A restraining order is when a court orders an individual to stay away from another person. It is also called an injunction. Victims of domestic violence or who feel threatened with injury and unsafe have a legal right to try and obtain this court order against the alleged offender. Restraining orders are often used in domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or neighbor disputes.
The legal term for a restraining order is an injunction. The person seeking protection is the “Petitioner.” The Petitioner will file a restraining order against a “Respondent.”
The restraining order would forbid the Respondent from contacting the Petitioner. Contact includes:
- Speaking in person
- Coming within a certain proximity to the victim
- Writing a letter
- Commenting on their Instagram story
- Sending a DM on through any social media platform
While restraining orders are prevalent in domestic violence cases, they are also used for dating violence, sexual battery, stalking, and exploitation of vulnerable adults. Some scenarios of non-domestic violence type restraining orders could include
- A frustrated member of a Homeowner’s Association (possibly against a former tenant)
- An employee who feels harassed by a coworker
- A caretaker who knowingly or negligently exploits their elderly relative
- A person who is receiving persistent threatening text messages and e-mails (cyberstalking)
Once a Petitioner files a restraining order, the Respondent must cease all contact. If the Respondent does not stop contact, that is considered a restraining order violation.
Domestic Violence: A Serious Concern in Florida
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to maintain power or control over the victim. Victims of domestic abuse can be an intimate partner, an ex, or family member. Women ages 18 to 34 generally experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
Here are some statistics on Domestic violence in Florida from 2020:
- According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, victims reported 106,515 domestic violence crimes to Florida law enforcement agencies or authorities.
- Sixty-three thousand two hundred seventeen of those domestic violence crimes resulted in arrests.
- Domestic violence advocates reportedly made 150,799 custom safety plans.
- Domestic violence agencies and advocate programs provided 200,00 hours of advocacy and counseling services to abuse victims.
- Seventy-two thousand three hundred twenty-one individuals made domestic violence hotline calls for emergency services, help information, and safety planning assistance.
The numbers show while domestic violence is not the only reason Petitioners seek injunctions in Florida, it’s the most common.
Pinellas County consistently overrepresents domestic violence cases in Florida. For example, from 2001-2020, Pinellas County has repeatedly had a higher rate of Domestic Violence Reports than Florida’s average.
According to County Clerk records, from January 2021 to August 2022, Pinellas County documented 500 domestic injunction cases. Here is a breakdown of the injunctions by type:
- 156 were related to Stalking
- 278 were related to Domestic Violence
- 41 were related to Repeat Violence
- 25 were related to Dating Violence
Florida ranks number 21, after Alabama, in the US for domestic violence rates against women, at 37.4 %, slightly higher than the national average of 37.2%.
Stalking Statistics in Florida
- 2-4% of men and 8-12% of women have been victims of stalking at some point in their lives.
- 87% of stalkers are men
- Women are THREE times more likely to be stalked than raped.
- Women are TWO times more likely to be physically assaulted than stalked.
- Of all women who a current or former partner has stalked:
- 81% are also physically assaulted by that partner
- 31 are also sexually assaulted by that partner
- The average duration of staking is 1.8 years.
- With intimate partners, the average duration of stalking is 2.2 years.
- 26% of stalking victims reported losing time from work
- 20-30% seek psychological counseling
- 56% of women victims take some type of self-protective measure, sometimes as drastic as moving to a new house, neighborhood, or state.
- Stalking victims experience higher levels of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression than the general population, particularly if the stalking involves being followed or destroying property.
Common Stalking Behaviors
- following/showing up wherever you are
- Sending unwanted gifs, letters, cards, or e-mails
- Unrelenting phone calls despite requests to stop contact
- Damage to your home, car or any other personal property
- Using technology to track or monitor your whereabouts
- Lurks around your home, class, work, or job
- Threatened you our family, friends, or pets
- Stalked by proxy through having third parties contact or harass you
- Finding out about your using public records or online resources
- Posting information entailing libel or slander
- Any other action to control, track, or intimidate you
What Is a Restraining Order in Florida?
The legal term for a restraining order in Florida is “injunction for protection.” So it’s a court-issued document to protect the victim from further harm.
Harm is any form of abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, unwanted contact, or even being within a certain distance of the victim.
Florida has six different categories for protective injunctions:
- Injunctions for protection against Domestic Violence;
- Injunctions for protection against Repeat Violence
- Injunctions for protection against Dating Violence
- Injunctions for protection against Sexual Violence
- Injunctions for protection against Stalking or Cyberstalking
- Injunctions for protection against the exploitation of a vulnerable adult
Restraining orders can impose restrictions on the Respondent beyond prohibiting communication. For example, they might require a person to move out of a shared home or start paying child support. In addition, any employer, potential employer, or landlord who runs a background check will be able to find it. That could make their odds of finding employment or housing very challenging.
If the Respondent abuses the Petitioner or violates the restraining order at any time, police can arrest them.
Understanding the Different Types of Restraining Orders in Florida
There are six types of injunctions. They are:
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
- A Petitioner may file a Domestic Violence Restraining Order if they have domestic violence by a family member or household member.
- Domestic violence under Florida Statue 741.28 is any:
- Family members are spouses, former spouses, any persons related by blood or marriage, or who live together as a “family” in the same household. The exception is individuals with a child in common; regardless of living arrangements, they are “family.”
Repeat Violence Restraining Order
The Petitioner must prove that:
- assault or battery took place to qualify to file for a repeat violence restraining order
- Simply asserting that the Respondent has a history of violent tendencies will not suffice.
A repeat violence protective order usually occurs between two people who do not live together or are not family or involved in a domestic relationship.
Here are some common types of associations we see involving a repeat violence injunction:
- Employers and employees
- School or Classmates
The Petitioner must have:
- legitimate fear of imminent danger or violence
- and be able to prove at least two separate instances of assault took place.
Some examples of actions that are NOT admissible as the type of violence required for this restraining order:
- obscene hand gestures without an apparent act that places the Petitioner in fear
- Alluding that Respondent owns a gun and is not afraid of using it
- Receiving unwanted flowers or non-threatening letters from the Respondent
All of the above may feel scary and threatening to the Petitioner. Unfortunately, however, none of them are sufficient evidence to support an injunction for repeat violence.
Multiple acts of violence arising from a single incident are not considered repeat violence.
You won’t qualify for a Repeat Violence Restraining Order if there is no time or distance between the violent acts.
However, after Levy v. Jacobs, 69 So.3d 403 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011), it only requires five minutes between two incidents to have two separate accounts of violence eligible for repeat violence injunction.
Stalking Violence Restraining Order
Stalking is becoming one of the most used types of restraining orders. The burden of proof is on the Petitioner to show the court that they have been the victim of stalking. The Petitioner must submit substantial and competent evidence to the court to be eligible for a stalking restraining order.
Florida Statute § 784.048: defines stalking as:
- “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing or cyberstalking another person.”
- and while making a credible threat to that person
- “harassment” is defined as “any actions toward the victim that have no legitimate purpose and that cause significant emotional distress.”
As defined by § 784.048: A “credible threat” is
- Any verbal or nonverbal threat that provokes or invokes fear in the victim
- Threatening or threatening to harm the victims’ friends or family
- Making threats with the evident ability and intention to carry out the threat and cause harm
Additionally, the above conduct defined as stalking must have occurred on at least two separate occasions for the Petitioner to file a stalking injunction.
While Florida law defines key terms under the stalking injunction statute, notice that there is no legal definition for “substantial emotional distress.” As a result,
Stalking is becoming a prevalent type of injunction because it is easier to prove by the Petitioner. Additionally, it is becoming a “catch-all” type of injunction where the allegations are jumbled.
Florida Statute § 784.0485 allows the victim of stalking or a parent or legal guardian for a minor child living at home who is the victim of stalking to file a protective injunction against stalking.
Sexual Violence Restraining Order
One could file a sexual violence injunction if the offender committed any of these acts:
- Sexual battery (chapter 794)
- Lewd and lascivious act upon or in front of a minor under 16
- Lured or enticed a child (chapter 787)
- required a child to perform sexual acts (Chapter 827)
- Or committed any forcible felony involving a committed or attempted sexual act.
The Petitioner must report sexual violence to law enforcement. Then, they must cooperate with any criminal proceeding to file a sexual violence injunction.
If the other person (Respondent) has been in prison for sexual violence and their release is within 90 days, one can file a sexual violence restraining order.
Dating Violence Restraining Order
Dating violence can happen in person or electronically and can include physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse. It happens between individuals who previously had a continuing and significant romantic or intimate relationship.
To be eligible for a Dating Violence Restraining order, the Dating persons must meet specific criteria:
- The Petitioner and the Respondent’s dating relationship existed within the past six months.
- The nature of the relationship was characterized by the expectation of affection and sexual involvement between the parties.
- The frequency and type of interaction included the persons involved over time and continuously during their relationship.
- Dating violence does NOT apply to
- casual acquaintanceship or
- Violence between people who have fraternized in a business or social context.
Dating violence examples include:
- Aggravated Assault
- Aggravated Battery
- Aggravated Stalking
- Any Criminal Offense Resulting in Physical Injury or Death Assault
- False Imprisonment
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Battery
Exploitation of A Vulnerable or Elderly Adult
In Florida, a “vulnerable adult” is a person 18 years or older who cannot perform the normal activities of daily life or provide for their own care or protection. Or, if they are impaired due to:
- The infirmities of aging
- mental, emotional, sensory, dysfunction or disability
- Long-term physical or developmental disability of dysfunction
- Brain damage
Then they are considered a vulnerable adult.
To be eligible to file a petition for exploitation of a vulnerable adult restraining order, the Petitioner must prove that they are in imminent danger or are the victim of exploitation. This type of restraining order often protects the Petitioner and their assets.
To determine if you have reasonable cause or are the victim of exploitation, the court must consider all relevant factors alleged in the petition. Those factors include, but are not limited to:
- The relationship between the Petitioner and the Respondent
- If there is an ongoing Guardianship case
- If there have been any reports to a government agency regarding abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the vulnerable adult
- The results of any alleged reports or investigations
- How dependent the vulnerable adult is on the Respondent for care
- If the vulnerable adult has any alternative provisions for care in the absence of the Respondent
- The list of assets, accounts, and lines of credit at all financial institutions requesting to be frozen.
The most critical step a Petitioner can take is to ensure that they choose and file the correct type of restraining order.
If they fail to do so, the Judge on duty that day will most likely deny the petition for the injunction. That’s why it behooves you to work with an experienced Florida Restraining Order Lawyer, regardless of your side.
How Do I Get a Restraining Order in Florida?
First, the Petitioner will go to the local Florida Courthouse to gather the necessary paperwork. Then they will file a petition for an “injunction for protection.” The Petitioner must file the petition in the Florida County they reside. Petitioners can file pro se but may find it easier to hire a Florida Restraining Order Lawyer to file the paperwork.
After the Petitioner completes and files the packet, the Judge on duty that day will review the paperwork. Then, based on the facts provided in the petition, the Judge will decide. If they find that the Respondent poses an immediate threat to the Petitioner, they will immediately issue a temporary injunction. This is considered an ex parte injunction since the Judge has only heard one side of the story, and the other party has not been given notice.
If the Respondent is a partner, spouse, or someone who cohabitates with the Petitioner, they have the right to request police accompaniment to the home. The police will then enforce the temporary restraining order at the Petitioner’s home.
If a Petitioner wishes to get a long-term restraining order enforced, that will require a full court hearing. The Respondent must be present at the court hearing and have the opportunity to present their case.
Can I Drop a Restraining Order in Florida?
Under Florida law, you can file a Motion for Modification of Injunction for Protection to alter the terms or eliminate a restraining order. You must complete the form and sign it before a notary public or the circuit court Clerk.
Dropping or modifying a restraining order will require you to attend a court hearing and present your case. Unless you have legal experience and feel confident representing yourself in court, your best bet is to enlist the help of a Florida Criminal Lawyer.
It’s possible to dissolve the injunction for protection if the Respondent can prove the circumstances that validated the restraining order no longer exist. Or, if those circumstances change and the Petitioner is no longer in danger, the restraining order would no longer be necessary.
According to Ramirez v. Teutsch, 134 So. 3d 995 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012), circumstantial changes that could make the injunction no longer serve a useful purpose, include:
- The parties have moved to live away from each other
- The parties have co-existed without violence for several years
- The Petitioner and Respondent have a sole reason for interacting, which has ended or will end soon.
Are Restraining Orders Public Record Florida?
Yes. Since restraining orders are civil injunctions, they are public records in Florida. However, they are not typically easily accessible to the general public. This is primarily to protect the privacy and safety of the Petitioner.
Under Florida Statute § 741.30, the Petitioner may furnish an address to the court in a separate confidential filing (from the petition for injunction) for safety reasons.
How Much Does It Cost to File a Restraining Order?
It is free to file a petition for protection. You can file independently, but it will benefit you to have an experienced professional to help you through the process. It might be incredibly challenging for you to put up a strong fight if the Respondent has legal representation and the case goes to trial.
What Evidence Do I Need for a Restraining Order in Florida?
Proof that You Are in Danger
Since a restraining order is supposed to stop someone from engaging in threatening behavior, you will need proof that they pose a danger to you.
Sometimes, the only way to stop endangerment is to order the Respondent to stay a certain distance from the Petitioner. However, a restraining order can also prohibit Respondent from contacting the Petitioner’s family, calling after certain hours, or other unwanted behaviors.
Before a judge agrees to grant a restraining order, you must prove that the other person is putting you in legitimate danger.
Specific Details of Incidents
When you file a petition for a protective injunction, you will need to give a detailed account of all incidents of threats, violence, abuse, or intimidating behaviors from the Respondent. It’s important to give concrete examples and include specific dates, times, and locations. For example, “he followed me home for four days in a row” will be much more compelling evidence than “he is stalking me.”
Regarding stalking injunctions, a mere suspicion that someone is following you is not sufficient evidence. Instead, the court will ask you for hard facts and tangible evidence to prove your allegations.
You may have a very creepy neighbor or a violent ex with an explosive temper. But a judge doesn’t know that, and unless you have sufficient evidence to prove your claims, the Judge won’t issue a protective injunction.
Any proof to show that the Respondent would threaten you or already has in the past will be very useful.
Remember that you are asking the court to restrict someone’s freedom by getting a restraining order against them, so have a good reason to do it.
What if Someone Filed a Restraining Order Against Me?
If someone files a petition to get a restraining order against you, a judge may order you to have no contact with the Petitioner. That includes any form of contact (letters, cards, phone calls, e-mails, text messages, social media, etc.).
The injunction will also give precise directions for a one time visit to retrieve your personal belongings in the presence of law enforcement.
What To Do If Someone Files A Restraining Order Against You
Once a Petitioner files an injunction against you, the Sheriff’s Office will serve you with it. The initial injunction or restraining order will be effective while you wait for a full court hearing.
The first thing you should do is call an experienced Florida Restraining Order Lawyer. They will need time to strategize a defense on your behalf. Injunctions in Florida are also public records, so this could tarnish your name.
You Must Obey a Temporary Restraining Order in Florida
Temporary restraining orders are valid until the Judge sets a court date for an “order of protection final hearing.” The date of that hearing will be on the paperwork that you are served with.
If you fail to obey a temporary restraining order, you can get arrested and charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for violating a restraining order are up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
Give All Evidence to Your Florida Restraining Order Lawyer
Collect all evidence that can show the Petitioner’s claims are false, if applicable. This includes photos of injuries and text messages. Then give all the evidence to your lawyer.
What Happens If I Violate A Restraining Order in Florida?
Respondents must follow restraining order stipulations. Since they are court-mandated orders, they are legally binding.
Any violation of your injunction’s terms will result in a first-degree misdemeanor and the potential for up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
It can cost you your job, your house, or the opportunity to find new ones. In addition, you may lose time with your family and your children.
Do I Need A Florida Restraining Order Defense Lawyer?
It’s not a requirement for you to hire a lawyer to defend yourself from a restraining order, but it will be highly advantageous. Since restraining orders are public records, your reputation is at stake. There are a lot of consequences that you can avoid with a defense attorney in your corner.
Restraining order lawyers know the burden of proof and will be able to guide you through the procedural requirements of the trial.
If someone has a restraining order against you, it goes without saying that you are going through a confusing and emotional time. However, by seeking the help of an experienced Florida Restraining Order Lawyer, you can save yourself a lot of stress.
Contact a Florida Restraining Order Lawyer Today
Never underestimate the power of having an experienced Florida Restraining Order Lawyer on your side. We have defended countless clients with various aspects of restraining orders in Pinellas County. Whether you are the Petitioner or Respondent, we have the experience and expertise necessary to help you.
So whether you need help filing a petition for a restraining order, challenging a restraining order, or have violated a restraining order, we can offer trusted legal help.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.