Domestic Violence Injunction Defense Lawyers in St. Petersburg, Florida
Domestic violence is an ongoing problem not only in St. Petersburg, Florida, but throughout the rest of the state and country. However, it is not uncommon for individuals to be accused of domestic violence when such allegations are false. False or misleading allegations of domestic violence in St. Petersburg can severely harm a person’s reputation, livelihood, and constitutional rights.
What is especially difficult for individuals accused of domestic violence in St. Petersburg is that they can suffer criminal-like consequences resulting from a domestic violence injunction. Even if there is no criminal investigation into a person’s alleged acts of domestic violence, this individual can still be subject to a domestic violence injunction, which is a civil court order that, if not followed, can lead to criminal charges.
The St. Petersburg Domestic Violence Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law routinely handle civil injunction matters including domestic violence injunctions, dating violence injunctions, repeat violence injunctions, stalking injunctions, and sexual violence injunctions. While injunctions are civil matters, anyone facing an injunction will need the assistance of a highly skilled St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer.
At Musca Law, our lawyers handle criminal matters ranging from minor misdemeanors to capital felonies as well as civil injunction matters. Because the violation of a St. Petersburg domestic violence injunction can lead to criminal penalties, anyone facing such an injunction must act quickly to speak with a lawyer. To find out how Musca Law can help you, contact our office 24/7 by calling (888) 484-5057.
Understanding Protective Injunctions in St. Petersburg, Florida
Injunctions are civil court orders that effectively force one party to comply with a court’s ruling and instructions regarding a legal matter. Injunctions that involve the protection of one’s safety are known as protective injunctions, protective orders, and restraining orders. Under Florida law, there are five types of protective injunctions available to individuals alleging that, without a court order, their safety may be at risk. The five types of injunctions include the following:
- Domestic Violence Injunctions;
- Dating Violence Injunctions;
- Sexual Violence Injunctions;
- Repeat Violence Injunctions; and
- Stalking Injunctions.
The person seeking an injunction must file a petition in court, and this person is known as the “petitioner.” The person on the receiving end of an injunction is known as the “respondent.” To obtain an injunction, the petitioner must use a court-approved form to identify (1) the type of injunction being sought, (2) the facts supporting the alleged act(s) of violence, and (3) any available evidence that can corroborate the facts. Regardless of the type of injunction being sought, the petitioner is asking that a civil court enter an order that prohibits the respondent from coming into contact with the petitioner, among other restrictions that are intended to prevent imminent harm.
Domestic violence injunctions are commonly sought in St. Petersburg as many acts of alleged violence happen in the home between household members or between parents who share a child. Acts of alleged domestic violence often happen between spouses, ex-spouses, partners who live together, siblings, parents and children, grandparents, cousins, and anyone else who may be considered a family or household member under Florida law.
What Qualifies as Domestic Violence Under Florida Law?
Per Florida Statute § 741.28, “domestic violence” is defined as “any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household members by another family or household matter.”
Florida law considers a “family or household member” to be “spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as a family or who have resided together in the past as a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married.” Aside from parents not living together who have a child in common, all family or household members involved in alleged acts of domestic violence (both the alleged perpetrator and alleged victim(s)) must either be currently living together or have lived together in the past.
The Process for Seeking a Domestic Violence Injunction in Pinellas County Florida
A person seeking a domestic violence injunction in St. Petersburg, Florida, must follow the appropriate legal steps to obtain the injunction in court. Failure to adhere to all requirements under Florida law will likely result in the denial of a request for a domestic violence injunction. However, many respondents in a domestic violence injunction matter may not know how to identify and exploit a petitioner’s failure to meet legal requirements, which is one very important reason why it is essential to act quickly to retain a St. Petersburg Domestic Violence Injunction Defense Lawyer.
Threshold Requirements Under Florida Law to Seek a Domestic Violence Injunction
Per Florida Statute § 741.30, the petitioner in a domestic violence injunction matter must meet the following requirements to obtain an injunction after filing a petition:
- The petitioner is considered a family or household member under Florida law; and
- The petitioner and/or the petitioner’s minor child is the victim of domestic violence; or
- The petitioner reasonably believes that he/she and/or a minor child is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of domestic violence.
While all allegations of domestic violence should be taken seriously, all individuals accused of committing acts of domestic violence deserve to present their case in court. As previously stated, there is no requirement under Florida law that a criminal matter regarding alleged acts of domestic violence to be pending at the time a petitioner seeks a domestic violence injunction. However, anyone facing an injunction must treat the situation as if it is a criminal matter.
The Domestic Violence Injunction Process Involves Numerous Steps
If a petitioner meets the legal threshold requirements to file a petition seeking a domestic violence injunction in St. Petersburg, Florida, the injunction process moves forward through the following steps:
- Filing the Petition – The petitioner will file a petition seeking a domestic violence injunction in court, which is a sworn document that must be signed in the presence of a notary or Clerk of Court. While not required under Florida law, a petitioner can provide supporting documentation that may corroborate alleged acts of domestic violence.
- Issuance of a Temporary Injunction – A civil court judge will review the petition seeking the domestic violence injunction and will quickly decide to either deny the request for the injunction or grant a temporary injunction. In many cases, judges will give the petitioner the benefit of the doubt if the underlying allegations of domestic violence are credible.
- Scheduling the Injunction Hearing – At the same time that a judge issues a temporary domestic violence injunction, he or she will schedule a hearing which will decide whether a temporary injunction should become permanent or should be terminated. The hearing is scheduled no more than fifteen (15) days after the court enters the preliminary injunction order.
- Service of Process – After a court enters a temporary domestic violence injunction and schedules the hearing, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office will serve the respondent with the injunction, which provides the date of the hearing when the respondent must appear.
- Filing a Motion for Continuance – Because the hearing is scheduled no more than fifteen (15) days after the issuance of the temporary domestic violence injunction, a respondent can and should retain an attorney who can file a motion for continuance which will postpone the hearing to a later date. By obtaining a continuance, a respondent and his or her attorney have more time to prepare for the hearing.
- The Injunction Hearing – On the date of the hearing, both parties will appear to argue whether the court should make the temporary domestic violence injunction permanent or terminate the injunction. Respondents who appear without an attorney are at a disadvantage and may not know what defenses they can raise to refute the petitioner’s allegations. The parties can call witnesses and present evidence (such as documented communications, photographs, and other relevant documents) for the judge to consider before issuing a final order.
- The Court’s Final Decision – After the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will decide whether to issue a permanent injunction, which may or may not have an expiration date. If a domestic violence injunction is issued after the hearing, the respondent will be forced to comply with all terms of the order, and violation of any terms may result in criminal charges.
Many people may not realize how serious a domestic violence injunction can be for a respondent. As such, many respondents defend themselves in court without the assistance of a qualified St. Petersburg Domestic Violence Injunction Defense Lawyer. By appearing alone, respondents do not always present viable defenses to the allegations simply because they do not know they have the legal right to do so. An attorney will thoroughly investigate the allegations underlying the petition and will develop the best defenses possible to present in court.
Examples of common defenses to petitions for domestic violence injunctions, include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
- The respondent did not commit the alleged acts of domestic violence identified in the petition seeking the injunction;
- The petitioner and respondents are not considered “family or household members” under Florida law (i.e., the parties did not live together nor were parents to a child in common);
- The petitioner’s allegations are misleading and do not accurately portray the facts; and
- The respondent has evidence to support allegations that the petitioner has committed acts of domestic violence, has committed a crime involving false information in the past, or has committed any other acts which call into question the petition’s allegations.
All defenses will vary from one case to the next as all domestic violence injunction matters in St. Petersburg are individualized. Simply put, all cases are unique and require a thorough evaluation not only of the petitioner’s allegations and the respondent’s potential defenses, but also the identity of the judge overseeing the matter. Knowledge of the judge is a crucial factor as a qualified St. Petersburg Domestic Violence Injunction Defense Lawyer will be familiar with how a judge typically rules on similar matters.
The Consequences of a Permanent Domestic Violence Injunction in St. Petersburg, Florida
Domestic violence injunctions in St. Petersburg can significantly hinder a respondent’s rights. A few examples of what may happen if a permanent domestic violence injunction is issued include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Limitation on the distance a respondent must maintain from the petitioner;
- The requirement to surrender firearms and ammunition during the pendency of the domestic violence injunction;
- The requirement to undergo a mental health evaluation;
- The requirement to receive mental health treatment at the respondent’s expense; and
- Potentially facing criminal charges for violating any portion of the domestic violence injunction.
What many people may not realize is that injunctions are viewable to the public, along with most other civil records (such as marriage records, divorce records, and business records, among others). Having a domestic violence injunction on one’s record can be damaging to the person’s reputation even when the person is not facing criminal charges for the conduct alleged in the petition seeking the injunction. An injunction can brand a person as violent and abusive when that may not be the case. As such, while an attorney cannot guarantee positive results in a domestic violence injunction matter, having the right attorney can substantially increase the chances of achieving a favorable result.
Terminating and Modifying Domestic Violence Injunctions in St. Petersburg, Florida
Domestic violence injunctions in St. Petersburg may have an expiration date of weeks, months, or even years after the date the permanent injunction is issued. However, grounds may exist to terminate or modify an existing domestic violence injunction. For example, if one party moves out of state, a domestic violence injunction may no longer be necessary. Additionally, if the parties subject to the injunction have made amends, one or both parties may wish to terminate the injunction. Moreover, if a petitioner believes a respondent has violated the domestic violence injunction, he or she can seek to modify the injunction by strengthening the terms of the injunction as well as potentially opening the door to the respondent facing criminal charges.
Whatever the reason may be for wishing to terminate or modify/change a domestic violence injunction, the party must file a motion with the court. Any motion should be filed with the assistance of an attorney as an attorney will know what arguments to raise to convince a court that an injunction should or should not be terminated or modified.
Violating a Domestic Violation Injunction in St. Petersburg, Florida
Many domestic violence injunctions will identify a variety of ways in which the injunction may be violated. Examples of conduct that may violate a domestic violence injunction in St. Petersburg include, among others, the following:
- The respondent comes into close contact with the petitioner;
- The respondent allegedly commits additional acts of domestic violence;
- The respondent is charged with acts of domestic violence;
- The respondent continues to possess firearms or ammunition;
- The respondent allegedly threatens the petitioner; and
- The respondent fails to undergo the required mental health evaluation and treatment.
Because all domestic violence injunctions will be unique from one case to the next, how the injunction can be violated may be different. One of the most common ways to violate a domestic violence injunction in St. Petersburg is when the respondent comes into close contact with the petitioner. Such contact can happen at any time without warning when both parties live in the same city. When a petitioner alleges a respondent has violated a domestic violence injunction when, in fact, the respondent happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, a respondent is at risk of facing criminal charges for conduct that was not intentional.
Given that mere allegations can be powerful in the context of civil injunctions, respondents must do whatever they can to ensure their legal rights are protected. Finding an attorney who specializes in criminal law and civil protective injunction matters is critical to building the best defense possible.
Criminal Penalties for Violating a Domestic Violence Injunction in St. Petersburg, Florida
If a court finds that a respondent has violated a domestic violence injunction in St. Petersburg, he or she may face criminal charges under Florida law, which include the following:
- First Violation – A respondent who violates a domestic violence injunction for the first time faces a first-degree misdemeanor, which may result in jail time of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Second Violation – A respondent who violates a domestic violence injunction for the second time faces a first-degree misdemeanor. But, a second violation may be elevated to a felony in certain circumstances.
- Third Violation – A respondent who violates a domestic violence injunction for the third time faces a third-degree felony, which may result in jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Fourth and Subsequent Violation – A respondent who violates a domestic violence injunction for a third or subsequent time faces a third-degree felony. As such, a respondent could have multiple felonies on his/her record for repeat violations.
Compliance with a domestic violence injunction is critical to a respondent’s legal rights. As such, all injunction matters must be treated like any criminal matter. When legal rights are on the line and violation of a civil order can lead to serious criminal charges, anyone facing a domestic violence injunction should not hesitate to find the best St. Petersburg Domestic Violence Injunction Defense Lawyer to handle the injunction matter.
Contact the St. Petersburg Domestic Violence Injunction Defense Lawyers of Musca Law Today
Domestic violence injunctions happen quickly and can compromise your legal rights. If you have been served with a temporary domestic violence injunction, it is essential to move quickly to retain a qualified St. Petersburg Defense Lawyer. At Musca Law, our nationally-recognized trial lawyers have more than 150 years of combined experience defending clients who have faced serious criminal charges as well as civil injunctions. To find out whether Musca Law can help you with your legal matter, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057. We are standing by 24/7 to provide you with the information and guidance you need to move forward.