Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers in Tallahassee, Florida
Stalking constitutes a wide variety of actions that are prohibited under Florida law. "Alleged" victims of stalking can pursue special protections through the local county legal system. If a Florida court makes the determination that an individual is currently being or has been stalked, then the "accuser" can solicit a legal solution in civil court known as a stalking injunction. A stalking injunction serves to provide protection for the alleged victim against additional harassment or stalking. It is important to understand that stalking injunctions are also commonly referred to as protective orders and restraining orders.
In a criminal case, an individual is arrested, charged, tried in justice court, and could be ordered to spend time in prison. Injunction cases are different than criminal cases because injunctions are civil matters handled in civil court and not in a criminal court. Otherwise stated, injunctions (also known as protective orders and restraining orders) are different since they include preventative actions designed to prevent an individual from experiencing harm versus penalizing the offender after an illegal incident. Notwithstanding, injunction cases in Florida are very serious legal matters that, if the injunction is awarded to a stalking victim, the alleged offender will experience a limit their freedom and the offender with be subject to the terms of that stalking injunction.
Florida Judges are given the authority to issue a stalking injunction, even if there are no criminal charges filed or there is no history of a criminal conviction. Once the court has issued the stalking injunction, the injunction will prevent the named person from speaking to or contacting the alleged victim (and this may also include the victim's family members) or prevents the stalking injunction defendant visiting places where the injunction petitioner lives or works. This can cause the defendant a lot of life-altering problems. A stalking injunction can prevent the defendant from owning, purchasing, owning, or possess firearms and ammunition. Although a stalking injunction is not a jail sentence, the injunction can deprive the defendant of several legal rights, and the courts may do so without the burden of proof typically required in a criminal case. In other words, the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard required in criminal cases is not required for a judge in an injunction court hearing to place a stalking injunction on an individual. In fact, the courts tend to err on the side of safety and order a stalking injunction to prevent the petitioner's possible harm.
If an individual has been served with a stalking injunction, or he or she believes the court has issued one, it is essential that the "respondent" understands how the injunction will affect (i) custody over their children, (ii) their ability to protect themselves, (iii) their right to move around freely, and (iv) to travel.
For many people, being served with a stalking injunction can be scary, and it is crucial for the one accused of stalking the petitioner to remember their legal rights. Also, the respondent has the legal right and should exercise that legal right to challenge the entering of the order. The impact of an injunction is serious, and speaking with an experienced Tallahassee Stalking Injunction Defense Attorney is very important. An attorney experienced in defending against stalking injunctions may serve as your legal advocate. He or she will ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the injunction process. To learn about the stalking injunction process, contact our skilled Tallahassee Stalking Injunction Lawyers at Musca Law today by calling us 24/7 at 1-888-484-5057. We will help you understand the process, your legal rights, and your options.
Injunction Categories in the State of Florida
In Florida, there are five types of protective injunctions. A judge will issue the following five injunctions based on evidence that is presented by the petitioner who is asking for a legal remedy:
- 1) Stalking Injunctions (also includes cyberstalking);
- 2) Domestic Violence Injunction;
- 3) Sexual Violence Injunction;
- 4) Repeat Violence Injunction; and
- 5) Dating Violence Injunction.
It is crucial for the respondent dealing with one of those aforementioned injunctions to thoroughly understand the accusations filed against them and promptly retain legal representation to avoid having any baseless injunctions from being entered into the legal system.
Injunctions and Florida Law: Civil Injunctions and its Criminal Implications
The person who petitions the court for an injunction is called to the petitioner. The petitioner begins the injunction process by filling out and filing a legal document known as a petition. This legal document is filed with the clerk of the court. In a stalking injunction legal matter, the petitioner files the petition for the injunction against another person, and this person is called a respondent.
Fortunately for the respondent, the petitioner does not have to press criminal charges related to any allegations that are given in the petition for a stalking injunction. However, this does make it easier for someone to petition the court for a stalking injunction. Although the petitioner of an injunction isn't required to file related criminal charges against the respondent, an injunction could lead to a criminal investigation resulting in new criminal charges being filed against the respondent. Also, it is important for a respondent to understand that the petitioner is not required by law to cooperate with law enforcement or the government prosecutor in a criminal case against the respondent to be granted an injunction.
The stalking injunction petitioner is required to confirm that he or she was truthful when filling out the petition. If the petitioner does make false accusations within the court documents and petition, the petitioner has violated the law and could face criminal charges such as perjury. The assertions put into a petition are a legally sworn statement and if the petitioner is found to be lying, the petitioner could suffer significant legal consequences.
Florida Injunctions are civil matters, and therefore the burden of proof that a petitioner is required to establish is far less than in a criminal case. In Florida or Federal criminal cases, defendants need to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means an injunction can remain in place even if the defendant in a criminal case if found not guilty in a criminal trial for the same allegations. It is very important for a respondent to understand that when the court has granted a petition and the respondent violates the court's order, the respondent could be charged with a criminal offense. In a criminal case, the respondent would become a defendant. The standard for a conviction would require the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated the stalking injunction.
After a petitioner completes and files a petition, the respondent will be served with the petition, a temporary restraining order (if issued), and a notice to appear in court. The court hearing will allow the respondent to defend themselves against the allegations in the petition. When someone is served with a petition for a stalking protective injunction, these legal matters can be scary. However, the respondent has an opportunity to show that they may not be the type of person as described in the petition. Also, it is extremely important that the respondent reads the order and does not contact the petitioner or any family members of the petitioner. The most important call that a respondent should make is to Musca Law.
Do not risks representing yourself in a stalking injunction matter. Even experienced criminal attorneys do not represent themselves in any legal case. Many times, respondents feel that there is no basis for the petition, and foolishly believe they can simply tell their side of the story, and the petition will be dismissed or denied. Tallahassee Injunction proceedings are complex legal matters that do come with significant repercussions for the respondent. Appearing in court to a stalking injunction hearing without experienced legal counsel is risky. An experienced attorney will understand the courtroom's ins and outs, and an attorney will know the prosecutor and the judge. A stalking injunction respondent is at risk of doing or saying things that can damage their case. As the old saying goes, "He who represents himself has a fool for a client."
Any comments, responses, and statements made by a respondent at the final injunction hearing can be used against the respondent in a potential and corresponding criminal case. In many cases, a respondent thinks that their statements in court are harmless admissions; could be damaging later. A Tallahassee Stalking Injunction Defense Attorney seeks to protect the respondent's legal rights and develop the best defense strategy possible.
The defense attorneys with Musca Law are dedicated and work hard to defend the legal rights of the clients. Our lawyers are experienced in defending people against all types of criminal charges. Our legal professionals understand the process, the law, and the serious nature of criminal offenses and how these offenses may impact a client's life. Our collective 150 years of criminal defense practice will be effective in protecting respondents in any injunction case. Contact our law firm today at 1-888-484-5057 to talk about a possible defense strategy for in your case or your loved one's case.
Stalking and Cyberstalking Charges in Leon County, Florida
Florida law determines the definitions and differences between stalking and cyberstalking in Florida. Florida Statute §784.048 (2) states that stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor. Thus, stalking criminal offenses are punished, if convicted, with a maximum sentence of one year in a Leon County jail, probation, and a fine of up to $1,000. The defendant may also receive a probationary period of one year at the end of the defendant's prison sentence.
Under Florida Statute §784.048 (2), "a person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking." "Harass" means "to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose." "Cyberstalk," a misdemeanor in the first degree, "means:
- • To 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
- • To 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."
"Course of conduct" is described as "a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose."
Aggravated Stalking in Tallahassee, Florida
Although charges for stalking in Florida are typically charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, criminal charges could be enhanced to a third-degree felony depending on the facts and circumstances of the allegations. Under Florida Statutes 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." For the threat to be deemed credible, the alleged victim must have had a reasonable expectation that the alleged perpetrator could carry out the threat.
In Florida, threats can be made indirectly or directly, and a threat includes a variety of non-verbal communications such as emails or text messages. Also, if the alleged offender simply shows a pattern of actions that make an alleged victim fear being harmed, this could meet the standard of aggravated stalking. It is important to understand that an alleged stalker's state of mind is not a critical part of a criminal case. As long as the accused's actions induce the alleged victim into a reasonable fear of harm, this can enhance the original stalking charge to aggravated stalking regardless of whether or not the offender intended to carry out on his or her threat. The alleged victim's state of mind is the key determinant of whether or not the crime is enhanced to an aggravated charge.
If a defendant is convicted of aggravated stalking, the punishments could include a prison sentence, significant monetary fines, and probation. The judge may order the defendant to receive mental health counseling, rehabilitation, and other mental health treatment. The judge will likely order the defendant to have no contact with the alleged victim and their family. The defendant will be prohibited from being in the same place the petitioner visits—for example, the petitioner's school, place of employment, house, and place of worship. Also, a judge could order the defendant to be tracked by a GPS tracking or monitor system.
A conviction for aggravated stalking aggravated cyberstalking can result in loss of employment, the loss of the right to vote (in the event of a felony conviction), a loss of educational opportunities, and the loss of one's Second Amendment right to own a firearm.
Procedures for Stalking Injunctions in Tallahassee, Florida
The first step in the stalking injunction process is for the petitioner to file a petition for a stalking injunction. Once the petition has been filed, a judge will review the petition, its allegations, and the judge may enter a temporary injunction. At the first stage of an injunction case, the judge weighs the potential risks of harm inflicted on the petitioner with the legal rights of the respondent. Often times, the judge will decide to enter a temporary order. The temporary protective order provides the alleged victim protection from harm within the time period in which the petition was filed until the final hearing.
A final hearing is scheduled for fifteen days subsequent to the filing date of the petition. Throughout this period, the respondent will be found and served by a Leon County Sheriff's Office deputy. In the petition, there will be a notice of the hearing date, the allegations made against the respondent, and the details of the temporary injunction, also known as a temporary restraining order. The respondent is required to comply with the terms of a temporary injunction until the date of the final hearing. If the respondent violates the terms of the order, he or she could be charged with criminal charges.
At the final hearing, the petitioner will testify. The respondent is permitted to testify, although it may not be advisable. Witnesses may be called and questioned by either the petitioner or the respondent. Either party may enter physical evidence and exhibits. Often in cases such as these, the evidence will include documents such as emails, phone records, text messages, and medical records. The opposing attorney may cross-examine any witnesses. In the final hearing, respondents will want to explain their side of the story. However, in most cases, it is not advisable because any statements made during a final hearing can be used against the respondent in any future, corresponding criminal proceeding. Therefore, the results can not only impact the hearing but any related, pending criminal proceedings as well.
According to Florida law, the petitioner must prove that the respondent committed two or more different stalking acts that justify the need for a stalking injunction. This requirement was decided in David v. Shack,192 So. 3d 625 (Fla 4th DCA 2016)) and in Touhey v. Seda, 133 So. 3d 1203 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014).
The Extension, Modification, and Termination of Stalking Injunctions in Tallahassee, Florida
A stalking injunction can be terminated or modified after the injunction is ordered. In Florida, both parties have the right to ask the court to terminate or modify an injunction before the injunction expires. To modify or terminate a stalking injunction, either or both parties are required to file a motion with the court that indicates the reasons why the stalking injunction should be modified or terminated. The judge reviews this motion and then determines if the request is warranted.
A petitioner may extend the time period of an existing stalking injunction. This request must be filed at least 30 days before the existing injunction is set to expire. When a petitioner petitions the court to extend an injunction, the respondent may challenge the time extension.
Stalking Injunctions Have Serious Life-Changing Consequences: Do Not Risk Losing Your Rights and Freedoms
Stalking injunctions must be taken seriously. By having an experienced Tallahassee attorney by your side, you have the best chance of navigating the legal matter, which can help you reach a more favorable result. If you are facing a Tallahassee stalking injunction, there is no time to waste. Act now to preserve your legal rights. Contact Musca Law 24/7 at 1-888-484-5057 to speak to an attorney.