South Florida Man Gets New Hearing in Domestic Violence Case After Trial Court Admits Improper Evidence

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.

Some of the violent episodes to which she testified were covered in her original complaint that requested the order of protection, but some of her claims were new. Amid the assertions made for the first time at the hearing, Y.C. accused O.L. of punching her in the face (and giving her a black eye), kicking her in the stomach while she was pregnant, punching her in the mouth so hard that it required stitches and left a permanent scar on her lip, engaging in abusive conduct toward the children, and threatening to kill her for leaving him. All of these incidents took place prior to Y.C. filing of her original injunction request.

O.L. objected because the allegations were not in Y.C.’s original filing, and he had no notice that he was going to face these assertions at the hearing. The trial judge denied the objection and admitted the woman’s testimony into evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial judge entered the protective injunction for Y.C.

O.L. appealed. He argued that, by allowing Y.C. to present evidence that was not in her original petition, the trial court denied him his due process rights because he had no advance notice of these new allegations and no appropriate opportunity to prepare for them prior to the hearing. Y.C. argued that the appeals court should leave the injunction intact because there was no indication that the new allegations were the basis for the trial court’s decision.

The appeals court sided with O.L. and threw out the injunction. The court rejected Y.C.’s argument, pointing out that the law does not place the burden on O.L. to prove that the trial court relied on the improperly admitted evidence, but rather obliges her to prove that the trial court did not rely upon this evidence in reaching its decision. Without any statement from the trial judge stating that he did not consider the improper evidence when he ruled in favor of Y.C., the appeals court could not “conclude that the erroneous admission of this evidence did not contribute to the trial court’s determination.”

Having thrown out the permanent injunction, the appeals court reinstated the temporary injunction and ordered a new hearing. At that hearing, Y.C. had the option of going forward on the incidents of domestic violence she mentioned in her petition, or amending that petition to add on the additional incidents that she mentioned at the hearing but did not include in the original petition.

Whether you are in need of a protective injunction for protection from domestic violence, or facing off against someone seeking one, the South Florida domestic violence attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can help. Our experienced and skillful attorneys have the knowledge and determination to help you as you navigate the legal system.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Husband’s Alleged Online Activity ‘Disconcerting’, But Not Cyberstalking Under Florida Law, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 14, 2013
Appeals Court Decision Clarifies When Victims Can Seek Protective Injunctions, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 20, 2014