Florida Stalking Injunctions
Florida law offers victims of stalking two layers of protection. First, stalking is a crime and as such it can result in an arrest and incarceration. The crime of stalking–which includes cyberstalking–is at least a misdemeanor of the first degree. But under some circumstances, stalking may be charged as a felony of the third degree. In addition to fines, imprisonment and other penalties, the sentencing court may enter an order restraining or prohibiting the convicted stalker from contacting the victim.
The second layer of protection that Florida law offers the victims of stalking is the right to directly petition the court for an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking. To do this a victim of stalking would travel to the Office of the Clerk of the Court to file such a petition. It is important to understand that this type of proceeding is completely independent of any kind of criminal proceeding. Further, if the victim is a minor, a parent or guardian may file the petition on the minor’s behalf. A restrained person who violates the terms of the injunction may face serious consequences, including punishment for contempt of court or for the separate crime of violation of an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking or Cyberstalking.
What is Stalking?
In Florida, “stalking” is defined as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing, or cyberstalking another person. There’s some vague language there, so let’s break it down.
Harassment is defined as:
- Engaging in a course of conduct
- Directed at a specific person
- That causes substantial emotional distress to that person, and
- Serves no legitimate purpose
Cyberstalking is defined as either:
- Engaging in a course of conduct to communicate words, images or language through email or other electronic communications, directed at a specific person, or
- Accessing or attempting to access the online accounts or internet-connected home electronic systems of another person without permission
Obtaining an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking
Florida makes it easy for a stalking victim to request an injunction for protection. You may also hear this injunction described as a stalking restraining order or a stalking order of protection.
The petition can be filed in any one of several venues: the circuit where the petitioner lives, where the petitioner is temporarily staying, where the respondent lives, or where the stalking took place. There’s no filing fee for an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking. And, the office of the Clerk of the Court can provide simple forms and instructions to anyone who wants to file for an injunction.
In addition to basic identifying and contact information, the petition must include:
- Basic information about the parties involved
- The allegations of the behavior that constitutes stalking
- Information about any other court proceeding pending between the petitioner and respondent
The petition is signed under penalty of perjury.
The court may immediately enter a temporary injunction, but must schedule a hearing as quickly as possible. A temporary injunction the court enters without hearing from the respondent is valid for a fixed period of no more than 15 days. At the hearing, the court will determine whether the injunction should be extended.
What Does a Stalking Injunction Prohibit?
Florida courts have broad discretion to enter appropriate orders, however an injunction will only limit the behavior of the person the injunction is filed against, also known as the Respondent. For example, a stalking protection order may:
- Prohibit the Respondent from directly contacting the petitioner
- Prohibit further acts of stalking
- Restrain the respondent from being within 500 feet of locations such as the petitioner’s home, school, or workplace
- Restrain the respondent from calling or otherwise contacting the petitioner
- Restrain the respondent from having other people call or contact the petitioner on the respondent’s behalf
- Restrain the respondent from interfering with petitioner’s property
- Require the respondent to seek counseling or participate in treatment
- Require the respondent to surrender guns
It’s important for both parties to ensure that they thoroughly understand the terms of the injunction. An experienced Jacksonville injunction attorney can be the best resource for information and answers to any questions you may have about the process or about exactly what is required to comply with the injunction.
Violation of a Stalking Injunction
In some circumstances, the person accused of violating a stalking injunction is arrested during or shortly after the alleged violation. Imagine, for example, that someone who has been restrained from coming within 500 feet of the protected person’s home violates that prohibition and comes knocking on the petitioner’s door. That incident may trigger a call to police and an arrest in the petitioner’s yard.
But, it doesn’t always play out that way. For instance, the restrained person may make harassing phone calls to the victim after being restrained from making contact. If the respondent hasn’t been arrested, the petitioner can initiate the process by submitting an affidavit describing the violation. The affidavit goes to the prosecuting attorney and to the court.
The prosecutor’s office would then decide whether to file criminal charges or a motion for an order to show cause why the respondent should not be held in contempt could be filed by the petitioner. But, the situation may be more urgent. If the court believes the petitioner is in immediate danger, the judge can decide to proceed with contempt of court.
The consequences of violating an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking vary depending on a variety of factors, including:
- The respondent’s history of violating injunctions
- Whether the victim suffered any injury or loss as a result of the violation
- Whether the violation is addressed as contempt of court or a new criminal charge
If the prosecution proceeds with criminal charges and the defendant has two or more previous convictions for violating injunctions or protective orders, the crime is a felony and may result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The statute also provides that a person who suffers an injury or loss due to the violation may be awarded economic damages, including attorney fees for enforcement of the injunction.
Talk to a Jacksonville Stalking Injunction Attorney
The issues surrounding an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking are serious. That’s true whether you’re a stalking victim looking to protect yourself and your family, a respondent who has been served with a temporary injunction and notice of a hearing, or a restrained person who has been accused of violating the injunction.
It’s in your best interest to talk with a Duval County injunction attorney right away. To learn more about attorney Matthew Lufrano’s experience and how he may be able to help you, schedule a free consultation right now by calling 904-513-3905 or filling out the contact form on this site. Additionally, if you have a hearing date scheduled, be sure to let us know.