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A person with a violation of a restaining order or injunction in Florida is likely to face a criminal prosecution. Most often, violations of injunctions are treated as first degree misdemeanor offenses. However, in some situations, a person can be charged with the felony offense of “Aggravated Stalking” if their case involves multiple violations of their injunction in an attempt to harass or threaten the other party.
An “injunction” is a court order that is issued by a Circuit Court Judge that places restrictions on a person’s ability to have contact with another individual. Most people commonly refer to this type of court order as a “restraining order,” Florida law uses the term “injunction” exclusively. When a temporary injunction is issued and served, or an injunction is made final, this fact is public record and can easily be viewed by employers, neighbors, and members of the general public through the Pinellas County Clerk of Court’s website.
A violation of restraining order or injunction is treated as a serious matter by the Pinellas County court and our local Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office. The underlying rationale for the aggressive treatment of these violations is premised on the idea that the accused willfully disregarded a direct court order. For this reason, having the assistance of an experienced St. Petersburg / Clearwater criminal defense attorney is imperative.
Florida law allows a Circuit Court Judge to issue four different types of injunctions. Each type of injunction is designed to prevent or limit contact between individuals. Generally speaking, the nature of the relationship that the people had prior to the issuance of the injunction will dictate the appropriate injunction that will ultimately be issued by the court. The four types of injunctions are:
|Domestic Violence Injunctions
One act of violence by:
|Repeat Violence Injunctions
F.S. 784.046(1)(b) and (2)(a)
Two incidents of violence or stalking have occurred:
|Dating Violence Injunctions
F.S. 784.046(1)(d) and (2)(b)
A dating relationship must have existed within the past six months:
|Sexual Violence Injunctions
F.S. 784.046(1)(c) and (2)(c)
If an “Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence” has been issued against you, it is important to read the document carefully. Depending on the specifics of the injunction, it may be a criminal act to:
We can review your injunction to determine whether the behavior that is alleged to have caused your violation, is in fact, prohibited by the terms and conditions of the court order.
The area a number of ways an Injunction for Protection Against Repeat Violence, Dating Violence or Sexual Violence can be violated. It is very important to read the injunction carefully. Depending on the specifics of the injunction, it may be a criminal act to:
The length of an injunction will vary from one case to another. However, under Florida Statute 784.046(7)(c), a Circuit Court Judge can order that an injunction remain in full force and effect permanently. This could mean that the injunction will last forever unless it is modified or dissolved by the issuing court. Although either person may ask the court to modify or dissolve the injunction, neither party may change the terms of the injunction without obtaining the permission of the court first. We can set a hearing and go before the judge in order to petition the Pinellas County Court to dissolve the injunction. This pre-emptive action could protect you from re-arrest for violation of injunction in the future. There are many factors that could cause a court to believe that an protective injunction is no longer necessary or warranted. In particular, a showing that there has been a “change in circumstances” since the injunction was issued, can be persuasive. This may include, for example, the fact that one party has moved from the local area, a desire to reconcile on the part of the petitioner, or that an extended period of time that has elapsed since the injunction was granted.
Many people make the mistake of assuming that the person who obtains an injunction also has the power to waive the terms of the injunction on their own without ever going to court. This is not true! An injunction, once granted, must be modified through a court hearing before a Circuit Court Judge. Even though the person who has been granted the injunction may have forgiven you and sought out contact with you, the violation of the terms of the injunction may still result in a criminal charge against you. You should know that Florida Statute 784.046(13) gives law enforcement the discretion to arrest and charge you for a violation of an injunction regardless of the “victim’s” consent to contact. Therefore, the permission of the “victim” alone will not stop the police from arresting you for a violation of the injunction.
In order to effectively dissolve an injunction it is necessary to have your lawyer set a hearing before the appropriate Circuit Court Judge and give notice to all the parties involved. During the hearing the judge will make an inquiry in order to determine whether lifting the injunction is in the best interests of the State and the parties. Given the wishes of the other party to resume contact with you, there is a great likelihood can be convinced to dissolve the injunction.
Even if the other person initiates contact with you after you have been served with the injunction, this contact on their part does not void the binding effect of the original injunction. Efforts at reconciliation on the part of the Petitioner can be dangerous as they could subject you to arrest for violation of the injunction. Keep in mind that only the judge can dismiss the injunction. If law enforcement observes a violation of the injunction, you are still subject to arrest, regardless of the fact that contact was initiated by the other party. A St. Petersburg / Clearwater lawyer can assist you in petitioning the court for a dismissal of the injunction.
However, if you’ve been arrested for violation of an injunction, we can help. Our office can bring the petitioner’s conduct to the attention of the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office and the criminal court judge. This strategy, if handled in a diplomatic fashion, could go a long way toward minimizing your exposure to criminal penalties associated with the alleged violation of the court order.
In Florida, a violation of injunction is a first-degree misdemeanor. The maximum possible penalty carries up to a $1,000.00 fine and as much as 365 days in the Pinellas County Jail. Violating an injunction is looked upon as a serious offense by the Pinellas County Court system. It is not unusual for the prosecutor to view a violation of injunction as not just a crime against a particular victim, but also a crime against the peace and dignity of the State of Florida. The prosecutor will argue that your violation of the injunction demonstrated a disregard for the law and a disregard for the authority of the Court to modify or restrict your behavior. Likewise, the Court will be concerned about the possibility that your continued violation of the injunction could lead to the commission of a violent crime. Accordingly, many Judges who are called on to impose a sentence in a Violation of Injunction case want to send a strong message that violating a court ordered injunction will not be tolerated.
If you are convicted of violating a domestic related injunction, the judge is mandated by Florida law to require you to attend a 26 week course of domestic violence counseling. This penalty can be waived, if the court is persuaded to make findings on the record that counseling is not necessary or appropriate in your case. Our office can discuss with you the possibility of persuing a waiver of this requirement.
As experienced St. Petersburg / Clearwater lawyers, we can examine the individual facts and circumstances of your case. There may be factual or legal defenses that can be raised. In other situations, we may uncover mitigating circumstances. This alternative strategy couls have an impact in securing a favorable outcome designed to avoid a jail sentence in your case.
Just because you have been arrested for violation of injunction, does not mean that the prosecutor is required to proceed with a formal charge. Our office may be effective by intervening with the prosecutor early on in the case and attempting to persuade the State not to file the charge or prosecute you at all. The facts and circumstances surrounding your violation of injunction will play a large role in your case. In some situations, we can make the prosecutor aware of important facts that cast you in a positive light or draw attention to special circumstances. These include such factors as:
Violation of an injunction must be willful. Florida law does not permit the State to prosecute a person who inadvertently or unintentionally violates an injunction. We may be able to argue that your contact with the petitioner was an accidental meeting.
Florida courts have determined that “notice” or “service” of a permanent injunction must be accomplished before a person can be prosecuted for violation of the injunction. In other words, you must have received “actual service” or been provided with a copy of the permanent injunction personally, prior to the time you were alleged to have violated the terms of the injunction. This defense applies even in situations where you were personally served with the temporary injunction notice, but never received actual service of the final injunction.See Livingston v. State, 847 So. 2d 1131 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003).
There are many situations where a Circuit Court Judge in a divorce, child support, or child custody proceeding will order that you and the other party have contact. Often this contact is required by the court for the purpose of working out a visitation or payment schedule, dividing up property, or discussing other aspects of the ongoing civil legal proceedings. If your violation of injunction was caused by your reasonable compliance with a judge’s order in a civil case, this may constitute a defense against the criminal charge.
We can help you file an application for participation in the Domestic Violence Intervention Program If accepted, you would be required to complete a specified series of limited tasks and stay out of trouble for a pre-determined period of time. Upon successful completion of Domestic Violence Intervention Program, the criminal charge pending against you will be dismissed. Learn more about getting your charge dismissed.
If other options are unavailable, we may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor and the judge for the most lenient disposition possible. It is important to make all of the mitigating facts and circumstances in your case known to the court. Making the judge aware of the following additional information could prove to be an effective strategy:
As you can see, the law governing violations of an injunction is complex. Getting the best possible outcome requires a thorough review of the individual facts of your case and a coordinated strategy. An experienced St. Petersburg / Clearwater criminal defense attorney can uncover the relevant issues in your case and create a game plan for resolving your case. We invite you to meet with us in order to discuss your situation and learn how we can help.