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.
When you believe that you are threatened by your partner or former partner, the law and the courts may be a vital part of enhancing your safety. In order to make sure that you protect yourself, it is important to be sure that you are pursuing the proper type of injunction of protection. In one recent case originating in Palm Beach County, the Fourth District Court of Appeal revived a woman’s case seeking an injunction of protection against repeat violence. Contrary to the trial court’s decision, the woman did present a valid case because the woman’s evidence of stalking qualified as “violence.”
A South Florida man made a significant mistake when he arrived at court for a hearing in September 2014. He assumed “this was simple.” He didn’t hire a lawyer, and his wife did. When he left court, he had an injunction for protection against domestic violence entered against him, even though he had received less than three business days’ notice that his wife would accuse him of physical abuse at the hearing. When the husband did hire a lawyer to represent him on appeal, he got the injunction overturned by the Fourth District Court of Appeal because the short notice he received violated his due process rights. The man’s case is a stern reminder to assume nothing about any court hearing, always take them seriously, and take every step available to protect yourself, including hiring counsel.
The case arose from the troubled marriage of Palm Beach County couple M.V. (husband) and K.V. (wife). The wife went to court in the summer of 2014, seeking a protective injunction. She accused her husband of both stalking her and destroying her personal property. The trial judge declined to issue the injunction, concluding that the assertions the wife made were not enough to meet the legal requirements for issuing a protective injunction. The judge told the wife, however, that she could supplement her allegations with additional evidence to meet the legal standards. The court scheduled another hearing for Wednesday of the next week.
If your ex-boyfriend or -girlfriend punched you, giving you a black eye in the process, that might make you concerned for your well-being. If, in addition, your home had been vandalized the month before, this might serve, in conjunction with the physical violence, to raise your concern even higher. However, as a recent 5th District Court of Appeal ruling demonstrates, the law regarding injunctions against dating violence requires very specific levels of proof, and one act of violence coupled with an anonymous act of vandalism are not enough to trigger the issuance of an injunction.
The woman seeking the injunction, C.S., had been in a dating relationship with V.N. that was at its end in the spring of 2015. When it ended, V.N. sent C.S. two emails expressing regret over the relationship’s demise, but C.S. did not view them as threatening. In May of that year, someone vandalized her home’s air conditioner and pool, but she did not know who committed the act. Then, in June, V.N. arrived at C.S.’s home to pick up some of his personal things. A physical altercation ensued, with V.N. twisting C.S.’s arm and giving her a black eye.
A Florida resident who initially obtained an injunction of protection against her ex-boyfriend from a Lee County trial court lost that order when the 2d District Court of Appeal reversed the ruling. The injunction was improper because the woman lacked enough clear evidence that the ex-boyfriend had engaged in acts of domestic violence, other than an “isolated” incident that took place nearly two years before the woman went to court.
The origins of the case were a series of ominous but arguably circumstantial events. In the spring of 2013, C.J. decided to move out of the apartment she had been sharing with her boyfriend, G.L. A week later, C.J. and her mother each found that all of the tires on their vehicles were flat. Three months later, C.J.’s house was “shot up.” Three months after that, her car was vandalized, and three months after the vandalism, someone set her car on fire. C.J. did not see G.L. commit any of the acts, but, according to C.J., after each event, G.L. would check with one of the woman’s friends “to see if they knew anything.”
Cases in which one person seeks an injunction for protection from domestic violence are very serious matters for the alleged victim. The consequences of a wrongfully entered injunction can also be substantial for the person standing accused. Since the legal impact of a domestic violence injunction is so significant, Florida law allows an accused person to contest the injunction through the court system, even if the injunction’s expiration date has passed. Based on this rule, a Central Florida man was given a new opportunity by the 5th District Court of Appeal to pursue getting his injunction thrown out, even though it had expired.
The case, which began in Orange County, involved D.J (husband). and S.J. (wife). The wife went to court seeking an injunction for protection from domestic violence against David. When an alleged victim of domestic violence goes to court seeking an injunction for protection, the court always considers the entry of two types of injunctions: temporary and final. As soon as the alleged victim files a petition for an injunction, the trial judge reviews that petition and decides whether or not a temporary injunction is warranted, and, if an immediate and present threat of violence exists, the temporary injunction is entered. These injunctions last, at most, 15 days. Final injunctions are ones issued by the judge after the conclusion of a full hearing. Some final injunctions have expiration dates set by the court, while others are indefinite in their duration.
A South Florida woman’s pursuit of a permanent injunction for protection from domestic violence against her former partner of 13 years was not yet at its conclusion after the 3d District Court of Appeal threw out a trial court’s decision entering the injunction. The woman, at her permanent injunction hearing, brought up incidents of violence that she had not mentioned in her injunction petition. By allowing her to testify to these previously undisclosed incidents, the trial court denied the man his due process rights to receive fair notice of the charges against him. All was not lost for the woman, though, since the appeals court reinstated her temporary injunction for protection and awarded her a new hearing where she could re-introduce the improper evidence as long as she amended her petition first.
O.L. and Y.C. were a couple from 1997 to 2010. Their relationship produced three children. Unfortunately, as happens with some couples, the relationship ended…and ended badly. In September 2010, Y.C. went to court seeking a domestic violence protective injunction. The trial court issued a temporary injunction, which was extended several times until the court convened a final hearing in 2013. At that final hearing, Y.C. alleged several instances of domestic violence carried out by O.L.
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Today, more than ever, the online world offers a multitude of ways to follow the actions of other people. The ability to be profoundly involved in another person’s life, against their will, without actually being near them is why states like Florida have laws against cyberstalking. An estranged husband’s alleged online activity, even though it raised the possibility that he hacked into his wife’s computer and Facebook account, did not meet the law’s definition of cyberstalking because he did not post anything specifically directed at the wife, the 2d District Court of Appeal recently ruled.
The backdrop to this case involved an estranged married couple, Sammie and Maureen H. Although the pair was estranged, they remained Facebook friends. As a result of this connection, the wife could see the husband’s posts on the social media site, including two disquieting ones. One was a private Facebook message conversation the wife had with a third party, and the other was the lyrics to the song “Secret Lovers,” a 1985 pop hit by the R&B group Atlantic Starr. The wife had recently been listening to the Atlantic Starr song on her home computer so, in her view, the husband could only have know about her music playlist and her private Facebook conversations by hacking into her computer and virtually spying on her. She testified that a keystroke logging mechanism was found on her computer, but she had no proof that the husband did it.
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A woman who took her child and fled an allegedly abusive husband was unable to successfully move her divorce and child custody case to a court in her new home in South Florida. The 1st District Court of Appeal, while openly expressing sympathy for the woman’s difficult position, threw out an order transferring the case from Tallahassee to Miami-Dade County because, when the original divorce petition was filed, the couple had only lived in Tallahassee, making that location the only permissible place where the case could be heard.
The case regarded the difficult and allegedly violent breakup of the marriage of KM (husband) and TM (wife). The husband filed for divorce in September 2013 in Tallahassee, where the couple was living with their child. Shortly thereafter, a dispute reportedly erupted between the couple, and the husband allegedly punched the wife several times. The wife left Tallahassee and went to stay with her mother in Miami. The wife obtained a domestic violence injunction against the husband from a court in Miami-Dade County.
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A woman who was the victim of a sex crime as a minor was allowed to seek a protective injunction when the man who committed the crimes was released from prison, even though the terms of the man’s probation forbade contact with the victim, according to a recent 4th District Court of Appeal ruling. Regardless of the prohibitions contained in the man’s probation, Florida law gave the victim the right to request the protective injunction and required the trial court to hold a hearing on her request.
In 2003, B. was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 10 years of probation for sexual battery on a person less than age 12. With B.’s release date this year drawing close, his victim, H., went to court to obtain an order of protection against him. The trial court dismissed both of H.’s protective injunction petitions without holding a hearing. The court reasoned that a protective injunction was unnecessary because of the terms of B.’s probation. If B. made contact with H., he would be in violation of his probation and would probably be returned to prison.
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