Stalking Injunction Defense Lawyers in Vero Beach, Florida
An Overview of Stalking Injunctions in Florida
Stalking behavior can have severe consequences for the life of the victim. Stalking includes a wide variety of behaviors that Florida law prohibits, and victims are able to obtain protection through the legal system. If a Florida court determines that a person is being stalked, then it will issue a stalking injunction, which prevents the alleged stalker from continuing to harass the victim. Injunctions are sometimes referred to as restraining orders or protective orders.
The criminal legal system is typically thought of in terms of a suspect being arrested, tried for crimes, and often serving time in prison. Injunctions differ because they involve preventative measures sought after in a civil court that is designed to stop a person from suffering harm rather than punishing an offender after the fact. Still, injunctions limit the freedom of the person who is subject to that injunction.
Judges in Florida have the power to issue injunctions without anyone ever being convicted in court for a crime. Once the injunction is in place, it may prevent the person from contacting, speaking to, or going to various locations where the person requesting the injunction lives or works. In many cases, the injunction will also prevent a person from owning, purchasing, or otherwise obtaining firearms and ammunition. Injunctions might not be a prison sentence, but they take away many rights that a person would otherwise possess, and they do so without any burden of the court to show that the individual was guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is important for anyone who is facing a stalking injunction to also understand that having that order in place will impact other parts of his or her life. People facing an injunction can lose custody of their children, their ability to protect themselves, and their right to move freely and travel.
Facing an injunction can be intimidating, but it is crucial that anyone accused of stalking remember that they too have rights, and the opportunity to fight against the entering of the order. Because of the massive impact of such injunctions, hiring an experienced attorney is extremely important. A Vero Beach, Florida stalking injunction defense attorney can serve as your legal advocate and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.
Florida Injunction Categories
There are five types of protective injunctions in Vero Beach, Florida. A judge is able to issue these injunctions based on the evidence presented by the person seeking this legal remedy:
- Stalking Injunctions (also includes cyberstalking);
- Domestic Violence Injunction;
- Sexual Violence Injunction;
- Repeat Violence Injunction; and
- Dating Violence Injunction.
It is important for anyone facing one of these injunctions to fully understand the allegations made against them and to seek legal counsel to prevent any unwarranted or baseless injunctions from being entered.
Injunctions and the Law: Civil Injunctions and Criminal Implications
A person who seeks to have an injunction entered by the court is referred to as a petitioner. This person must initiate the process by filing pleadings with the clerk of the court. In a stalking injunction case, the pleadings are referred to as petitions, and the petitioner can complete a form that the court provides for this purpose.
While many petitions for injunctions involve an allegation of legal violations, the petitioner is not under any obligation to file criminal charges related to any claims he or she makes in relation to the petition. The petition for an injunction can stand on its own in the absence of criminal charges. While there is not a requirement to file criminal charges, in many cases, the petition for the injunction will come along with a criminal investigation and potential charges. There is no legal requirement that the petitioner even cooperates with the criminal case in order to have their petition granted.
The petitioner must verify that he or she is truthfully filling out the forms, and in the event that the petitioner makes false claims within the petition or other court documents, then that person has committed perjury and could face charges. The allegations are considered a sworn statement by the petitioner. Lying on such documents can carry severe consequences.
Injunctions in Florida are civil matters, and this means that the burden of proof that the petitioner must satisfy is not as stringent as that used in criminal matters. In criminal cases, the defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The person whom the petition is filed against will be referred to in court and related documents as the respondent. The burden of proof that a petitioner faces is lower and can be met with less evidence than would be necessary for a criminal proceeding. This means that even if the criminal charges do not result in a conviction, and the injunction could still be issued for the same allegations.
It is important to note that if the petition is granted, and the respondent violates that petition, the respondent can face criminal charges. In the criminal case, the respondent, who would become a defendant, would need to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable for violating the protective order.
Once the petitioner has completed and filed the paperwork for the injunction, the respondent will be served with the petition and given the notice of his or her need to appear in court to defend against the allegations.
Receiving the service of a petition for a stalking injunction can be confusing, frightening, and disorienting. Under no circumstances should the respondent attempt to contact the person who entered the petition. The first call to make should be to an experienced Vero Beach, criminal defense attorney. While many people believe that they can face the charges alone, that the court will see that the allegations are baseless, or that they can clear up misunderstandings in court without paying an attorney, this is an extremely risky move. Injunction proceedings are complicated matters that have severe consequences for the respondent. By appearing in court without an advocate who understands the law and the process, the respondent will put themselves at risk of saying or doing the wrong thing, and of not taking advantage of the rights provided to them by the United States Constitution.
The statements that a respondent makes in court at the injunction hearing could end up being used against him or her at a criminal proceeding. Even what might seem like harmless admissions may prove damaging at a later time. Having an attorney will prevent prosecutors from taking advantage of an unrepresented individual. A criminal defense lawyer will protect the respondent’s rights and develop a strategy for defending against any and all allegations of wrongdoing.
The attorneys at Musca Law are passionate about defending their Vero Beach clients’ rights. Our attorneys are experienced in defending citizens against criminal allegations. We understand the process, the law, and how seriously these charges can impact a person’s life. Our collective 150 years of experience can be used to protect defendants and respondents in injunction cases. Contact our attorneys today at 888-484-5057 to discuss a defense strategy for your case.
Stalking and Cyberstalking in Vero Beach, Florida (FL)
Florida law states what is considered stalking and cyberstalking in Vero Beach. Florida Statute §784.048 (2) states that stalking is coded as a first-degree misdemeanor. As such, criminal charges for stalking can result in a sentence of up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The defendant, in such a case, may also face a year-long probationary period at the completion of jail time.
By definition, stalking means that the defendant has willfully or maliciously acted in a harassing way towards another individual, or followed an individual. Harassment is an ongoing act that does not have a legitimate person, and that is directed at one specific person. For a course of conduct to be considered harassment, it must also cause the victim of the behavior to suffer from severe or substantial emotional distress. A course of conduct is ongoing and must indicate that the person who engaged in the conduct has a continuity of purpose.
Cyberstalking, which is also included in the statute, is similar in that it involves repetitive communication with a person that is designed to harass and/or cause emotional distress to the person who receives the communication. The difference is that these communications are carried out electronically. The contact can involve statements or language, but also could be images or videos. A person may also commit cyberstalking by making repetitive and illegitimate attempts to access the victim’s online accounts and is doing so with the intent to cause the victim to suffer severe emotional distress. Like other forms of stalking, cyberstalking is a misdemeanor in the first degree.
Aggravated Stalking in Vero Beach, Florida
While stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida law, the charges can be upgraded to a third-degree felony in certain circumstances. Florida Statutes Section 784.048(3) states that when a person who maliciously or willfully harassed, follows, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to the victim, the perpetrator may be guilty of an aggregated stalking offense. In order for the threat to be credible, the victim must carry a reasonable belief that the alleged stalker is capable of acting on the threat.
The threat could have been made directly or indirectly and can include non-verbal communication. Even a pattern of conduct can qualify if it reasonably leads the person to believe that they are at risk of being harmed by the alleged stalker. It is important to note that the state of mind of the accused is not an important factor in this case. The accused’s actions, if they reasonably led to such fear, can qualify even if the person did not intend to carry out the threat. The victim’s state of mind is what determines whether the crime was aggravated.
In cases where the accused is convicted of an aggravated offense, the results include prison time and heightened fines. The judge can also sentence the offender to probationary time, counseling, rehabilitation, and other consequences as well. The offender may be ordered not to contact the victim and the victim’s family, not to go to places where the victim is likely to be, such as their place of work or school, and can even order the person to wear a GPS monitor or tracking system.
Beyond the sentencing or legal punishments, convictions for stalking and cyberstalking, and for aggravated offenses can include lost employment, or loss of employment opportunities, loss of educational opportunities, losing the right to vote (in the event of an aggravated case involving a felony conviction), and the loss of the second amendment right to possess arms. Avoiding these consequences is only possible by avoiding the conviction in the first place.
Hiring an attorney is the best way to protect a person’s rights. While it is impossible to predict the outcome of a legal proceeding, an experienced attorney will be able to develop a strong defense strategy based on the facts of the case. The criminal defense attorneys at Musca Law are ready to discuss your case.
Procedures for Stalking Injunctions in Indian River County, Florida
The first step the petitioner must make in one of these proceedings is to file the petition for an injunction. Once the petition is filed, a judge may enter a temporary injunction after carefully reviewing the petition and the included allegations. The judge is placed in the position of having to weigh the respondent’s rights against potential risks to the safety of the petitioner. In many cases, the judge will enter the temporary order to protect the person in the time between the petition being filed and the date at which the hearing will take place. When a judge enters a temporary order, it does not mean that the judge intends to enter a permanent order, only that the judge is trying to ensure that the petitioner is not physically harmed before the case can move forward and a final determination can be made.
The hearing will be set for fifteen days from when the temporary order is issued. During that period, the sheriff’s office will locate and attempt to serve the respondent. The respondent will receive notice of the hearing date, the allegations, and will be informed of the temporary injunction. The respondent must comply with the terms of the temporary injunction prior to the hearing date. Violating such an order will have severe consequences.
At the final hearing, the judge can refuse to enter the injunction, can enter it form a set period of time, or enter a permanent injunction. The hearing will include testimony, and potentially witnesses called by either party, as well as physical evidence and exhibits. Some documents and evidence that are often used include emails, text messages, phone records, and medical records. Any witnesses called may be cross-examined by opposing counsel.
Respondents often feel the need to testify and tell their side of the story. However, there are many implications of doing so that can negatively impact the respondent in the future. An attorney can explain the reasons to or not to testify in one of these hearings. A respondent who believes that he or she is clearing up the situation can say something that instead is incriminating, and therefore may forfeit his or her fifth amendment right to remain silent. The results can not only impact the hearing but related criminal proceedings as well.
Under Florida case law, the petitioner is tasked with the burden of proving that the respondent carried out two or more separate stalking acts that warrant the need for an injunction (David v. Shack,192 So. 3d 625 (Fla 4th DCA 2016)). In Touhey v. Seda, 133 So. 3d 1203 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014), the court stated that at least two acts must be substantial in order for the judge to enter the stalking injunction.
Judges often enter injunctions after hearings because they are seeking to prevent further conflict. In some instances, they will deny such protections completely. The result of a case is more likely to be favorable if the respondent is represented by legal counsel.
Modifying, Terminating, and Extending Vero Beach Stalking Injunctions
An injunction can be modified or terminated after it is entered. The respondent and the petitioner both have the right to petition for the termination of the injunction prior to its expiration. In order to do so, the respondent must file a motion stating why the injunction should be lifted. The judge will review the motion and then consider the modification or termination of the stalking injunction.
If a petitioner wishes to extend a stalking injunction, he or she must move to do so within 30 days of the termination of the original injunction. If the move to extend the injunction is not completed on time, the order may be lifted. When the petitioner moves to extend the injunction, the respondent has the right to defend against the extension.
Stalking Injunctions Are Serious: Do Not Risk Your Freedom and Your Rights
An injunction has long-lasting effects on a person’s life. Ensuring that a person receives all of the protections provided by law requires that the individual is represented by legal counsel. Stalking injunctions should be taken seriously. Having an attorney who knows how to navigate the legal system puts respondents in the best possible situation. Contact a Vero Beach defense attorney. You can reach our office 24/7 at 888-484-5057. If you are facing a Vero Beach stalking injunction, there is no time to waste.