An alleged stalking case from the Tampa Bay area serves as a reminder of the appropriate legal and procedural hurdles that must be cleared before an injunction against stalking can be issued. In this case, the Second District Court of Appeal overturned the entry of an injunction against a man because the trial court denied him his constitutional rights when it refused to let him put on part of his evidence defending against the assertions made by his ex-girlfriend.
The man accused of stalking, T.C., lived with C.G. in a romantic relationship for seven years that ended in 2015. Sometime after that breakup, C.G. went to court seeking an injunction against stalking. C.G. accused T.C. of making several hundred phone calls and text messages to her family and her. In them, T.C. engaged in “harassing and threatening rants,” as well as threatening to kill himself.
The law allows alleged victims to go to court and seek a temporary injunction on an ex parte basis, meaning that the alleged victim puts on her case without any input, involvement, or attendance by the other side. C.G. sought and received such a temporary injunction. At the final hearing on the permanent injunction, C.G. renewed her claims that T.C. had stalked and threatened her family and her across hundreds of calls and texts.
In his defense, T.C. sought to introduce the actual content of the text messages, which he said would prove that he was not stalking C.G. but contacting her due to his well-intentioned concern that she might start abusing drugs again. To bolster this point, he also tried to admit a witness who would testify about C.G.’s past history of drug abuse. The trial judge rejected T.C.’s request to admit this evidence. Given the enormous quantity of calls and texts, the proposed evidence about C.G.’s alleged drug abuse and T.C.’s alleged concern for her well-being was irrelevant. After refusing to hear this evidence, the trial court entered the injunction.
The man appealed, and the appeals court ruled in his favor, overturning the injunction. The court determined that the hearing T.C. received did not give him a full and fair opportunity to be heard, and, as a result, it violated his constitutional right to procedural due process of law. To meet the requirements of procedural due process, a hearing must give all parties “an opportunity to prove or disprove the allegations made in the complaint.” Additionally, “each party should be permitted to call witnesses with relevant information and” cross-examine the other side’s witnesses. In T.C.’s case, the trial judge flatly refused to allow the man to put on certain evidence in his defense. What’s more, the trial judge wrongfully threatened T.C. with incarceration if he continued to urge the court to let him put on all of his evidence, which the appeals court found “especially troubling.”
Whether you are accused of stalking or seeking protection from someone who is stalking you, it is important to have skilled legal counsel on your side to ensure that all of the parts of your litigation meet all of the requirements of the Constitution. Your stalking injunction case might seem factually straightforward, but that does not mean that it will be simple in terms of the litigation process or that you will not need strong counsel to help you protect your rights. The experienced South Florida domestic violence attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have helped many clients deal with stalking and other injunction cases. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
South Florida Woman’s Evidence of Stalking, Choking Was Enough to Warrant Protective Injunction She Sought, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 25, 2016
Florida Appeals Court Throwns Out Dating Violence Injunction Due to Lack of ‘Imminent Threat’ of Additional Violence, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 6, 2016