Obtaining an injunction, or restraining order, takes quite a bit of work. The benefit to having one is that a court will legally prevent somebody from contacting you or coming within 500 feet of you and your property. The injunction can also extend to family members’ homes as well as your work.
First and foremost, you must understand the situations in which you can obtain an injunction in Florida.
If somebody has consistently threatened or harassed you in person, over the phone, or through electronic communication, you may be able to obtain an injunction.
If you have been the victim of domestic violence, you may be able to obtain an injunction as well.
If you have been the victim of repeat violence, that is two or more incidents of violence or stalking with the most recent incident occurring within the past six months.
Sexual violence victims may receive injunctions.
Dating violence victims may receive injunctions as well.
If you believe that you qualify for injunctive relief and that your situation necessitates a court order of protection, you must go to a courthouse and file for a petition in person. This process takes roughly 3-5 hours. In your petition, you must be as specific as possible. A judge will review the petition to see whether a temporary restraining order (TRO) can be issued for approximately 7 days, at which time a hearing will be held where a different judge will decide whether to grant a permanent injunction.
Permanent does not automatically mean “forever.” Permanent just means a final order of the court. Permanent injunctions can be for any length of time, including “indefinite” which means that the injunction will remain in place until further order of the court.
At the hearing, the court will take testimony and receive exhibits. There is no jury so the judge will be the finder of fact. You as the petitioner must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that you are at risk for becoming a victim of violence and that a court order is necessary.
At this hearing you should be representing by a Miami restraining order attorney or Broward restraining order attorney. The Rules of Evidence apply so if you represent yourself, you will be expected to understand proper procedure.
At the hearing you may call witnesses. You will also be subjected to a cross-examination by the respondent’s attorney or the respondent him or herself, if they do not have a lawyer.
After hearing testimony the judge will decide how to rule. They could deny the injunction, finding that your situation does not meet criteria. They can grant the injunction and set it for a term of years (one, five, ten, etc...) or make it an indefinite permanent injunction.
If granted, the judge can order special conditions for the respondent, such as anger management, batterers’ intervention, mental health evaluation and treatment. These conditions would be in addition to the standard conditions, which require the respondent to stay 500 feet away from you at all times, including any places or persons listed in the order. These may include places of employment, family members, and the homes of family members.
An injunction is enforceable in all 50 states. If a Broward judge orders somebody to stay away from you, that injunction can be enforced in any county and in any state.
If you have an injunction and the respondent (person against whom you have obtained the injunction) contacts you in any manner, you can make a police report and that person may be arrested. If they stalk you (repeatedly contact you with no legitimate purpose) while the injunction is in place, they have committed the felony of aggravated stalking.
While an injunction cannot physically prevent somebody from contacting your or causing you harm, it is an effective legal tool that can restrain, or at least deter, somebody from continuing to bother or harm you.
Eric Matheny is a Miami restraining order attorney and Broward restraining order attorney who represents both petitioners and respondents in all restraining order/injunction matters in Miami-Dade County and Broward County.