Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers in Lakeland, Florida
While the crime of stalking tends to conjure an image of a person hiding in someone’s bushes waiting for them to pass by or the following of someone down the street, other more subtle behavior might qualify as stalking in Florida. The behavior is unnerving, scary, and disruptive to the victim’s life. Therefore, Florida law gives the alleged victim additional legal protections against stalking by authorizing courts to issue injunctions to prevent stalking, which is also known as restraining orders and protective orders and prevent the alleged offender from engaging in the same behavior.
Our culture ingrained in us an understanding of the criminal justice systems, even if that understanding is based on rudimentary concepts. It is well understood that an arrest initiates a process to bring the accused before the court. The court will then hear the case, and a jury will decide the fate of the accused. Furthermore, society understands that a conviction will result in some form of punishment, which is likely to be incarceration. By contrast, society typically does not understand the process of obtaining or living subject to a restraining order.
A restraining order, or an injunction to prevent harm, is a tool Florida judges have to compel a person to behave in a particular manner so that another person suffers no harm. Florida law grants judges tremendous discretion to rule that one person presents a danger to another, and, as a result, the judge has the authority to order someone to refrain from doing certain things, speaking with specified individuals, going to particular places, and possessing firearms and ammunition for self-defense. In the end, Florida’s law establishing protective injunctions authorizes a judge to take away a person’s freedom without being convicted of the act beyond a reasonable doubt.
The consequences of a judge restraining a person from living his or her life as he or she wants are real. Depending on the claims made, the court could deprive the individual subject to the protective order the right to be a parent, the right to move about freely, the right to travel, the right to speak to whomever the person wants, and the right to defend himself or herself and repel deadly threats.
With this tremendous deprivation of rights at stake if a judge in Lakeland, Florida, authorizes an injunction for protection against you, having experienced, successful, and aggressive stalking injunction and criminal defense lawyers from Lakeland, Florida, represent you is the only way to protect your rights. Otherwise, you might be sentenced to jail for violating the court’s order and facing additional criminal offenses.
Categories of Injunctions for Protection in Lakeland, Florida
Judges sitting in Lakeland, Florida, have the discretion to issue injunctions that fall under five general categories. The categories of injunctions for protection a Lakeland, Florida, a judge could issue are:
- Sexual violence
- Domestic violence
- Dating violence
- Repeat violence
The process of obtaining an injunction is not difficult to follow, considering the tremendous impact an order of the court can have on someone’s life. The process of obtaining an injunction begins when the person who is asking the court for protection, called the petitioner, completes, and submits pleadings to the clerk’s office. The pleadings are forms authorized for use in Florida courts to facilitate the application process. The pleadings in stalking injunction cases are called petitions.
The petitioner must enter all of the information requested by the form and complete it as thoroughly as possible. The information entered on the forms by the petitioner must be true and accurate because the petitioner must swear that all of the information supplied by the petitioner to complete the forms is true and accurate. The petitioner could be charged with perjury for lying in court pleadings, in theory.
Even though the petitioner seeks to restrain another, whom the court calls the respondent, from committing certain acts and limit that person’s freedom, the petitioner has no simultaneous obligation to file criminal charges. On the one hand, the respondent could benefit from that anomaly enormously. On the other hand, however, the petitioner must set out enough information in the petition to convince a judge that stalking, which is a crime in Florida, was committed by the respondent. Notwithstanding, the alleged victim of a serious crime does not have to cooperate in or initiate a police investigation into these incredibly serious matters. In most instances, there will be criminal charges that accompany the request for an injunction to prevent stalking.
In Florida, an injunction is a legal mechanism used in civil proceedings. Thus, the petitioner does not have to satisfy the burden of proof the moving party must satisfy in criminal cases of beyond a reasonable doubt to win the protection of the court. The lesser burden used in Florida’s civil courts allows the cases to be proved with less evidence than would be required to satisfy the higher criminal standard. However, the possible penalty for violating the injunction for protection is criminal. If criminal charges issue against the respondent, then he or she will enjoy the presumption of innocence and require the government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt at a trial.
The lower burden of proof should not indicate that facing an injunction for protection in Lakeland, Florida, is insignificant. Cases involving injunctions for protection are extremely complicated legal matters that require assistance from an experienced, knowledgeable, and reputable stalking injunction and criminal defense attorney from Lakeland, Florida, to represent you.
If you are served with a notice to appear in court to contest an injunction for protection against stalking, you need the services of a highly-skilled, knowledgeable, and reputable stalking injunction and criminal defense attorney from Lakeland, Florida, to represent you and protect your interests. You might think that you can handle the case successfully without a lawyer. It is important to remember that if you are facing an injunction for protection against stalking, you could have fifth amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution not to incriminate yourself. However, if you decide that you wish to tackle this issue alone in court, you could run into substantial legal difficulty because you made statements that a prosecutor could use against you in a trial. If you are represented by counsel with a reputation for aggressive representation in all criminal and civil matters, then counsel can argue your case vehemently while protecting your rights.
The Lakeland injunction defense and criminal defense attorneys from Musca Law have the extensive experience vigorously defending their clients’ rights you need to protect your fundamental liberties. When you align yourself with the attorneys from Musca Law, you have over 150 years of collective legal experience on your side, along with tremendous resources at their disposal to help their clients. Call Musca Law today at 888-484-5057 to discuss your defense and devise a winning strategy to defend your freedom.
Understanding Stalking and Cyberstalking Laws in Polk County, Florida
Comprehending the statutes and laws involving stalking and cyberstalking in Lakeland, Florida, will help you and your attorney develop a successful defense strategy. Florida Statutes §784.048 (2) provides that stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida, and a person so convicted could face up to one year in the county jail, along with a fine that cannot exceed $1,000.00., accompanied by a maximum of one-year probation.
Stalking is a malicious or willful act that is repeated, or an act that harasses another individual, or is the act of following another individual. The definition of stalking includes cyberstalking as well. The term “harass “means, under Florida law, a particular and ongoing course of conduct committed by one person directed to another person that has no legitimate purpose. Moreover, harassment is a course of conduct that also causes the subject of the harassment and emotional distress that is significant or substantial. Meanwhile, “course of conduct” has a particular definition under Florida law as well. A course of conduct is numerous acts or events perpetrated by one person within a defined time, which evidences or demonstrates a continuity of purpose.
Cyberstalking also has a unique definition, according to Florida law. Cyberstalking, according to Florida statutes, means communicating either indirectly or directly with another person, any words, language, or pictures through any electronic means, and the communication was intended by the sender to harass and cause significant emotional distress to the recipient of the message.
Cyberstalking has an alternate definition as well. In Florida, cyberstalking also means that a person who tries to access online or electronic accounts of another without permission from that person, and without a legitimate or lawful purpose. Instead, a person is guilty of cyberstalking if the attempts to access online or electronic accounts designed to inflict severe emotional distress upon the victim. Cyberstalking is a misdemeanor in the first degree as well.
Aggravated Stalking Charges in Lakeland, Florida
A person convicted of aggravated stalking in Lakeland, Florida, faces punishment for a third-degree felony. Section 784.048(3) of the Florida Statutes defines aggravated stalking as a third-degree felony for any person who, either willfully or maliciously, and repeatedly, harasses, cyberstalks, or follows another person, and that person reasonably believes that the person made a credible threat to harm the victim. In other words, the victim must believe that the accused is capable of carrying out the alleged threat.
The alleged credible threat can be communicated directly, indirectly, via non-verbal communication, through electronic means, or through a course of conduct that the accused has the ability and intent to commit the act threatened. The actual, subjective intent of the person charged is not relevant. Rather, the state of mind of the alleged victim determines whether the crime of aggravated stalking was committed. Cyberstalking also applies to the crime of aggravated stalking. Moreover, the phrase “course of conduct” retains the same meaning.
The judge who sentences a person convicted of stalking or aggravated stalking could sentence the offender to jail or prison and assess large monetary fines. Additionally, the sentencing judge has the discretion to impose severe terms of probation upon the offender, such as mandatory mental health counseling, rehabilitation, and restitution, if any. Additional terms of probation that the judge could potentially set include ordering the offender to stay away from the petitioner, and not contact the victim and her or his family, avoid certain geographical locations the victim is known to frequent, like school or a job, and wear a GPS tracking or monitoring system.
There are consequences of being convicted for stalking or cyberstalking that are often unforeseen. An individual convicted of stalking, cyberstalking, or aggravated stalking could lose his or her job, lose the ability to find suitable employment, lose educational opportunities, lose the right to vote after a felony conviction, and lose the right to possess firearms. The only way to combat these collateral consequences is to avoid a conviction altogether. While no lawyer could guarantee a particular result, anyone who is facing stalking charges in Lakeland, Florida, should speak with Musca Law’s renowned stalking injunction and criminal defense attorneys.
Stalking Injunction Procedure in Lakeland, Florida
As discussed above, the petitioner files a petition for an injunction to prevent stalking in Lakeland, Florida, and asks a judge for a protective order. A judge will examine the petition closely because of the safety of the alleged victim and the liberty of the respondent intersect. At this stage of the proceedings, a judge could authorize a temporary restraining order. A temporary restraining order, or temporary injunction, effectively preserves the status quo until the judge can hold a final hearing on the merits of the case. Although a judge could deny a temporary restraining order to the petitioner, most judges will enter an order so that the alleged victim could be safe in the short-term. The issuance of a temporary order does not mean that the judge will allow a permanent order.
The final hearing must be held within fifteen days from the date the temporary restraining order issued. The fifteen-day window primarily allows the sheriff’s department or law enforcement agency from the municipality in which the respondent resides to serve the respondent with notice of the final hearing date, give the respondent notice of the terms of the temporary order as well as the facts alleged by the petitioner.
The respondent will be bound by the temporary order until the final hearing. The judge could extend the order permanently, set a deadline for the expiration of the order, or deny the petition outright at the final hearing on the injunction. The judge could hear testimony from the parties, and review any physical evidence admitted for the court’s consideration. Either party can move to enter an exhibit in evidence at the hearing. Proffered exhibits include items like documents, photos, text messages, emails, medical records, phone records, or any other documentation or physical evidence that the judge rules relevant. Also, either party could call witnesses to testify on their behalf if the judge permits. All witnesses are subject to cross-examination.
The respondent, even if charged with a crime, has the right to argue the case and admit evidence at the final hearing as well. Moreover, the respondent has the right to testify. Testifying at the final hearing could be tempting — explaining your case and telling the judge your version of events often seems like the best tact to take.
The decision to testify in any case where an individual is or could be charged with a crime must only be reached after careful and thorough consultation with an experienced injunction defense and criminal defense attorney. Otherwise, you could forfeit your right not to incriminate yourself. By contrast, an experienced and savvy defense lawyer who understands how to defend a client in a precarious situation best will be able to create a defense strategy that argues as credibly and as forcefully as possible while protecting you from making a life-altering mistake.
A judge should weigh all of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses in light of applicable law. There are two decisions from Florida appellate courts that apply to stalking injunctions. In the first case, named David v. Shack,192 So. 3d 625 (Fla 4th DCA 2016), holds that the petitioner has the ultimate burden to prove that the respondent committed two separate and distinct acts that satisfy the definition of stalking to qualify for the protection of a stalking injunction. Secondly, the case of Touhey v. Seda, 133 So. 3d 1203 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014) instructs the judge to deny the petition for a stalking injunction unless the court finds that both alleged incidents of stalking were substantial based on competent evidence admitted during the final hearing.
The judge could deny the petition and allow the parties to go on their way. However, many judges play it safe and will order an injunction to keep the peace, notwithstanding the significant infringement an injunction has on the rights of the accused unless the respondent puts on a compelling case in defense. The odds of victory are significantly greater if you are represented by a lawyer who understands the legal system, how to maneuver in the system, and how to present a persuasive case.
Terminating, Modifying, or Extending an Injunction Against Stalking in Lakeland, Florida
Once the judge rules that an injunction is necessary for the protection of the petition against stalking, the respondent retains the ability to ask the judge for relief in the future. If the judge set an expiration date in the order, then the order will expire on the date specified, The respondent could ask the judge to terminate a permanent order by filing a motion that articulates all of the reasons why the injunction is no longer necessary.
Either party could move to modify the terms of the injunction by filing a motion. The judge will consider the requested modification and justification for the changes.
The petitioner must file a motion within 30 days of the termination date to extend the injunction. Failing to file the motion timely could lead to a dismissal of the order. However, the respondent has the right to representation if the petitioner moves to renew or extend the injunction.
Do Not Live Your Life Under the Threat of Criminal Prosecution
Living with an injunction is not living at all. The best way to ensure that you are treated fairly by the court and given the best chance to demonstrate to the court that imposing an injunction upon you is unjust is to have seasoned legal counsel from a Lakeland Criminal Defense Lawyer. When you call our office 24/7 at 888-484-5057, you can speak with attorneys who know how to win. Do not wait to call: your freedoms are at stake.