Dating Violence Injunction Defense Lawyers in Fort Myers, Florida
The attorneys at Musca Law fight to defend the rights of clients who have been accused of dating violence and are facing injunctions in Fort Myers, Florida. We are familiar with the issues presented in these cases and guide our clients through every step of the legal process. Contact our office today to talk to an experienced Fort Myers dating violence injunction defense attorney about your case.
Types of Injunctions Against Violence in Fort Myers
Florida allows for several types of injunctions that are designed to protect people from acts of violence. In these cases, the injunctions might also be called restraining orders or orders of protection. Injunctions against violence in Florida will fall into one of five types:
- Dating Violence
- Repeat Violence
- Domestic Violence
- Sexual Violence
With each of these types of injunctions, the case will begin with the filing of a Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Dating Violence. The person filing the petition will be referred to as the “petitioner” throughout the duration of the case, and the person defending against the injunction will be referred to as the “respondent.”
Once the court has received the filing, it will determine if any temporary injunction is necessary and will set the matter for a hearing that both parties will attend. The court will decide after the hearing if a final injunction should be issued in the case.
Definition of ‘Dating Violence’ Under Florida Law
Florida Statute § 784.046 states that “dating violence” is one or more violent acts committed inside of a relationship that is continuing, significant, and romantic in nature. A violent act under Florida law is an incident of stalking, assault, battery, sexual battery, or any aggravated offense of these kinds. Violent acts also include kidnapping and false imprisonment, as well as any other type of conduct that results in injury to another person.
In determining whether a dating violence injunction is appropriate, the court will look at several factors related to the continuity and significance of the relationship between the petitioner and the respondent. The relationship cannot have ended more than six months prior to the petition’s filing. It also must have been intimate in the sense that sexual intimacy or affection was expected between the individuals.
The court will consider the frequency of contact between the individuals, as well as the length of the relationship. If the court finds that the relationship was casual, purely social or professional, or otherwise does not meet the statutory definition, a dating violence injunction should not be granted.
Persons Able to Seek Fort Myers Dating Violence Restraining Order
If the relationship meets the legal requirements, a person may file for a dating violence injunction in Fort Myers if he or she:
- Is the victim of past dating violence;
- Has reasonable cause to believe that he or she is in imminent danger of recurrent dating violence;
- Has reasonable cause to believe that he or she is in imminent danger of becoming a victim of dating violence;
- Is the parent or legal guardian of a minor living at home who is the victim of dating violence.
When a dating violence injunction petition is filed on behalf of a minor, the law requires that the parent or guardian have reasonable cause to believe that dating violence has occurred. However, if the petition is filed against another parent or guardian, the law states that the petitioner needs to have witnessed the act(s) of dating violence or needs to submit affidavits from other people who witnessed the act(s).
Dating Violence Injunction Case Process in Lee County
The case process for a dating violence injunction in Fort Myers typically involves the following:
- Filing the Petition – The first step in the process is the filing of the petition for the injunction. The petitioner can submit supporting documents with the petition for the court to review, and the matter will be assigned to the civil docket for adjudication.
- Court Review – When the court receives the filing, it will review everything submitted.
- Temporary Injunction – If the court believes it is necessary, it will order a temporary injunction against dating violence in the case. This will generally be done on the basis of the petitioner’s submission alone and without any input from the respondent.
- Hearing Scheduled – Right after filing, the court will set the matter for a hearing. This usually is scheduled no later than 15 days from the filing date on the petition.
- Service of Process – The respondent will be served with process after these steps take place. In most cases, the local sheriff’s office effectuates service, which would be the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in a Fort Myers case. Service will include a copy of the petition, a notice for the scheduled hearing, and a copy of the temporary injunction order, if the court issued one.
- Motions – The respondent’s attorney might file certain motions after the respondent has been served with process, including a motion to continue (push back) the hearing. Frequently, by the time respondents know about the hearing, they have extremely limited time to prepare. A continuance can give a respondent time to put together a better defense. Any temporary injunction in effect will be extended if the hearing is continued.
- Hearing – During the hearing, the petitioner and the respondent will have the opportunity to be heard. They can call witnesses, cross-examine witnesses, and introduce other evidence on their behalves. The respondent’s goal during this time is to cast doubt on the allegations and the veracity of the petitioner’s case.
- Court Order – When it has weighed all the evidence, the court will issue its final order. If the injunction is denied, any temporary injunction will be dissolved, and the case will be closed. If the injunction is granted, the respondent will immediately need to begin complying with its terms and continue complying for the full duration of the injunction.
Modifying a Fort Myers Dating Violence Injunction
A dating violence injunction can be dissolved or modified through the court upon request from one of the parties. The petitioner or the respondent might want to change some of the terms of the injunction or eliminate the injunction completely.
One common reason for modification is to extend the time period for the injunction. In some cases, the court will not place an expiration on a dating violence injunction. In others, the injunction might expire after a few years. In cases where the injunction is set to expire, the petitioner might want to request that the court extend its timeframe. This can be accomplished without new evidence and without allegations of new acts of violence. The petitioner needs to show the court that he or she has reasonable cause to believe that an act of dating violence will occur if the injunction expires.
Fort Myers Dating Violence Injunction Violations and Penalties
In Fort Myers, dating violence injunctions are matters of civil law. The court that issued the injunction might order regular hearings to assess the respondent’s compliance with the injunction and to ensure that violations have not occurred. However, if a respondent violates the injunction, he or she could face criminal charges.
The type of conduct considered a violation of the injunction will depend on the specific terms of the order. That said, violations of Fort Myers dating violence injunctions tend to include the following:
- The respondent contacted the petitioner in some way;
- The respondent went to the petitioner’s home or presented within 500 feet of the petitioner’s home;
- The respondent went to or presented within 500 feet of the petitioner’s workplace;
- The respondent went to or presented within 500 feet of the petitioner’s school;
- The respondent went to or presented within 500 feet of the petitioner’s child’s school;
- The respondent failed to surrender his or her firearms and/or ammunition;
- The respondent bought additional firearms or ammunition;
- The respondent threatened the petitioner with violence;
- The respondent committed an act of violence against the petitioner.
The court that granted the dating violence injunction in Fort Myers can carry out certain actions in enforcement, like imposing fines on the respondent or holding the respondent in contempt. Willful violation of an injunction against dating violence is also a crime in Fort Myers and can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, the respondent could be ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and spend up to one year in jail.
Repeated violations will result in harsher penalties. If the respondent has two convictions for violating the injunction, any violation alleged thereafter will be charged as a third-degree felony. If convicted of this level of felony, the respondent could be ordered to pay a fine of $5,000 and spend up to five years in prison.
FAQs About Fort Myers Dating Violence Injunctions
Our clients usually have several questions when they contact us regarding a dating violence injunction case in Fort Myers. You will find some frequently asked questions below, along with the answers we provide to clients. If you have questions about dating violence injunctions or are seeking legal counsel for such a case, please contact our office. We can review the circumstances of your case and help you understand the next steps to take.
What happens if I do not challenge a petition for a dating violence injunction?
If you do not challenge the petition in your case, you have not defended yourself against the allegations or attempted to show the court that the injunction is not appropriate. Without any response from you, the court will have to make its determination based only on what the petitioner has said, and it is more likely the court will grant the injunction. We always want our clients to understand the seriousness of these matters and the negative effects dating violence injunctions can have on their lives. We would never recommend leaving the petition unchallenged.
What will happen if the court grants the injunction in my case?
If, after considering all of the evidence presented, the court decides to grant the dating violence injunction, you will immediately have to adhere to its terms. The injunction order will detail all of the enjoined (prohibited) behavior and conduct, and you will need to make sure that you comply in full with the court’s order for the duration of the injunction.
In many cases, respondents are required to cut off all contact with the petitioner and surrender any firearms and ammunition in their possession. Respondents are usually also prohibited from going to the petitioner’s home, workplace, school, or other locations he or she visits regularly.
How long will a dating violence injunction against me last?
The duration of the injunction should be listed in the injunction order from the court. The court has discretion to order an injunction to last several months, several years, or to last indefinitely. If the circumstances of the case convinced the court that the injunction needed to be long-lasting it might never expire.
That said, the parties can request the court to alter the injunction, including changing the injunction’s expiration. The parties can also move to dissolve the injunction in its entirety.
The court in my case granted a temporary injunction that says I can have “no contact” with the petitioner. What does this mean?
It is within the court’s discretion to grant a temporary injunction when someone is seeking a dating violence injunction. The temporary injunction will stay in effect until the court has decided whether to grant a final injunction, and its terms are binding on the respondent.
If a temporary injunction is in place in your case, and it says you can have no contact with the petitioner, this means you cannot contact or attempt to contact the petitioner through any means. This includes direct contact, such as phone calls and text messages to the petitioner, and indirect contact, such as asking a third party to give the petitioner a message.
I just received notice of a hearing in my case, and it’s only a few days away. How can I be prepared in time?
Unfortunately, this happens in many cases. Respondents are served with process after a lot of decisions have already been made, like setting the hearing and granting a temporary injunction. It takes time for a person to be properly served, which means a respondent might end up with very little time before the hearing to prepare.
The most important thing for you to do at this point is (1) review any temporary injunction enclosed so that you can follow it completely, and (2) contact an experienced Fort Myers dating violence injunction defense attorney, like those at Musca Law. Your attorney can file a motion that will give you more time to build a defense and will guide you through the hearing process.
What will happen if I don’t comply with a dating violence injunction?
If you fail to comply with the terms of a dating violence injunction against you in Fort Myers, you could be charged with a crime. Most violations will be charged as first-degree misdemeanors, which carry possible penalties of $1,000 in fines and a year in jail. If you are convicted of multiple violations of the injunction, subsequent violations will be charged as third-degree felonies. A third-degree felony conviction can mean $5,000 in fines and five years in prison.
Because of the serious penalties associated with violating the order, it is extremely important that you understand exactly what you are and are not allowed to do under the terms of the injunction. Your attorney can help to explain the order in full. You do not want to further risk your freedoms by failing to understand the court’s order.
Will a dating violence injunction against me in Fort Myers show up on a background check?
Yes, it will. Dating violence injunctions in Fort Myers are matters of public record, so they will come up in a background check. This is one of the many reasons it is important to retain skilled counsel and fight against the injunction. When the injunction is in place, it can affect your ability to find jobs and housing, as well as your ability to secure a loan.
When a dating violence injunction expires, will it stop showing up on a background check?
No, it will not. Dating violence injunctions cannot be expunged from people’s records, so even after the injunction has expired, it will continue to come up on background checks. Other effects of the injunction can also outlast the order itself. For instance, you could permanently lose your right to possess a firearm.
Contact Musca Law Today to Defend Your Liberties!
The attorneys at Musca Law have more than 150 years’ experience combined in criminal defense, and we understand what is on the line for our clients facing dating violence injunctions in Fort Myers. Our Fort Myers defense attorneys provide free case reviews and consultations and are available to schedule yours today when you call (888) 484-5057.