Stalking Injunctions Defense Lawyers in Gainesville, Florida
In Florida, stalking can result in criminal penalties, but it can also be associated with a civil remedy known as an injunction. Injunctions are also called protective injunctions or protective orders under Florida law. Those who are the victim of stalking, or stalking via electronic communications - known as cyberstalking - can seek a stalking injunction to prevent the conduct from continuing to occur. While stalking is a crime in Florida, an injunction is an order issued by a civil court. It is important to know that many stalking injunction matters occur simultaneously with a criminal case for the crime of stalking.
There are five types of injunctions that allow individuals to protect Florida citizens from further acts of violence or threats of violence. These are as follows:
- Stalking injunctions
- Sexual violence injunctions
- Dating violence injunctions
- Domestic violence injunctions
- Repeat violence injunctions
The person who pursues an injunction is referred to as the “petitioner,” and the person against whom the injunction is sought is known as the “respondent.” Notwithstanding the type of injunction being pursued, a respondent will be subject to a procedure that is nearly identical to a criminal case. Although an injunction in and of itself does not amount to criminal penalties, the violation of one can result in criminal charges. Accordingly, if a respondent is faced with an injunction proceeding, he or she should immediately hire a skilled Gainesville Injunction Defense Attorney.
At Musca Law, our experienced and knowledgeable team of Florida Injunction Defense Lawyers are available 24/7 to assist you with your legal matter. To schedule a free and completely confidential consultation, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057.
Stalking and Cyberstalking Cases in Florida
Anyone who is the subject of a stalking injunction in Florida must be aware of what qualifies as cyberstalking or stalking under Florida law. According to Florida Statute Section 784.048(2), an individual may be charged with stalking if he or she “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.” If convicted, the individual will be convicted of a misdemeanor in the first degree, which is associated with a one-year term in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
To “harass” pursuant to Florida law means “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.” Moreover, “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, akin to stalking, is a misdemeanor in the first degree, which may amount to a one-year prison sentence and a monetary fine of up to $1,000.
Aggravated Stalking in Florida
More serious acts of stalking or cyberstalking may result in felony-level charges if the alleged behavior is “aggravated.” Under Florida Statute Section 784.048(3), an individual may face criminal stalking charges if he or she “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person.” The crime of aggravated stalking constitutes a felony in the third degree, which carries with it a prison sentence for up to five years and a monetary fine of up to $5,000.
In order for a person to be charged with aggravated stalking, his or her behavior must involve
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, aggravated stalking, and cyberstalking can result in serious criminal penalties, including imprisonment, monetary fines, and social stigma. Accordingly, anyone who is facing these types of serious charges needs to hire a skilled Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Given the fact that charges related to stalking can lead to the pursuit of a civil stalking injunction case, it is critical that the respondent’s attorney have experience in handling these types of matters simultaneously. At Musca Law, our dedicated and highly knowledgeable team of legal professionals have the skills and experience necessary to represent respondents facing criminal charges and the potential for a civil injunction.
The Process to Obtain a Stalking Injunction in Gainesville
Those who are potentially subject to a stalking injunction or believe that an injunction may be issued against them in the future should be familiar with the injunction process. 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.” Accordingly, while any individual can seek a stalking injunction in Gainesville, a court will likely deny it if there is a lack of credible proof establishing that the petitioner was subject to two instances of stalking or cyberstalking.
The Steps Associated with a Gainesville Stalking or Cyberstalking Injunction Case
Facing an injunction for stalking is serious and is associated with severe legal repercussions. That is why any individual who may be the subject of a Gainesville stalking injunction should be aware of the legal process following being served with a petition. This process is as follows:
1. The Filing of the Petition for a Stalking Injunction
An individual who pursues an injunction against stalking in Gainesville must submit to the court a form known as a petition, which will identify the type of injunction being sought, the allegations raised by the petitioner, and evidence to support the facts raised in the petition, which may include electronic communications (such as emails, text messages, and social media postings), photographs, and other supporting evidence.
2. Judicial Review of the Petition and Decision Whether to Issue a Temporary Injunction
Once the petition is filed, the judge will review it and decide whether to issue a temporary injunction or deny it altogether.
3. The Stalking Injunction Hearing is Scheduled
If a judge issues a temporary injunction, he or she will schedule a final hearing that will be no greater than fifteen days following the date when the temporary injunction was approved. Keep in mind that even if a judge denies the temporary injunction, he or she may still go ahead and schedule a final hearing on the matter.
4. Service of Process on the Respondent
The respondent who is named in the petition will be served by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, which includes a copy of the petition, the time and date of the hearing, and a copy of the temporary injunction order.
5. Hire a Gainesville Stalking Injunction Defense Attorney
Following service of process, a respondent should immediately hire a Gainesville Stalking Injunction Defense Attorney to learn more about his or her legal rights and options as well as the defenses that may be available in his or her case. Proceeding without a skilled attorney could mean that your constitutional rights may be at stake.
6. Motion to Continue the Hearing for a Later Date
Fifteen days is not usually a sufficient amount of time to prepare a strong defense strategy. This is why an attorney for the respondent typically submits a motion to continue – or delay – the matter in order to fully prepare his or her case. Continuing the matter is an important step that can lead to a more favorable result in one’s case.
7. Make an Appearance at the Final Stalking Injunction Hearing
The parties make their appearances in court to present their respective positions and submit evidence to the court, which may include witness testimony, documentation (including electronic communications), and other evidence. A respondent is urged to produce as much evidence as possible in order to refute the allegations raised by the petitioner. The attorney for the respondent will help him or her to use the evidence in order to present to the court the strongest defense strategy possible.
8. The Final Order
At the conclusion of the hearing, the presiding judge will review all of the evidence as well as take into consideration the arguments raised by both parties. Once the judge has completed this process, he or she will decide whether or not to issue a stalking injunction.
9. Compliance with the Injunction Against Stalking
If a judge issues a stalking injunction, the respondent must understand and comply with all of its terms, as violating it could result in criminal charges.
The Repercussions of a Stalking Injunction in Alachua County
An injunction against stalking in Gainesville can dramatically affect one’s rights and livelihood. Although each case is different, the repercussions of a stalking injunction are similar, and include, without limitation, the following:
- A prohibition from being in contact with the petitioner, including the inability to directly or indirectly (such as through a family member or friend) contact him or her under any circumstances;
- A tarnished public record;
- The surrendering of ammunition and firearms to law enforcement;
- The requirement to undergo a mental health evaluation and potential treatment at the respondent’s own expense; and
- The potential for criminal charges if the stalking injunction is violated (even accidental contact with the petitioner can result in criminal sanctions, despite the fact that it was unintentional).
Terminating or Modifying a Stalking Injunction in Gainesville
Each stalking injunction depends upon the underlying facts and circumstances of one’s case, meaning that in one matter, the injunction can last a couple of years while in another matter, it can last indefinitely. Notwithstanding the amount of time for which a stalking injunction is set to last, there may be grounds to modify or terminate the injunction whether it is set to expire or not. For instance, if new evidence surfaces evincing that the petitioner falsified his or her petition, a respondent can file a motion in court to terminate the stalking injunction. Or, one or both parties can seek to terminate the injunction if they made amends.
If a stalking injunction is set to expire, the petitioner may return to court through filing the appropriate motion to have it extended. This must be done at least 30 days before the stalking injunction expires.
Launching a Strong Defense with a Skilled Attorney in a Gainesville Stalking Injunction Case
In a criminal proceeding, an individual cannot be convicted of a criminal offense unless he or she (i) is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury, or (ii) pleads guilty. In civil stalking injunction cases, a respondent is not subject to the same requirements as those in a criminal matter however, one of the results is the same – both show up on his or her permanent record.
Accordingly, anyone who conducts a background search can easily find out about the stalking injunction that has been issued against a respondent. As such, the person doing the search will likely believe the allegations, which could cause a respondent to lose out on a potential job, housing opportunity, or bank loan. The respondent may also face social stigma and the loss of friends and family members. These consequences can be devastating, especially when the allegations raised in a petition are misleading or completely false.
Due to the seriousness of a stalking injunction in Gainesville, it is critical for a respondent to hire an attorney who can conduct a thorough investigation of the matter to give him or her the best chance of having a favorable result in his or her case. A skilled Gainesville Criminal and Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer will evaluate the facts from all sides and develop a defense that challenges the petitioner’s claims or at least demonstrate that the petitioner has not satisfied all of the elements of a stalking injunction case pursuant to Florida law. This can be accomplished through the submission of evidence to the court evincing same.
Contact the Gainesville Stalking Injunction Defense Attorneys of Musca Law Today
If you have been served with a stalking injunction in Gainesville, act quickly to immediately speak with an experienced Gainesville Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer. Your rights and reputation are on the line when facing any protective injunction, regardless of whether you are also subject to criminal charges. The Gainesville Criminal Defense Lawyers and Stalking Injunction 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.