Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers in Sarasota, Florida
Florida law sets forth a procedure to enable victims of stalking to seek the protection of the court. In Sarasota, Florida, a judge may approve an injunction, which is also referred to as a protective order or a restraining order. Such an order is meant to prevent a person from stalking (which includes stalking through electronic means known as cyberstalking) another person, which is illegal in Florida. Judges and prosecutors alike from across the state take these offenses very seriously and often issue injunctions to safeguard a victim from future harm.
Most people understand that there are consequences associated with criminal charges however, they often fail to fully appreciate the significance of being the subject of an injunctive order. Under Florida law, judges have the broad discretion to issue injunctions and limit a person’s freedom, even when there are no corresponding criminal charges pending. If a stalking injunction has been issued against a person, he or she must comply with all of its terms or else he or she could face serious criminal charges. Specifically, if convicted, the individual could face jail time, probation, and hefty monetary fines. There are also collateral consequences of a stalking injunction, which include, without limitation, social stigma, loss of friends and family, the surrendering of ammunition and firearms, limitations on one’s freedom, and a public record that is accessible by anyone who conducts a background search. As such, it is vital for a person subject to a potential stalking injunction to hire a skilled Sarasota Criminal and Stalking Injunction Defense Attorney immediately to preserve his or her freedom and safeguard his or her constitutional rights.
In Sarasota, Florida, a court can issue a number of different types of injunctions, which depend upon the specific set of circumstances. These include the following:
- Stalking injunctions
- Repeat violence injunctions
- Domestic violence injunctions
- Sexual violence injunctions
- Dating violence injunctions
A person who is facing the prospects of an injunction in Sarasota must thoroughly understand the process for obtaining one, which is vital to protecting one’s legal rights. Specifically, the process commences when an individual known as the “petitioner” files a document in court known as a “petition” for injunctive relief. The nature of the relief depends upon the specific facts of one’s case. The person against whom the injunction is sought is known as the “respondent.”
An injunction is a civil – not criminal – matter, and there do not have to be corresponding criminal charges for such a remedy to be sought. This distinction is critical given the standard of proof involved in a civil case, which is by a preponderance of the evidence. In the alternative, the burden of proof in a criminal matter is beyond a reasonable doubt. Since a civil matter has a lesser burden of proof, it is very possible for a respondent to become subject to an injunction if he or she does not adequately defend himself or herself in court.
If you are facing the prospects of a stalking injunction, you should contact Musca Law immediately at (888) 484-5057 to learn how our attorneys can help safeguard your legal rights and mount the strongest defense case possible.
The Law Pertaining to Stalking and Cyberstalking in Sarasota County, Florida
It is critical to thoroughly understand Florida’s law regarding stalking and cyberstalking in order to vigorously defend oneself in a Sarasota court. Under Section 784.048(2) of the Florida Statutes, it defines stalking and cyberstalking and provides an outline of the consequences associated with a conviction for these offenses. If a person is found guilty of stalking or cyberstalking, he or she faces a potential first-degree misdemeanor, which is associated with a maximum one-year jail term and a monetary fine of up to $1,000.
Under the above-referenced statute, “stalking” is defined as the willful, malicious, and repeated following, harassing, or cyberstalking of another individual. To “harass” means to engage in a court of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose. “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose.
“Cyberstalking” is also defined under the statute as “[t]o engage 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 [t]o access, or attempt to access, the online accounts or 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.” Using electronic means to harass another individual may satisfy the definition of cyberstalking. Such means include, without limitation, emails, text messages, social media postings, social media private messaging, and group chat posts.
There is also a secondary meaning of cyberstalking under Florida law, which is an attempt or attempts the access the electronic or online accounts of another individual without having been given permission to do, which has no legitimate purpose and is done so to cause the alleged victim to suffer from substantial emotional distress.
Florida law dictates that cyberstalking constitutes a misdemeanor in the first degree, where if convicted, the offender will face up to one year in jail and be forced to pay a monetary fine not to exceed $1,000.
Aggravated Stalking in Sarasota, Florida
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. A third-degree felony is associated with a prison term of up to five years and a monetary fine not to exceed $5,000.
The terms “cyberstalking,” “course of conduct,” and “harassment” all mean the same as they do under the stalking statute, which as noted above, is a misdemeanor-level offense. The crime of aggravated stalking, as provided in the statute, requires an additional element, which is that there must be a credible threat of harm made to another person. Credible threats include non-verbal threats, whether they are communicated indirectly, directly, or through electronic means. The intent of the person making the threats is irrelevant for purposes of the statute. Hence, the only relevant consideration under the applicable law is whether the victim believed the accused is able to carry out his or her threats.
There are serious consequences associated with the crimes of aggravated stalking, stalking and cyberstalking. A person who is convicted of one of these crimes may face jail time, harsh monetary fines, and probation. A judge can also require a respondent to seek a mental health evaluation and treatment, if necessary, at his or her own expense. Other repercussions include a “stay-away” order and monetary restitution.
There are additional repercussions associated with stalking, which are substantial. These include damage to one’s reputation, the loss of employment or employment opportunities, the inability to obtain suitable housing, and the inability to pursue educational opportunities.
If an alleged victim is cooperative with the prosecution of a person accused of stalking, then it is highly likely that he or she will request a civil court to issue a stalking injunction. In these cases, the stakes are high. Hence, a person who is facing charges for stalking and/or an injunction against stalking must hire a skilled Sarasota Criminal and Stalking Injunction Defense Attorney as soon as possible in order to safeguard his or her rights and develop the strongest defense strategy possible. Contact Musca Law today to learn more about your legal rights and options.
The Procedure for Obtaining a Stalking Injunction in Sarasota, Florida
It is best for a respondent to have a thorough understanding of the injunction process in Sarasota, Florida, which increases the likelihood of success in one’s case. It is highly risky to represent oneself in court, which is fraught with danger. Judges in Florida, especially those in Sarasota, Florida, will not give a break to a respondent who represents himself or herself. What this means is that the judge will hold the respondent to the same standards as licensed lawyers, which includes the assumption that he or she knows the law, the applicable procedure, and all of the facts in the case. Moreover, a party who represents himself or herself in court could unknowingly surrender his or her constitutional rights, including the right against self-incrimination, should he or she decide to take the stand.
Under Florida law, only certain people can file a petition for an injunction. Those who are the alleged victims of stalking may file a petition to be protected from stalking. Keep in mind that a parent or guardian can file a petition on behalf of a minor who was the alleged victim of stalking. The person who possesses the right to file a court case has “standing” to seek a petition for an injunction. A person without standing has no right to ask the court for protection unless §784.085 of the Florida Statutes permits.
The petitioner must file a thorough petition when requesting a protective order against stalking. This means that the petitioner must complete all of the necessary documentation and submit it to the court for consideration by the presiding judge. At the time when the petition is filed, the judge will review it to be sure that it is sufficient under Florida law.
Once a judge reviews the petition, he or she, if the circumstances warrant, may choose to issue a temporary injunction against the respondent. A temporary injunction only lasts for the time period before the injunction hearing, which is typically fifteen days. Once the judge approves a temporary injunction, constitutional law dictates that the respondent is entitled to notice of the day and time of the hearing, a copy of the petition, and a copy of the temporary injunction order, if one is issued. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office typically serves a respondent in Sarasota, Florida. Otherwise, a law enforcement officer authorized to serve process will provide said information to the respondent. The respondent must abide by the terms of the temporary injunction once he or she is served with the order.
At this juncture, it is critical for a person facing a temporary injunction to hire a skilled and experienced Sarasota Criminal and Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer to mount a strong defense on his or her behalf. The failure to contact a lawyer immediately after being served can have grave consequences, including the issuance of a permanent stalking injunction. Only an experienced attorney knows the ins and outs of the courtroom, the applicable law, the judge, the opposing counsel, and how to develop the strongest defense case possible.
It is important to keep in mind that fifteen days from when the temporary injunction order was issued is often an insufficient period of time for an injunction defense attorney to prepare his or her defense case. That is why attorneys handling injunction matters often request the court to continue, or delay, the hearing date for good cause shown. Despite the fact that more time is often provided to the defense, the temporary injunction nonetheless remains in effect during this extended time period.
During the final injunction hearing, the presiding judge will examine all of the evidence as well as the credibility of all witnesses, if any, who testify. A skilled attorney will know exactly how to present his or her client’s defense case. Such defenses may include, without limitation, bias towards the respondent, a misidentification of the respondent, and/or completely falsified/misrepresented allegations. These all can diminish the credibility of the petitioner in his or her case.
If the judge sides with the petitioner, then the respondent must adhere to all of the injunction terms as set forth by the judge. Any misstep could cause criminal charges to be sought against a respondent, which may amount to jail time, monetary fines, and probation. When issuing a protective order, the judge can make it last for a certain period of time (meaning, that it will have an expiration date) or can set it to remain in effect indefinitely.
The Modification or Termination of a Stalking Injunction in Sarasota, Florida
As noted above, a protective order may terminate on a certain date or be permanent, which is in the judge’s discretion. Both parties have the ability to return to court to seek a modification or termination of the stalking injunction. An example of when a petitioner (or both parties) typically seeks to terminate a stalking injunction is if the parties have made amends. Also, a respondent may pursue a termination of a stalking injunction if it is no longer necessary, such as if he or she moves out of state.
If the injunction has an expiration date, the petitioner can return to court to seek to modify it through filing a motion with the court. This must be done at least 30 days prior to when the stalking injunction is set to expire. Also, if the respondent violated any of the terms of the stalking injunction, the petitioner can ask the court to strengthen its terms or add further restrictions thereto.
Why a Sarasota Criminal and Stalking Injunction Defense Attorney is Essential
In order to save money, many people represent themselves in court, which is fraught with many serious risks. While this may be effective in some cases such as in small claims court, however, when facing the potential for a stalking injunction, the best approach to take is to hire a skilled Sarasota Criminal and Stalking Injunction Defense Attorney who can advise a respondent about his or her legal rights and develop the strongest defense strategy possible. A solid understanding of criminal law is vital in stalking injunction cases, which means that it is critical to work with an attorney who knows the ins and outs of the courtroom, the court’s procedures, the opposing counsel, the judge, and the applicable law Without question, if you are a respondent in a stalking injunction matter, you need to work with an attorney who has proven results in Sarasota and throughout the state of Florida.
Contact the Sarasota Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Today to Safeguard Your Legal Rights
Stalking injunctions can lead to permanent and devastating consequences for a person in Sarasota, Florida. While the stalking injunction process is a civil matter, the aftermath of an injunction can feel much like a criminal matter. If you have been served with a temporary injunction, you must act quickly to speak with a Sarasota Criminal and Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyer. At Musca Law, our award-winning Sarasota Criminal Defense Lawyers have successfully helped other clients overcome the injunction process. To find out how Musca Law may be able to help you or a loved one facing an injunction and/or criminal charges, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057. We are available 24/7 to provide you with the guidance and legal advice you need to move forward.