Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers in Naples, Florida
An injunction is a type of order issued by a court that effectively puts a stop to specific behavior or prevents certain behavior in the future. For example, in a civil lawsuit concerning a contract dispute, a court may issue a permanent injunction that prevents one business partner from starting a separate, competing business for a specific amount of time. In the context of protective orders/injunctions, an injunction is issued for the express purpose of protecting a person’s safety and livelihood from a potentially dangerous person.
The Naples Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law work tirelessly to represent the legal rights and interests of people accused of stalking and/or who are facing a stalking injunction. Facing a stalking injunction can be a scary situation, even though it is not itself a criminal proceeding. However, the consequences of a permanent stalking injunction/restraining order can limit a person’s rights, and any violation of a stalking injunction can result in criminal penalties. If you are facing a Naples stalking injunction, do not hesitate to contact the Naples Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law today by calling (888) 484-5057. We are available 24/7 to provide you with the legal advice and guidance you deserve in a time of need.
Understanding the Scope of Protective Injunctions in Collier County, Florida
Under Florida law, an injunction is also known as a “protective order,” “protective injunction,” or “restraining order.” However worded, the injunction serves the same purpose – to stop behavior that may cause serious harm to another person, whether such harm is emotional and/or physical. Rather than throw someone in jail, a court-ordered injunction in Naples provides individuals opportunities to comply with strict court-orders with the understanding that any violation of an injunction is grounds for criminal prosecution.
There are five types of injunctions that address personal safety, and while the injunctions themselves are civil orders, such orders could potentially have criminal consequences if they are violated. These injunctions include the following:
- Stalking Injunction;
- Domestic Violence Injunction;
- Repeat Violence Injunction;
- Dating Violence Injunction; and
- Sexual Violence Injunction.
Because each type of injunction is unique and the consequences of violating such an injunction can be harsh, it is critical to work alongside a Naples Injunction Defense Lawyer if you have been accused of violating any of the above-listed injunctions.
Seeking any type of injunction in Naples takes various steps. First, a person (called the “petitioner”) must file a petition seeking an injunction in court. As part of the petition, the petitioner will allege that a respondent has committed acts that the petitioner feels places him/her at risk, even if potential harm is not physical in nature. When ruling on whether to grant a petitioner’s request for an injunction, a court will generally err on the side of caution and grant a temporary injunction until a full hearing can address the merits with both parties present.
Five Types of Protective Injunctions in Naples, Florida
While there are numerous types of civil injunctions under Florida law, the injunctions that address personal safety and the risk of harm include the following:
- Domestic Violence;
- Repeat Violence;
- Dating Violence; and
- Sexual Violence.
Each of these injunctions is similar in that the relief sought is the same, and the process for ruling on an injunction is the same. The only difference between the different types of injunctions is the nature of the alleged behavior. In all cases, a petitioner (person filing the petition in court) alleges that contact with the respondent places the petitioner (and perhaps loved ones) at risk, and that absent an injunction, the respondent’s underlying conduct will continue.
Regardless of the underlying conduct (stalking, domestic violence, dating violence, etc.), the judge will typically grant the injunction temporarily and require both parties to appear in court to argue the merits of the petition for an injunction. At the time of the hearing, a court will determine whether the petitioner has established, in accordance with Florida law, that the respondent should be subject to a permanent injunction.
The Crime of Stalking Under Florida Law
Before understanding how the stalking injunction process works in Naples, Florida, it is first essential to understand what constitutes “stalking” under Florida law. Because stalking is unique from domestic violence, dating violence, or sexual violence, the requirements for obtaining a permanent stalking injunction will be different from the requirements for obtaining another type of injunction.
Under Florida Statute Section 784.048(2), a person may be found guilty of stalking if he or she “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.” Stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida law and is punishable by jail time of up to one year and a monetary fine not to exceed $1,000.
A person’s conduct must satisfy all elements of the crime of stalking to be convicted. As such, the prosecution must prove that a person harassed or cyberstalked another person. Under the same Florida Statute, “harass” is defined 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.” The term “course of conduct” is further defined as “a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose.”
Because technology and electronic communications comprise a substantial amount of contact with other people, cyberstalking is a frequently charged crime. Under Florida law, cyberstalking is defined as engaging in “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 stalking, cyberstalking is a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida law and is punishable by jail time of up to one year, and a monetary fine not to exceed $1,000.
The Crime of Aggravated Stalking Under Florida Law
Pursuant to 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.” If a person is found guilty of aggravated stalking under Florida law, he or she faces jail time of up to five (5) years and a monetary fine not to exceed $5,000.
Florida law defines “credible threat” as “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.” Aggravated stalking is a serious crime, and accused persons who are currently incarcerated can still be charged with aggravated stalking even they are not presently a threat to anyone else.
Stalking restraining orders in Naples, Florida
Stalking injunctions are one type of protective injunction that anyone can seek by filing a petition in Collier County court, and such injunctions apply to both stalking and cyberstalking. 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.”
Additionally, pursuant to the case of David v. Schack, 192 So. 3d 625, 627-28 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016), to be entitled to a stalking injunction, “the petitioner must allege and prove two separate instances of stalking.” Further, 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.”
The petitioner must comply with Florida law and file a petition by using the Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.980(t). Various options are listed that describe the reasons why the petitioner is seeking an injunction. Such reasons identified on the petition form include, but may not be limited to, the following (which must be proven by the petitioner to obtain an injunction):
- 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.
After the petitioner files the petition in court, a judge will review the petition and determine whether enough grounds exist to enter a temporary stalking injunction/restraining order. Such an injunction can be entered regardless of whether there is any pending criminal proceeding involving the alleged stalker, who is the respondent. Most courts tend to err on the side of caution and give the petitioner the benefit of the doubt. As such, assuming a petitioner presents credible allegations of stalking or cyberstalking, the court will likely grant a temporary stalking injunction/restraining order that will last for no longer than fifteen (15) days.
A hearing will be scheduled to address the merits of the petition for stalking injunction in Naples, Florida. Both sides will have an opportunity to present evidence demonstrating that a stalking injunction is necessary to protect the petitioner and cease the underlying alleged conduct. The hearing is the most important step of the process for a person facing a stalking injunction. A judge’s decision can materially affect the accused person’s rights. Judges are given wide discretion when determining whether a petitioner has proven his/her case pursuant to Florida law. If a judge finds that a petitioner has proven any of the allegations identified in the petition (as identified above), he or she has grounds to sustain a petitioner’s request for a stalking injunction.
Given what is at stake for a respondent facing a stalking injunction in Naples, Florida, it is critical to have a highly experienced Naples Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer present at the hearing to advocate for the respondent. With the assistance of the right attorney, an accused person has a much better chance of challenging a petition for a stalking injunction in Naples. While no attorney can guarantee positive results, going forward either alone without an attorney or with the assistance of an attorney lacking essential experience can be detrimental to a person’s legal rights and interests.
The Consequences of a Stalking Injunction in Naples, Florida
Like a criminal conviction, a stalking injunction in Naples, Florida, can have irreparable and life-changing consequences. While stalking injunctions are civil orders, they involve alleged criminal conduct. Judges hearing petitions seeking stalking injunctions cannot rule that an accused stalker committed the crime of stalking. Instead, judges must review the evidence presented by both sides to determine whether a petitioner has met his/her burden of proving that the respondent has committed the acts alleged in the petition.
The consequences of a stalking injunction in Naples, Florida, are far-reaching. While a respondent may not go to jail or pay a fine for being the subject of a stalking injunction, he or she will be required to surrender all firearms and ammunition to law enforcement officials if a permanent stalking injunction/restraining order is issued against the respondent.
Moreover, the judge issuing the permanent stalking injunction has the discretion to require the respondent to obtain mental health treatment to be paid for by the respondent. Even though injunctions are civil matters, the consequences of having to surrender firearms and ammunition and potentially undergo mental health treatment are akin to the consequences of committing a felony in the state of Florida.
In addition to losing some rights, a respondent subject to a stalking injunction may have a tarnished reputation, which may make it challenging to get a job, attend a college or university, or rent an apartment or house. More importantly, stalking injunctions are strict court orders that must be followed, and any violation of such orders can expose a respondent to criminal liability. As such, if a respondent accidentally comes into close contact with a petitioner in violation of a Naples stalking injunction, he or she may be charged with a crime, resulting in subsequent consequences that only add to an already stressful and compromised situation.
Terminating or Modifying an Existing Stalking Injunction in Naples, Florida
While stalking injunctions are technically permanent, a respondent can attempt to terminate or modify an existing stalking injunction by filing a motion with the court that sustained the injunction. Florida law allows a respondent to file such a motion at any time. However, the respondent will be required to present evidence that supports a valid reason for why an existing stalking injunction should be terminated/dismissed/vacated or modified in any way. In doing so, a respondent will need to work with a Naples Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer who routinely handles protective injunction matters.
Defending Against a Petition for Permanent Stalking Injunction in Naples, Florida
Most people will not realize how serious a stalking injunction is until they find themselves being faced with such an injunction. All court orders – whether they pertain to a criminal or civil matter – must always be adhered to. Violation of any order is grounds for criminal prosecution. Defending oneself in court is brave; however, doing so can severely compromise a person’s rights. Likewise, an attorney who handles personal injury or product liability cases should not be representing a person in court who is facing a permanent stalking injunction. Instead, to have a strong defense, the subject of a potential permanent stalking injunction should retain the most qualified lawyer available. After all, legal rights, reputation, and long-lasting harm are all consequences of stalking injunctions, which may be avoided with the help of a true legal professional.
Contact Musca Law Today to Learn More About Your Legal Rights and Options
If you are facing a stalking injunction in Naples, Florida, it is imperative to act quickly to seek the advice of a superior Naples Criminal Defense Lawyer. While an injunction is not the same as being sentenced to jail, the effect can be debilitating and can compromise a person’s rights. At Musca Law, our Naples Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers are highly qualified to help you with your criminal matter. Many of our firm’s attorneys are among The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers and have also been named Super Lawyers in 2012 for criminal defense. To find why Musca Law has been able to help so many accused individuals in Naples, contact our firm today by calling (888) 484-5057.