Shortage of Proof Leads to Reversal of Florida Woman’s Order of Protection

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.”

Based on all these events, along with an act of physical violence that took place back in 2012, C.J. went to court seeking an injunction for protection. G.L. hired an attorney to represent him in opposing the injunction, but, on the day of the injunction hearing, the lawyer had a conflict involving a criminal case in which her client potentially faced the death penalty. G.L.’s lawyer asked for a continuance of the hearing, but the trial court rejected that. The hearing proceeded with just the judge, C.J., and G.L. G.L. testified that he did not commit any of the acts alleged in C.J.’s injunction petition. Unpersuaded, the trial judge entered a permanent injunction for protection.

G.L. appealed, and he won. There were several problems with the hearing that yielded the injunction. First, the hearing did not produce sufficient “competent, substantial evidence.” The only evidence C.J. had on her side consisted largely of two things. One was her recitation of the damage that occurred to her property, which was not compelling because, by her own admission, C.J. did not see who damaged her home and her car and could not identify G.L. as the perpetrator. The other was her statements about what her neighbors saw or heard. This also did not justify entering the injunction because it was hearsay evidence and because, even if had been direct evidence, it only established that the neighbors saw an unidentifiable African-American male committing the acts and that G.L. spoke to C.J.’s friends about the events after they took place.

The incident of physical harm, in which G.L. struck C.J. and “busted her lip,” was not enough by itself to support the injunction. Without any other proof, that incident was merely an isolated event that took place 20 months before C.J. asked for protection. Had it taken place shortly before C.J. filed her petition, the incident alone might have been enough to warrant an injunction.

Obtaining an injunction of protection against domestic violence may seem like a simple thing, but just as in any other court case, it helps to have a detailed knowledge of the law and court procedures. The experienced South Florida domestic violence attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have many years of helping domestic violence victims obtain injunctions, as well as defending people against whom injunctions are wrongfully sought. Contact our diligent and determined attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Don’t Ignore the Lasting Effects of a Florida Domestic Violence Injunction, Even if it Has Expired, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 6, 2016

Husband’s Alleged Online Activity ‘Disconcerting’, But Not Cyberstalking Under Florida Law, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 14, 2016