Sexual Violence Injunction Defense Lawyers in Fort Myers, Florida
At Musca Law, we understand the difficulties presented by a sexual violence injunction case in Fort Myers, Florida. We have the experience our clients need to defend against these injunctions and to modify or dissolve existing injunctions against them. If you have been notified of a pending sexual violence injunction against you in Fort Myers, Florida, contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled lawyers. You can reach us now by calling (888) 484-5057.
Fort Myers Injunctions Against Violence
Injunctions against violence in Florida are intended to protect victims from imminent or repeated acts of violence. These injunctions are also frequently referred to as protective orders or restraining orders. Florida courts can grant injunctions to protect victims from five different types of violence:
- Sexual Violence
- Dating Violence
- Repeat Violence
- Domestic Violence
With any of the five types of injunctions listed above, the petitioner will start the process by filing documents in court that allege violence or threats of violence and that request the court allow injunctive relief. If the court grants an injunction, the respondent will be prohibited from certain conduct. This typically includes contact with the petitioner and any behavior involving the petitioner.
Understanding the Basic Components of Injunctions Against Violence
Though the facts and issues will vary, a case involving an injunction against violence in Fort Myers will have some basic components. Below are aspects of injunction matters that remain the same from case to case:
- Parties – Across all five types of injunctions, the parties are referred to using the same terms. The person who is seeking the injunction is called the “petitioner,” and the person who is opposed to the injunction is the “respondent.”
- Petition as Sworn Document – The petition filed in a case involving any of the five injunctions needs to be a sworn document. The Clerk of Court will need to witness the petitioner’s signature at the time the document is filed, or the petitioner will need to sign the petition before a notary public.
- Potential Temporary Injunction – In any matter in which an injunction against violence is requested, the court has the ability to enter a temporary injunction on the basis of the filings alone. This injunction will stay in place until the court makes a determination as to a final injunction, and it will be lifted if the court determines that a final injunction should not be granted.
- Service of Process – Service of process will typically be effectuated by the local sheriff’s office in each type of injunction case. In Fort Myers, this would be the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. The officer will serve the respondent with a copy of the petition and temporary injunction (if the court issued one), along with notice of a hearing set for the matter.
- Hearing – After a petition for an injunction against violence is filed, the court will set the matter for a hearing, typically to take place within 15 days of the filing. Both parties will attend this hearing and will have the opportunity to argue for and against a final injunction.
- Evidence – At a hearing on any one of the five injunction types, both the petitioner and the respondent will be allows to present evidence to the court. They can call witnesses and attempt to enter documents into evidence, such as printouts of emails, text messages, and call records.
- Court’s Determination – Based on all of the evidence presented in each type of case, the court will make a determination as to whether a final injunction should be issued. If the court grants a final injunction, it will take effect immediately. If the court denies a final injunction, it will also lift any temporary injunction that it issued in the case.
- Violation Penalties – A respondent can face serious penalties for violating any of the five injunctions against violence. These penalties can include a finding of contempt, large fines, and potentially jail time.
Definition of ‘Sexual Violence’ in Florida
Florida Statute § 784.046, “sexual violence” is defined as the following:
- Sexual battery;
- Enticing or luring a child;
- Sexual performance by a child;
- Lewd, lascivious acts involving a child under age 16;
- Lewd, luscious acts performed in front of a child under age 16; or
- Forcible felonies that involve sexual acts or attempted sexual acts;
The law says that the above constitute sexual violence, regardless of whether criminal charges were ever filed in connection with the incidents and regardless of whether any filed charges were eventually reduced or dropped.
Requirements to Seek a Sexual Violence Restraining Order in Fort Myers
In order to seek a sexual violence injunction in Fort Myers, the petitioner needs to be able to demonstrate that:
- He or she has been the victim of sexual violence; OR
- He or she is the parent or guardian of a child who has experienced sexual violence; AND
- He or she has contacted law enforcement about the alleged acts of sexual violence; AND
- He or she is cooperating with criminal proceedings that might be initiated in connection with the alleged acts of sexual violence.
Florida law also allows a person to seek a sexual violence injunction if the respondent is currently in prison on a sexual violence conviction and is scheduled to be released in 90 days. The conviction for which the respondent is serving a prison sentence must be connected to the petitioner.
Sexual Violence Injunction Process in Lee County
The first step that takes place in the process for a sexual violence injunction in Fort Myers is the filing of a Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Sexual Violence. The petitioner will file this document and any supporting materials he or she wants the court to consider.
The court will review everything submitted with the filing and will decide whether to issue a temporary sexual violence injunction. It is important for respondents to understand that this injunction will often be entered ex parte and only on the basis of the petitioner’s filing, meaning the respondent has no say in whether it is granted. The terms of a temporary injunction might include vacating any shared home.
About two weeks after the petition’s filing, the parties will attend a hearing on the injunction and will present evidence in favor of or in opposition to a final injunction. Upon considering all of the evidence, the court will either grant a final injunction or deny a final injunction. The respondent will need to immediately comply with the terms of the final injunction, if one is granted, and he or she can face civil and criminal penalties for violating the injunction.
Modifying a Fort Myers Sexual Violence Injunction
At any time after a sexual violence injunction has been issued in Fort Myers, one or both of the parties can petition for the court to modify it or dissolve it. In some cases, the parties might agree to changing the order or dissolving it. In many cases, however, one of the parties will request this from the court, and the other party will oppose it. The person requesting the change or dissolution will need to show the court that the injunction is no longer appropriate or necessary.
Violation of a Sexual Violence Injunction in Fort Myers
If a final sexual violence injunction is ordered, and the respondent does not follow all of its terms, he or she could be found in violation of the order. Typically, violations of sexual violence injunctions in Fort Myers include the following types of behavior:
- Contacting the petitioner in any manner or by any means;
- Going to or near (usually within 500 feet) the petitioner’s house;
- Going to or near the petitioner’s workplace or school;
- Keeping ammunition or firearms (surrender of ammunition and firearms is a common term in injunctions against violence);
- Buying new ammunition or firearms;
- Making threats against the petitioner;
- Carrying out any acts of violence against the petitioner.
The court that ordered the sexual violence injunction has certain powers of enforcement in the face of a violation, which might include fining the respondent and holding the respondent in contempt. In addition, the respondent could face criminal charges for any violations of the injunction. Generally, violations are charged as first-degree misdemeanors. A conviction for a first-degree misdemeanors can result in a fine up to $1,000 and jail time of up to one year.
If a respondent is convicted of violating a sexual violence injunction two or more times, any subsequent violation will result in third-degree felony charges. A conviction for a third-degree felony can result in a fine up to $5,000 and prison time of up to five years.
Defenses to a Sexual Violence Injunction Case in Fort Myers
We always encourage people to hire experienced legal counsel when they discover a sexual violence injunction petition has been filed against them in Fort Myers. The law does not require you to have representation in these matters, but you have a far better chance of defeating the petition if you’re working with a knowledgeable Florida lawyer.
One of the first things your attorney might want to do to assist in your defense is request a continuance of the hearing on the injunction. Because of delays in service of process, you might have very limited time between receiving notice of the hearing and attending the hearing. You have the right to properly defend yourself, and this can mean asking for more time to prepare for the hearing.
During the hearing, your lawyer will work to show the court that a final injunction is not appropriate. Your lawyer will cross-examine any witnesses called by the petitioner and might call witnesses for you. Your lawyer might also use tangible evidence that shows any of the following:
- No sexual violence between you and the petitioner has occurred.
- No sexual violence between you and the petitioner is at risk of occurring.
- The petitioner did not report any acts of sexual violence to authorities.
- The petitioner is not cooperating with criminal proceedings underway.
The defenses used in your case, as well as the methods for presenting those defenses, will be determined by the circumstances present. Contact Musca Law to start discussing your defense with one of our Fort Myers sexual violence injunction defense attorneys.
FAQs About Sexual Violence Injunctions in Fort Myers
When clients first contact us about their Fort Myers sexual violence injunction cases, they typically have a lot of questions for us. We have listed below some of the questions we frequently hear and the answers we give to current and prospective clients. Please contact our office if you have questions about the sexual violence injunction process in Fort Myers or if you need representation in one of these cases.
What happens if someone is seeking a sexual violence injunction against me in Fort Myers?
If someone has filed a petition seeking a sexual injunction against you in Fort Myers, the court will first review the documents in the filing and determine whether to issue a temporary injunction. The court will also set a hearing date for the matter, and you will be served with a copy of the petition, the hearing notice, and a copy of the order granting any temporary injunction. If there is a temporary injunction in place, you will need to follow its terms. You will need to attend the hearing at the date and time stated on the hearing notice. This will be your opportunity to defend yourself against the injunction.
What will happen if I don’t challenge the request for an injunction?
If you do not challenge the petitioner’s request, the court will determine whether the sexual violence injunction should be granted using only the evidence presented by the petitioner. The court is far more likely to grant the injunction in the absence of any kind of defense from you. It is important to not take these matters lightly, as a sexual violence injunction in Fort Myers can carry serious consequences. We always urge respondents to retain counsel and develop a strong defense.
What do I need to do if an injunction is issued against me?
If the court issues a final injunction against you, it is important to fully understand what is prohibited and to stay in complete compliance with the order. In a typical case, a sexual violence injunction will require the respondent to move out of any home shared with the petitioner and to surrender any ammunition or firearms within the respondent’s possession. The respondent will also be prohibited from contacting the petitioner or going to the petitioner’s home, school, and work. The exact terms in place in your case will be detailed in the injunction order.
How long will the injunction be in effect?
The duration of the injunction will be spelled out in the court’s order. The court might have ordered it to run for a set period of time, or it might have placed no expiration on the injunction. You or the petitioner can ask the court to change the duration of the injunction.
What happens if I do not comply with the injunction against me?
If you do not comply with the injunction order, you could face penalties at the civil and criminal level. Violations of a sexual violence injunction order in Fort Myers can be charged as first-degree misdemeanors or as third-degree felonies, depending on the situations involved in the case. If you violate the injunction multiple times, you can face significant fines and several years in prison.
Are sexual violence injunctions in Fort Myers public record?
Yes, any sexual violence injunction issued in Fort Myers will be public record. The matter will come up on background checks, which can lead to difficulties for respondents in finding employment or securing housing. This is one of the reasons we tell clients to take sexual violence injunction cases seriously.
Do I need to hire an attorney for a Fort Myers sexual violence injunction case?
Florida law is clear that neither party in a sexual violence injunction case is required to have legal representation. However, our office’s answer to this question is always, “Absolutely.” If the injunction is issued, you will face restrictions in your daily life and will likely have certain freedoms taken away from you, including the right to own a firearm. In addition, because the matter is part of the public record, a sexual violence injunction can cause professional, social, and financial issues in your life.
The consequences associated with a sexual violence injunction in Fort Myers are numerous. You need to fight to protect your rights, and hiring an experienced attorney is the best way to do that. Contact Musca Law today to discuss your case with a dedicated lawyer.
Contact Musca Law Today!
If someone is seeking a sexual violence injunction against you in Fort Myers, call Musca Law today. You can reach us at (888) 484-5057 to schedule a free consultation with a skilled Fort Myers defense attorney.