What is Stalking?
Stalking is a serious crime that occurs in various forms, for different reasons. Sadly, it is also a rather common occurrence. In layman’s terms, “stalking” is defined as a pattern of unwanted behavior directed at a specific individual which causes that person to change their routine, feel afraid, nervous, or in danger. This includes things like harassment and cyberstalking. Florida Statutes 784.048 states that “a person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking, a misdemeanor of the first-degree”. If an individual makes a credible threat or stalks another person following the issuance of an injunction for protection against repeat violence, sexual violence or dating violence (also known as a restraining order), then that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony.
Examples of Stalking Behaviors Include:
- Following someone without a legitimate purpose
- Communicating directly via repeated, unwanted phone calls, texts or messages that may or may not be threatening
- Accessing or attempting to access the online accounts or Internet-connected home electronic systems of another person, without their permission
- Damaging another person’s home, car or other property
- Monitoring another person via phone bugging, hidden cameras, GPS or other methods
- Driving by, menacing or lingering near a person’s home, school or work
- Threatening harm to an individual, their family, friends or pets
- Any other actions that seek to track, exert control over or incite fear in another person
Understanding how to obtain a stalking injunction in Florida when one has been the subject of such activity is critically important to avoid further harassment, fear, physical injury or even death.
Who Can File a Petition for an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking?
Any person who is the victim of stalking can file a petition for an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking. This petition can also be filed by the parent or legal guardian of a minor living at home who is the victim of stalking, on behalf of the child. A petition for an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking is a civil matter, not a criminal one and is filed in either the circuit court where the petitioner resides or where the stalking occurred.
What Does Filing for a Stalking Injunction Involve?
When filing, a petitioner will submit supporting documentation. This typically including affidavits. An affidavit is a sworn statement that an individual makes before a notary or officer of the court outside of the court, asserting that certain facts are true to the best of that person’s knowledge. These, along with such evidence as screenshots, recordings or other information should all be filed at this time.
What Happens After I File for a Stalking Injunction?
In some cases, a court may decide to immediately issue a temporary or “ex parte” injunction. This is simply a temporary injunction that is issued without giving the other person the usual amount of notice or opportunity to file or present their opposition. In Florida, a hearing is required and is typically held within 15 days. Even if the temporary injunction is not granted, the court will hold an evidentiary hearing to allow the petitioner to present evidence of the stalking and determine if a permanent injunction should be entered.
In the interim, the other person will be served with a copy of the petition and the injunction, if one was ordered. They will also be notified of the date of the hearing where they will have the opportunity to argue against the issuance of an injunction. The court will then listen to both parties and consider all evidence presented to arrive at a determination on issuing a final injunction. Although Florida law does not require a petitioner to have legal representation for ahearing for an Injunction for Protection Against Stalking, having an experienced family law attorney present is wise and provides the best chance for success.
What Happens to a Stalker if a Restraining Order is Issue?
Based on the details of the case, a court may order any number of terms in an injunction. This can include prohibiting the other person from contacting the stalking victim (and/or their minor child or children) in any manner (in-person, phone, email, text, etc.); remaining a certain physical distance from the stalking victim, their home, work or certain other places; and removing firearms from the stalker’s possession. The injunction can remain in place for up to 10 years in Florida.
Should the other person not comply with a stalking injunction, they can face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Repeat offenders can be sentenced for up to five years and with a fine of $5,000.
Get Help Obtaining a Stalking Injunction in Florida
If you believe that you are the victim of stalking in the state of Florida, whether a man or a woman, let our deeply experienced team of family law attorneys at ParraHarris Law help you obtain an injunction for a stalking injunction. Call us at (904) 900-1617, email [email protected] or visit our website and use the contact form here.