Protective Injunction Defense Lawyers in Key West, Florida
Florida Injunction Laws, Offenses, Penalties, and Defenses
With a population of just over 25,000, Key West, Florida is a small beach town that welcomes tourists and visitors all year round. As one of Florida’s smaller cities, many local residents know one another. Although Key West is small, many individuals seek protective injunctions by filing petitions in the Monroe County Circuit Court. Such protective injunctions, also known as restraining orders or orders of protection, are intended to protect a victim from alleged abuse or harm that may be imminent. The terms of protective orders can be very strict, and violation of a protective order can lead to criminal charges. Protective Injunctions are civil matters that involve allegations of criminal conduct. As such, being served with a protective injunction can feel like being charged with a crime.
The Key West Protective Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law routinely represent clients whose legal rights are on the line. A protective injunction can be damaging to not only your legal rights but also your reputation. Moreover, you may be at risk of facing criminal charges if you violate a protective injunction. Musca Law has the resources necessary to ensure they are providing the best legal representation they can to all clients in Key West and elsewhere throughout the state of Florida. If you have been served with a protective injunction or believe you may be facing a protective injunction in the near future, contact Musca Law today by calling (888) 484-5057 to find out how our team of lawyers may be able to help you.
Understanding Protective Injunctions Under Florida Law
Protective injunctions are civil court orders that allow victims of alleged abuse or potential abuse to seek the protection of the court. A protective injunction begins as a temporary order to provide immediate relief to an alleged victim. As such, the accused perpetrator may be subject to a strict court order without ever have facing criminal charges pertaining to the alleged conduct. The person who files a petition seeking a protective injunction in Key West is known as the petitioner, and the accused perpetrator is known as the respondent.
The Five Types of Protective Injunctions in Key West, Florida
Under Florida law, there are five types of protective injunctions petitioners can seek, which include the following:
- Dating Violence Injunctions;
- Domestic Violence injunctions;
- Repeat Violence Injunctions;
- Sexual Violence Injunctions; and
- Stalking Injunctions.
All protective injunctions are equally detrimental to a person’s rights. Therefore, it is imperative to retain a highly qualified Key West Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer if you have been served with a protective injunction. You do not have much time to waste before you must appear in court.
Dating Violence Injunctions
Under Florida Statute Section 784.046(d), dating violence is considered “violence between individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.” A petitioner who wants to obtain a dating violence injunction must prove that a dating relationship existed. In doing so, the petitioner must demonstrate the following:
- (1) A dating relationship existed within the past six months prior to the date the petition seeking the dating violence injunction is filed;
- (2) The nature of the relationship was one that exhibited an expectation of affection and sexual involvement between the parties; and
- (3) The parties to the dating relationship “have been involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship.”
If the above-listed elements cannot be established, a court will likely not issue a dating violence injunction.
Domestic Violence Injunctions
Per Florida Statute Section 741.30(1), a petitioner who claims to be the victim of alleged domestic violence can seek a domestic violence injunction on his or her own behalf or on behalf of a minor child. To meet the “domestic relationship” requirement, a petitioner must show the court that both the petitioner and the respondent – the individual accused of committing acts of domestic violence – are family or household members. Florida law defines family or household members as those who physically live in the same household or parents who share a child in common but who do not live together.
Repeat Violence Injunctions
Per Florida Statute Section 784.46(b), a person can obtain a repeat violence injunction if he or she (or a minor child) has been the victim of two or more acts of violence or stalking. One of these acts must have been committed within six months from the date the petition seeking the dating violence injunction is filed. Repeat violence injunctions can pertain to a variety of relationships include, among others, former friends, co-workers, neighbors, former couples who were romantically involved, and even strangers.
Sexual Violence Injunctions
Sexual violence injunctions specifically pertain to sex acts, and in many cases, allegations underlying petitions seeking sexual violence injunctions involve child victims. Per Florida Statute Section 784.046(c), sexual violence is considered one incident of sexual battery, a lewd or lascivious act “committed upon or in the presence of a person younger than 16 years of age,” luring or enticing a child, sexual performance by a child, or “any other forcible felony wherein a sexual act is committed or attempted, regardless of whether criminal charges based on the incident were filed, reduced, or dismissed by the state attorney.”
Stalking injunctions include both physical stalking and cyberstalking. With allegations of stalking, a victim does not need to have been physically harmed but simply feels he or she (or a minor child) is at risk of suffering imminent harm. Per Florida Statute Section 784.048(2), stalking is defined as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing, or cyberstalking another person.
What to Expect from the Protective Injunction Process in Monroe County, Florida
The protective injunction process can be complicated and stressful for anyone who is served with an order to maintain distance from another person, among other requirements. Whether you or someone you know is facing a protective injunction, it is important that you understand the process and what to expect from the time a petition is filed to the time a court makes a final ruling. The following steps provide a general guideline that applies to all types of protective injunctions.
Step 1 – Filing the Petition Seeking a Protective Injunction
The first step to obtain a protective injunction in Key West is to file a petition in Monroe County Circuit Court. A court-approved form must be used. The petition will allege that either the person filing the petition, or a minor child, has been the victim of abuse and/or is imminently at risk of becoming the victim of abuse or other physical harm.
Step 2 – Court Review of the Petition and Scheduling of Hearing
Soon after a petition seeking a protective injunction is filed in a Monroe County court, a judge will review the petition and issue a quick decision to either deny the petition, or grant the petition, ordering a temporary restraining order that lasts no more than fifteen days until the date of the formal hearing to decide the matter.
Step 3 – Serving the Protective Injunction on the Respondent
After a judge has issued a temporary protective injunction, a copy of the petition and a copy of the temporary protective injunction are served on the respondent, the person who is the subject of the injunction. The legal papers are served by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. A hearing date will be provided with the paperwork that requires the respondent to appear in court to defend the matter.
Step 4 – Contact a Key West Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer
A protective injunction – even a temporary one – can be very harmful to an individual. As such, anyone who has been served with a temporary protective injunction should retain a skilled Key West Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer right away. With the assistance of a lawyer, a respondent can postpone the hearing to a later date, which allows the respondent and his/her lawyer to thoroughly evaluate the situation and build a defense to raise in court.
Step 5 – The Protective Injunction Hearing
Most legal matters take far longer than fifteen days, but in the case of protective injunctions, a person has very limited time to appear in court to defend him or herself against the allegations supporting a petition for a protective injunction. The parties and their lawyers will appear in court to argue their sides of the case. As part of this argument, the parties can present evidence in the form of documents (such as photographs, electronic communications (email, social media postings, social media messaging, text messages, etc.), and any other electronic or hard-copy documents) and witness testimony. Unlike a criminal matter, there is no jury do decide the case. Rather, the judge will evaluate the arguments and evidence and will decide whether a temporary protective injunction should become final and long-lasting or whether the matter should be dismissed.
Step 6 – The Court’s Final Order
A judge will issue a final ruling not long after the protective injunction hearing. If a judge grants a petitioner’s requested injunction, a final order will be issued that requires the respondent to comply with various terms, such as maintaining distance from the petitioner or petitioner’s minor child.
After the Protective Injunction – Facing the Harsh Consequences
In the event a judge sides with a petitioner and issues a protective injunction on a long-term basis, the respondent must comply with all terms outlined in the injunction order. The terms of a protective injunction order will be shaped by the type of injunction at issue and the nature of the alleged conduct that gave rise to the injunction. Additionally, Examples of harsh consequences associated with the issuance of a protective injunction include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
- Maintaining a certain distance from the petitioner (or petitioner’s minor child), something that can be difficult in Key West;
- Mandatory completion of a mental health evaluation at the respondent’s expense;
- Mandatory counseling for anger management and/or alcohol or drug abuse;
- Mandatory relinquishment of firearms and ammunition for the duration of the protective injunction;
- Harm to reputation as protective injunctions are civil orders that are publicly available; and
- Exposure to criminal liability for failing to adhere to the terms of a protective injunction.
Most people are not aware of how serious protective injunctions are in Key West until they become the subject of a protective injunction. While a protective injunction does not send a person to jail, a protective injunction puts a respondent at risk of facing criminal charges for failing to comply with the protective injunction. Moreover, while a person can face a protective injunction without also facing criminal charges or being the subject of a criminal investigation pertaining to the same alleged conduct, many protective injunction matters go hand-in-hand with related criminal matters. As such, it cannot be stressed enough how critical it is to work with a skilled Key West Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer.
Criminal Penalties for Violating a Protective Injunction in Key West, Florida
Violating a protective order can lead to serious criminal charges that only further damage a person’s record and reputation. While violations of protective orders must be proven, it is very easy for a respondent to be accused of violating a protective order (such as coming too close into contact with the petitioner or petitioner’s minor child). If a respondent faces charges for violating a protective injunction for the first time, he or she faces a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a potential jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum monetary fine of $1,000. A second offense of violating a protective injunction is also considered a first-degree misdemeanor with the same potential penalties for conviction – one year in jail and up to $1000 in fines.
A third violation of a protective injunction is considered a third-degree felony, which carries a potential jail sentence of up to five years and a maximum monetary fine of up to $5,000. First-degree misdemeanors and third-degree felonies are very serious criminal charges that can substantially harm a person’s life for years to come. It is also important to remember that the penalties for each violation of a protective injunction can be added together. As such, a person who has been convicted of violating a protective injunction on three separate occasions faces a total of up to seven years in jail and up to $7,000 in monetary fines.
The Modification or Termination of a Protective Order in Key West, Florida
Although protective injunctions in Key West are intended to be long-lasting, they typically do not last forever. Instead, a court will provide an expiration date, which states how long a protective injunction is to remain legally valid. Some protective injunctions may last a few months, while others may last up to one year or longer. Protective injunctions can, upon motion by either a petitioner and/or are respondent, be modified or terminated if a court approves such a request. To seek modification or termination of a protective injunction, a party must present sufficient reasoning and supporting evidence to convince a judge that modifying or terminating a protective injunction is a good option.
The complete termination of a protective injunction before the expiration date is unlikely to happen unless the petitioner is the party seeking termination. Modification of a protective injunction may be warranted in some circumstances, and any modification of a protective order should be sought with the assistance of a Key West Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer. If a petitioner wishes to extend the expiration date of a protective injunction, he or she must do so no less than thirty days before the date the protective injunction is set to expire.
Choosing the Right Key West Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer
Protective injunctions are a unique area of law that requires familiarity with Florida’s criminal statutes. A Key West Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer with experience handling both criminal law and civil protective injunctions understands what is at stake for a person facing an injunction. Like criminal charges, a person facing a protective injunction is already on the defense and must jump over hurdles to reach a positive conclusion. While many lawyers who handle civil law may be competent to handle civil protective injunction matters, a lawyer who specifically focuses on criminal law AND injunction matters can provide a respondent with a high level of legal representation aimed to protect constitutional rights.
Contact the Key West Protective Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Today!
Facing a protective injunction is a serious matter that deserves the attention of an experienced Key West Protective Injunction Defense Lawyer who also regularly handles a wide array of criminal matters. At Musca Law, our team of Key West Criminal Defense Lawyers have more than 150 years of combined professional experience ensuring clients are receiving superior legal representation aimed to protect their rights. To find out how Musca Law can help you with your injunction matter, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057. We are available 24/7 to meet your legal needs, as a legal matter can come up at any time, day or night.