Florida permits you to obtain a Restraining Order (Injunction) against somebody for the offense of stalking.
It is important to remember what stalking is, and what stalking isn't.
Stalking is willful, malicious, and repeated following, harassing, or cyberstalking of another. Harass means to engage
"in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotion distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose."
Repeated means that the action must occur over a period of time, but at the very least, more than once.
Many people wrongly believe that they are victims of stalking and must resort to the filing of an Injunction. However, judges are reluctant to enter Permanent Injunctions for Stalking Violence if all of the elements of stalking are not met by substantial, credible evidence.
For instance, if you are a debt collector and you call a debtor several times over the course of a month, that is not stalking. The reason - the collection of the debt is the legitimate purpose for the call.
If you are an angry ex-boyfriend and you call your ex-girlfriend several times over the course of a month, that could be stalking. The reason - there is no legitimate purpose for the contact.
The Petitioner must also prove that the action was repeated (a single incident will never amount to stalking), that the actions of the Respondent were malicious and willful (intent to cause harm or harass the Petitioner), and that the Petitioner suffered substantial emotional distress as a result.
This standard is not easy to meet. If you are a Petition and are the victim of stalking, you should speak with an attorney prior to filing for an Injunction to make certain that your claim has merit, and most importantly, can be proven in court.
If you are a Respondent and you are served with an Injunction for Stalking Violence, you should also speak with an attorney to see whether the Petitioner's claims satisfy the strict statutory requirements for a Permanent Injunction for Stalking Violence to be issued.
Eric Matheny is an attorney serving Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach. He represents both Petitioners and Respondents in Miami-Dade County Restraining Order (Injunction) Hearings.