Violation of Restraining Order or Injunction

A person with a violation of a restraining 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.

What is a Violation of Restraining Order?

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.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I am Charged with a Violation of Restraing Order

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.

Types of Restraining Orders or Injunctions Issued by the Florida Court System

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
F.S. 741.28(2)-(3)

One act of violence by:

  • A spouse or former spouse, a person related by blood or marriage;
  • A person who currently resides together or who has resided together as a family in the past; or
  • A person who has a child in common regardless if they ever lived together
Repeat Violence Injunctions
F.S. 784.046(1)(b) and (2)(a)

Two incidents of violence or stalking have occurred:

  • One incident was within 6 months of the filing for injunction; and
  • Violence or stalking was against the petitioner or petitioner’s immediate family member
Dating Violence Injunctions
F.S. 784.046(1)(d) and (2)(b)

A dating relationship must have existed within the past six months:

  • Characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement;
  • Involved in a frequent and continuous interaction over the course of the relationship;
  • Does not include violence in a casual acquaintanceship.
Sexual Violence Injunctions
F.S. 784.046(1)(c) and (2)(c)
  • One incident of sexual battery;
  • A lewd or lascivious act, committed by or upon or in the presence of a person younger than 16 years of age;
  • Luring or enticing a child or sexual performance by a child; or
  • Any other forcible felony wherein a sexual act was committed or attempted; and
  • Must have reported the incident to law enforcement and is cooperating in any criminal proceedings or the Respondent was sentenced to prison and the term has expired or is due to expire within 90 of the filing date of the petition.

The Many Ways You Can be Charged With Violation of Restraining Order 

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:

  • Refuse to vacate the dwelling that you share with the other party;
  • Go to, or be within 500 feet of, the petitioner’s residence, school, place of employment, or any specified place frequented regularly by the petitioner and any named family or household member;
  • Commit an act of domestic violence against the petitioner;
  • Commit any other violation of the injunction through an intentional unlawful threat to do violence to the petitioner;
  • Telephone, contact, or otherwise communicate with the petitioner directly or indirectly, unless the injunction specifically allows indirect contact;
  • Knowingly and intentionally come within 100 feet of the petitioner’s motor vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is occupied;
  • Deface or destroy the petitioner’s personal property, including the petitioner’s motor vehicle; or
  • Refuse to surrender firearms or ammunition if ordered to do so in the injunction.

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.

Violation of a Repeat Violence, Dating Violence or Sexual Violence Injunction

The are 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:

  • Refuse to vacate the dwelling that you share with the other party;
  • Go to the petitioner’s residence, school, place of employment, or any specified place frequented regularly by the petitioner and any named family or household member;
  • Commit an act of repeat violence, sexual violence, or dating violence against the petitioner;
  • Commit any other violation of the injunction through an intentional unlawful threat to do violence to the petitioner;
  • Telephone, contact, or otherwise communicate with the petitioner directly or indirectly, unless the injunction specifically allows indirect contact; or
  • Retrieving personal property from the other party’s residence beyond the one-time visit allowed by the injunction.

Getting the Restraining Order / Injunction Dismissed or Dissolved

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.

What If the Other Person Wants Contact?

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.

What if the Other Person Initiates Contact?

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.

Violation of Injunction – Penalties
— Fines, Jail, & Anger Management Counseling —

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.

Consider these Possible Solutions
— Different Ways We May be Able to Help —

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.

Getting the Charge Dropped – Early Intervention with the Prosecutor

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:

  • The contact between you and the other party may have been consensual.
  • The petitioner may have initiated the contact with you.
  • The petitioner does not want to prosecute and desires reconciliation.
  • The injunction has been dissolved, or is presently scheduled for a hearing for that purpose, or the petitioner is agreeable to dissolving the injunction but has not yet taken the required action to do so.
  • The underlying facts that led to the injunction being granted in the first place were not of an aggravated nature.
  • You violated a temporary injunction and the final injunction was never granted. This fact could be especially favorable if the final injunction was not granted because the petitioner decided not to proceed or the judge decided that the facts supporting the original petition for the injunction did not warrant the granting of a permanent injunction.
  • The violation of the injunction occurred due to a coincidence, chance meeting, or was otherwise of a minimal nature.

Possible Defenses for Your Case

  • The Contact that Violated Your Restraining Order or Injunction was Unintentional

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.

  • You Never Received Notice of the Final or Permanent Injunction

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).

  • Your Injunction Violation Occurred When You Lawfully Complied with a Court Order in a Divorce, Child Support or Custody Proceeding

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.

Getting the Charge Dismissed – Domestic Violence Intervention Program

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.

Plea Bargains

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:

  • The contact that caused the violation of the injunction was merely verbal in nature and did not contain threats of violence.
  • The contact took place through a third party for the purpose of obtaining personal property or for another reason related to ending the relationship amicably.
  • You have already started on completing the 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling prior to going to court. (We can provide you with a list of the local court-approved counseling facilities where you can attend such sessions.)
  • You have already begun attendance at an anger management course assigned to you by your attorney. (In some situations, the shorter anger management course may be more appropriate to the unique circumstances involved in your case.)
  • The other party in the case does not want to see you prosecuted or, at a minimum, does not want to see you sentenced to time in the Pinellas County jail.
  • The injunction has since been dissolved or otherwise dismissed.

Free Consultation – Violation of Injunction Charges

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.

The consultation is free! Call us at (727) 578-0303

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