is a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida law, which can result in a one-year jail sentence and a fine of $1,000.
Aggravated Stalking in Broward County Florida
More serious acts of alleged stalking or cyberstalking may lead to felony charges if the alleged conduct is considered “aggravated.” Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 784.048(3), a person may be charged with aggravated stalking if he or she “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person.” Aggravated stalking is a third-degree felony, and convicted may lead to jail time of up to five years and a fine of $5,000.
Fort Lauderdale prosecutors who pursue aggravated stalking charges must satisfy all elements of the crime of stalking or cyberstalking along with satisfying the requirement that there be a “credible threat” to meet the definition of aggravated stalking under Florida law, which is the following:
A “verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, 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 such harm. It is not necessary to prove that the person making the threat had the intent to actually carry out the threat.”
Stalking, cyberstalking, and aggravated stalking/cyberstalking charges can lead to substantial jail time, hefty fines, and a ruined reputation. As such, a person facing such charges will need the best attorney for the job. Because stalking charges will likely lead to a civil injunction matter, a person facing charges will need an attorney who can not only defend the accused in a criminal matter but also in the civil injunction matter. At Musca Law, our Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense and Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers can get the job done whether a stalking injunction matter involves criminal charges or not.
The Stalking Injunction Process in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Anyone who is facing a stalking injunction or believes he or she may be facing such an injunction in the future should have an understanding of what to expect. Under Florida Statute Section 784.0485, a “person who is the victim of stalking or the parent or legal guardian of a minor who is living at home who seeks an injunction for protection against stalking on behalf of the minor child has standing in the circuit court to file a sworn petition for an injunction for protection against stalking.”
Furthermore, in David v. Schack, 192 So. 3d 625, 627-28 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016), the court held that to obtain a stalking injunction, “the petitioner must allege and prove two separate instances of stalking.” Moreover, in Touhey v. Seda, 133 So. 3d 1203, 1204 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014), the court held that each act of stalking “must be proven by competent, substantial evidence to support an injunction against stalking.” As such, although any person can file a petition seeking a stalking injunction in Fort Lauderdale, a court is unlikely to grant the injunction unless the petitioner provides credible proof documenting two instances of stalking.
The Steps of a Fort Lauderdale Stalking Injunction Proceeding
Facing a stalking injunction is a very serious matter that can have extremely harmful consequences. Anyone facing a stalking injunction in Fort Lauderdale should be prepared for what to expect after being served with the injunction. The following steps provide a guide for what generally happens from the time a person files a petition in court seeking the stalking injunction to the time the judge rules on the matter and issues his/her final order.
Step 1 – File the Petition Seeking Stalking Injunction
A person seeking to obtain a stalking injunction in Fort Lauderdale must use a court-approved form to file a petition in court. The petition will identify the type of injunction being sought, the facts supporting the allegations of stalking, and evidence, such as photographs, text messages, emails, social media postings, and any other evidence that supports stalking allegations.
Step 2 – Court Review of the Petition and Decision
A judge will review the petition seeking the injunction and will either deny the injunction or grant the injunction, which will be temporary until a formal hearing can address the matter.
Step 3 – Scheduling of Stalking Injunction Hearing
If a judge grants the stalking injunction, he or she will schedule a hearing on the matter no more than fifteen (15) days after the date the injunction is issued.
Step 4 – Service of Temporary Stalking Injunction
The respondent identified in a stalking injunction is served with the injunction by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, and such service typically happens quickly after the court issues the stalking injunction.
Step 5 – Contact a Fort Lauderdale Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer
After a respondent is served with a stalking injunction, he or she should immediately call a Fort Lauderdale Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer. Waiting to speak with an attorney can be detrimental to one’s rights and liberties.
Step 6 – Seek a Continuance to Schedule the Hearing for a Later Date
Because 15 days is not a lot of time to investigate stalking allegations and build a defense, respondents can seek to continue/postpone an injunction hearing to a later date by filing a motion in court. By doing so, a respondent has more time to work with his or her lawyer to fully understand the situation and build a defense that will help to achieve a better result.
Step 7 – Appear at the Fort Lauderdale Stalking Injunction Hearing
The parties will appear in court to present arguments and evidence, including witness testimony. Respondents should provide as much evidence as possible to refute and/or clarify some of the petitioner’s allegations.
Step 8 – The Court Enters the Final Order
After the hearing, the judge will review all of the arguments and evidence and make a final decision as to whether an injunction should become permanent or be terminated.
Step 9 – Compliance with the Permanent Stalking Injunction
If a judge decides in favor of the petitioner and issues a permanent stalking injunction, the respondent must comply with all aspects of the order. Failure to comply with any aspect of the order may be grounds for criminal charges.
The Consequences of a Stalking Injunction in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Stalking injunctions substantially limit a person’s rights and harms one’s livelihood. Depending on the unique facts of a person’s situation, some of the consequences associated with being the subject of a stalking injunction in Fort Lauderdale include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
- Tarnished public record, as a stalking injunction is available for anyone to see;
- Confiscation of firearms and ammunition during the pendency of a stalking injunction;
- The requirement to undergo a mental health evaluation and obtain treatment at the respondent’s own expense; and
- The risk of facing criminal charges for violating the injunction even if such violation is accidental (i.e., accidentally coming into contact with one another at the grocery store).
When a person is facing not only criminal charges of stalking but is also facing a stalking injunction, it is critical to have one attorney who can handle both matters. The right Fort Lauderdale Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer will be highly skilled in addressing both the criminal and civil side of a stalking case.
The Termination or Modification of Stalking Injunctions in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Protective injunctions will vary from case to case, and the expiration date of one injunction may be different than that of another injunction. A stalking injunction may last thirty days, ninety days, six months, one year, or even longer. Some stalking injunctions may be intended to last forever if the conduct at issue warrants such an outcome. Although stalking injunctions are intended to last for the duration identified on the order, grounds may exist to terminate or modify the stalking injunction prior to the expiration date.
For example, if new evidence comes to light that the petitioner in a stalking injunction matter provided false information that was used as the basis for obtaining the injunction, a respondent can file a motion with the court to modify the injunction. If the parties knew one another before the stalking incidents and have made amends since the issuance of the injunction, one or both parties may wish to terminate the injunction. Whatever the reason may be to terminate or modify a stalking injunction in Fort Lauderdale, the party seeking the change must file a motion in court and provide good reasons for why a stalking injunction should be terminated or modified.
If a stalking injunction does have an expiration date and the petitioner wishes to extend the injunction period beyond the expiration date, he or she must file a motion in court seeking to extend the injunction at least thirty days before the injunction is set to expire.
Defending Against a Stalking Injunction in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
In criminal matters, a person cannot be convicted of a crime unless he or she (1) pleads guilty, or (2) is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury at trial. In the context of civil protective injunctions, a petitioner does not need to follow the same standard that applies to criminal matters. Arrests, criminal charges, and criminal convictions show up on a person’s record. Likewise, civil injunctions are a matter of public record.
As such, anyone can find out that a person is the subject of a protective injunction. Even though the stalking allegations that are the subject of the injunction have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a person that reads an injunction may nonetheless believe the allegations. Such a belief can be catastrophic to a person’s reputation, especially when stalking allegations are false or misleading.
Because of the serious consequences associated with stalking injunctions in Fort Lauderdale, it is imperative that respondents retain an attorney who can thoroughly investigate the matter to ensure respondents have the best chance possible of achieving a positive result after a stalking injunction hearing. An attorney will evaluate the facts from all sides to build a defense that may refute the petitioner’s allegations or at least show how the petitioner has not satisfied all requirements to obtain a stalking injunction under Florida law.
If a respondent has evidence suggesting a petitioner’s allegations of stalking are false, the respondent’s attorney can raise such evidence at the stalking injunction hearing. Additionally, witnesses may be called at the hearing, and such witness testimony can be used by both parties to support their case. While many stalking injunction hearings in Fort Lauderdale proceed without the presence of attorneys, parties who retain attorneys often reach a better result than they do when acting alone.
Contact the Fort Lauderdale Stalking Injunction Defense Attorneys of Musca Law Today
If you have been served with a stalking injunction in Fort Lauderdale, act quickly to speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer. Your rights and reputation are on the line when facing any protective injunction regardless of whether you are also facing criminal charges. The Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorneys of Musca Law have a reputation for providing exceptional legal representation to clients in need throughout the state of Florida. Musca Law has the necessary resources and manpower to help clients with their legal matters 24/7. To schedule a consultation to speak with one of our lawyers, contact Musca Law today by calling (888) 484-5057.