Recently, I appeared in court on behalf of a client who was seeking an injunction for protection against stalking. The judge called my case, but before he allowed me to proceed, he addressed the attorneys in the room. The judge pointed out that stalking injunctions rarely granted, as there are multiple elements and sub-elements to the statute that need to be addressed, yet rarely are they all satisfied. The judge then warned the attorneys, including myself, that we need to make sure we are prepared to present facts sufficient to prove that stalking has occurred; otherwise, don’t expect the injunction to be granted. He then allowed me to present my case. The end result: Success! The injunction was issued.
As the judge in my case stated, injunctions for protection against stalking are difficult to obtain. A petitioner (i.e. the person asking for protection) must establish a pattern of conduct that rises to the level of following, harassment (as defined by 784.048, Fla. Stat.), credible threats (as defined by 784.048, Fla. Stat.), or cyberstalking (as defined by 784.048, Fla. Stat.). One instance is not enough—there must be multiple events to establish a pattern of this type of behavior.
Unfortunately, what seems to one person as harassing behavior does not always satisfy the legal definition of the term. In Florida, defining characteristics or actions of the respondent (i.e. the person against whom a person is seeking protection) include:
- Multiple events of stalking, as defined by statute
- Previous incidents of threats, harassment, stalking, cyberstalking, or physical abuse toward the Petitioner, as defined by statute
- Threats of harm to the Petitioner, Petitioner’s family members, or individuals with whom Petitioner is closely associated
- Intentionally caused injury or death to a family pet
- Use (actual or threatened) of weapons against the Petitioner (i.e. guns, knives)
- Criminal history involving violence or threat of violence
- Prior injunctions for protection issued against him
- Destruction of personal property belonging to the Petitioner
When filing for an injunction, the petitioner will be required to identify which of these characteristics best describes the incidents endured at the hands of the respondent. The petitioner will also be required to describe, in detail, the events, including the frequency, what happened, and the effect it had on the victim/petitioner. It will then be up to the court to decide whether an injunction should be granted. It is difficult to prove stalking has occurred, but it is not impossible to prevail! Preparation is key.