Stalking Injunctions Defense Lawyers in Jacksonville, Florida
Stalking and cyberstalking are crimes that do not always involve a physical confrontation between an accused assailant and a victim. However, the consequences of a stalking or cyberstalking conviction in Jacksonville, as well as the issuance of a stalking injunction, are far-reaching. Pursuant to Florida law, any person who believes his or her safety is at risk because of another person’s alleged act of stalking or cyberstalking can file a petition in court seeking a protective injunction. An injunction is a civil court order which directs and/or prohibits certain conduct.
In Florida, there are many types of protective injunctions, which are also known as protective orders and restraining orders, that are frequently sought in Jacksonville. Interestingly, a person can be the subject of a protective injunction, even without being charged with a criminal offense. Injunctions are not criminal matters, but they do involve alleged criminal conduct. While a civil court judge cannot send someone to jail for allegedly stalking or cyberstalking, the judge can issue an order that prohibits an individual from stalking or cyberstalking the victim in the future. Violation of a protective injunction can lead to criminal charges. As such, anyone facing a Jacksonville stalking injunction should promptly seek the advice of a qualified Jacksonville Criminal Defense and Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer.
At Musca Law, our skilled trial attorney assists clients throughout the state of Florida, handling a variety of criminal matters ranging in severity. Whether you are facing serious criminal charges or are facing only a stalking injunction or other protective injunction, the Jacksonville Criminal Defense and Stalking Injunction Defense Attorneys have the necessary experience, resources, knowledge, and dedication to help you fight a potentially harmful protective injunction. To learn how Musca Law may be able to help you with your injunction matter, contact our office 24/7 by calling (888) 484-5057.
Different Types of Protective Restraining Orders in Jacksonville, Florida
All protective injunctions serve the purpose of protecting a victim of violence or the threat of violence from a potentially dangerous individual. However, there are different types of protective injunctions suited to various categories of conduct, which include the following:
- Stalking Injunctions;
- Domestic Violence Injunction;
- Repeat Violence Injunction;
- Dating Violence Injunction; and
- Sexual Violence Injunction.
When seeking a protective injunction in Jacksonville, the person requesting the injunction must file a petition in court, using a court-approved form which provides various options pertaining to the type of protective injunction being sought. The person filing the petition is called the “petitioner,” and the person facing allegations of stalking, domestic violence, repeat violence, dating violence, and/or sexual violence is called the “respondent.”
Once a person files a petition in Jacksonville in accordance with court rules, a judge will review the petition and any available supporting evidence and will decide whether to grant the petition for a protective injunction, which would be temporary, or deny the petition. If granted, the protective injunction is served on the respondent, and a hearing is scheduled fifteen (15) days later. At the hearing, both sides are present to argue why a judge should or should not grant a petition seeking a permanent protective injunction.
The person filing a petition seeking a protective order may be doing so for his or her safety, or on behalf of another person’s safety, such as a minor child. In some cases, the petitioner includes both a parent and a child (as many protective injunction proceedings involve family and household members). Regardless of the nature of the relationship between the petitioner and the respondent accused of stalking or cyberstalking, the respondent deserves honest and accurate legal guidance from a Jacksonville Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer.
Stalking and Cyberstalking in Jacksonville, Florida
Even though a person can conceivably obtain a stalking injunction against another person without the existence of a criminal proceeding concerning the same alleged conduct, it is important to understand Florida’s stalking and cyberstalking crimes. To understand how to defend a stalking injunction, one must first understand the definition of stalking and cyberstalking and what the penalties are if convicted of either of these crimes under Florida law.
Under Florida Statute Section 784.048(2), a person who “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person” may face stalking charges, and the crime of stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. A person who is convicted of stalking under Florida law faces jail time of up to one year and a monetary fine of up to $1,000.
A stalking charge can be defended successfully, but a successful defense requires the assistance of a Jacksonville Criminal Defense and Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer who can demonstrate that prosecutors have not met their burden of proving every element of the crime of stalking. The failure to establish one element of the crime should result in the dismissal of criminal charges or acquittal at trial. Prosecutors in a stalking case must establish that the defendant harassed or cyberstalked another person as defined under Florida law.
Florida law defines “harass” 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.”
Because of the influence of electronic devices and the internet, many stalking allegations involve cyberstalking charges. Whether alleged stalking is exhibited in the form of text messages, social media direct messages, emails, voicemails, or any other form of electronic communication, Florida’s cyberstalking laws will likely apply. Under Florida law, “cyberstalking” 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.” Like the crime of stalking, the crime of cyberstalking is a first-degree misdemeanor, and conviction results in potential jail time of up to one year and the imposition of a fine of up to $1,000.
Aggravated Stalking in Jacksonville, Florida
Stalking becomes a felony charge when it is considered “aggravated.” A situation becomes “aggravated” when a person accused of stalking makes a “credible threat” that places the victim’s safety at risk. Per Florida Statute Section 784.048(3), a “person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree.” In Florida, a third-degree felony results in potential jail time of up to five (5) years and a fine not to exceed $5,000 if a person is convicted.
Under Florida law, “credible threat” is defined as follows:
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.”
The stakes are high for a defendant facing aggravated/felony stalking charges. As such, a qualified Jacksonville Criminal Defense and Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer will have to demonstrate how the prosecution has failed to meet its burden of proving that the defendant made a “credible threat” as defined under Florida law. At Musca Law, our trial lawyers have successfully dismantled the prosecution’s case in many criminal proceedings, and our firm continues to utilize the same skills to provide all clients with the same high-quality legal representation.
Stalking Injunctions in Jacksonville, Florida
Aside from criminal matters involving allegations of stalking, cyberstalking, and aggravated stalking, a person accused of stalking/cyberstalking/aggravated stalking will likely become the subject of a potential stalking injunction. Under Florida law, per 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.”
Additionally, in David v. Schack, 192 So. 3d 625, 627-28 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016), the court ruled that to be entitled to a stalking injunction, “the petitioner must allege and prove two separate instances of stalking.” Also, in Touhey v. Seda, 133 So. 3d 1203, 1204 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014), the court ruled that each instance of stalking “must be proven by competent, substantial evidence to support an injunction against stalking.” Therefore, while any person can file a petition seeking a stalking injunction, a court is unlikely to grant a permanent injunction without proof to support multiple allegations of stalking.
The court-ordered form used to file petitions seeking protective injunctions is Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.980(t). The person seeking a stalking injunction must use this form and identify the reason(s) for seeking the injunction, providing examples of the alleged conduct. Examples of reasons provided on the court-approved petition form include, among others, the following:
- The respondent destroyed personal property, including, but not limited to, telephones or other communication equipment, clothing, or other items belonging to the petitioner;
- The respondent is the subject of a prior order of protection issued against him/her in another court, jurisdiction, or state;
- The respondent has a criminal history involving violence or the threat of violence;
- The respondent used, or threatened to use, weapons (such as firearms and knives) against the petitioner;
- The respondent threatened to harm the petitioner or family members of individuals closely associated with the petitioner;
- The respondent previously threatened, harassed, stalked, cyberstalked, or physically abused the petitioner; or
- The respondent has been found guilty of stalking or aggravated stalking in a criminal matter.
Depending on the unique facts of a given case, a judge may request that a petitioner produce supporting documentation before making an initial decision to grant the petition for a stalking injunction on a temporary basis until a full hearing addresses the matter fifteen (15) days later. In many instances, judges err on the side of protecting individuals alleging they are the victims of stalking by granting a stalking injunction temporarily. If a court issues the stalking injunction, the respondent is served with a copy and instructed to appear at the hearing where the judge will make a final decision after hearing arguments from both sides.
At the hearing, the respondent can present arguments, documents, and any other evidence that demonstrates why the court should deny the petitioner’s request for a stalking injunction. Because the consequences of a stalking injunction implicate a respondent’s legal rights, it is well worth a respondent’s time to find an attorney who will use every tool possible to prevent the worst of outcomes.
What to Expect if a Judge Issues a Stalking Injunction in Jacksonville, Florida
If a judge grants a petitioner’s request for a Jacksonville stalking injunction, the respondent will be required to adhere to all terms of the injunction as ordered by the court. Any violation of an injunction order is grounds for potential criminal charges. Additionally, while a civil court injunction cannot itself lead to jail time, such an order requires a respondent to hand over his or her firearms and ammunition. Such a penalty is extremely harsh and often unwarranted in cases where allegations of stalking are untruthful or misleading at best.
Moreover, the judge issuing the stalking injunction in Jacksonville may also require the respondent to undergo mental health treatment at the respondent’s expense. Not only will a respondent be required to maintain a certain distance from the petitioner, but he or she will no longer have possession of firearms and ammunition. He or she will also possibly be required to seek mental health treatment regardless of whether a doctor has diagnosed the respondent with a mental health condition. Overall, the consequences of becoming the subject of a Jacksonville stalking injunction are significant.
Modifying or Terminating a Jacksonville Stalking Restraining Order
Stalking injunctions expire after a certain period. Whether the expiration date is six months, nine months, one year, two years, or longer will be dependent on the unique facts of a given case. Once an injunction is issued, either the petitioner or the respondent (or both) can seek to modify or terminate the injunction. However, to seek modification or termination of a stalking injunction, one or both parties must file a motion with the court and should do so with the assistance of an attorney.
A judge will review the motion as well as the original petition and underlying documentation/evidence. The judge will then decide whether to grant the motion requesting the modification or termination, or deny the motion, leaving the stalking injunction in place until its expiration date. Examples of why one or more parties seek modification or termination of a stalking injunction include, among others, the following:
- One or more parties has moved out of the city or county;
- The parties have made amends (especially in cases where the petitioner and respondent are related or have lived together); and
- The respondent has discovered evidence to show the petitioner’s initial petition was false or misleading and based inadequate evidence.
Whatever the reason may be, when seeking modification or termination of a stalking injunction, the person seeking the change must allow an attorney to handle the matter from start to finish to ensure the person seeking the change has the best chance possible of achieving a desirable outcome.
How to Defend a Duval County Stalking Injunction
Respondents who are the subject of a potential stalking injunction in Jacksonville are at a disadvantage from the beginning as a court has only seen what side of the story before the hearing. As such, a respondent must retain an attorney who can argue concisely why a judge should deny a petition seeking a stalking injunction. Many respondents subject to protective injunctions could have avoided such an outcome had they allowed a qualified attorney to represent them in court. The consequences of a Jacksonville stalking injunction are not fully understood until a person becomes the subject of such an injunction.
Vigorously defending the allegations of stalking or cyberstalking outlined in a petition seeking a stalking injunction is critical to have a chance at defeating the injunction. While judges have the discretion to rule in any way they want – so long as such ruling is in accordance with Florida law – judges also are open to hear and see evidence that may support a respondent’s case in defense to stalking or cyberstalking allegations.
Defending a Jacksonville stalking injunction requires an attorney to quickly obtain all necessary and available documentation associated with a petitioner’s allegations as well as any documentation that may refute a petitioner’s claims. An attorney will identify what areas of a petitioner’s case may be unsubstantiated and fail to support a stalking injunction. Successfully defending a Jacksonville stalking injunction starts with choosing an attorney who has litigated in the courtroom on behalf of defendants both in criminal matters and civil injunction matters. Not just any attorney can get the job done. Individuals facing a Jacksonville stalking injunction must do the necessary research to ensure they are choosing an attorney or law firm that can get the job done.
Contact the Jacksonville Stalking Injunction Defense Attorneys of Musca Law Today
If you have been accused of stalking or cyberstalking and are facing a potential stalking injunction, you should consider speaking with a qualified Jacksonville Defense Lawyer right away. At Musca Law, we know what to expect from the protective injunction process and what a court is likely to decide based on a given set of facts. To find out how Musca Law can help you with your stalking injunction matter, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057. We are available 24/7 to provide you with the assistance you need to make informed decisions about your legal rights.