Can a Court Issue a Domestic Violence Order Based on Something That Happened Four Years Ago?
A domestic violence injunction can seriously affect a person’s constitutional and other civil rights. Florida’s domestic violence law is broadly written to afford a maximum relief from an abusive spouse or intimate partner. But in their zeal to protect apparent victims, some judges are too quick to issue an injunction without properly considering the context of the accuser’s claims.
Facebook, Telephone Contact Not Sufficient Evidence of Threat
Here is a recent example. Two women were in a dating relationship. According to one of the women–the plaintiff in this case–the defendant “threw a drink at her and punched her in the fact” in 2012.
Nearly four years later, the plaintiff sought a domestic violence injunction against the defendant. Although the defendant has never made any threats of violence, aside from the alleged 2012 incident, the plaintiff said the defendant “repeatedly” attempted to contact her by telephone and through Facebook. A judge decided this was sufficient and issued an injunction.
But the Florida Second District Court of Appeals reversed that decision. The court noted an “isolated incident of domestic violence that occurred years before” is generally not enough to support an injunction. A court cannot issue a domestic violence injunction just because the accuser has a “vague” fear of potential violence. There must be “competent substantial evidence of a reasonably objective fear.”
In this case, the defendant apparently did little more than attempt to contact the plaintiff several years after their relationship ended. The Second District said that in and of itself, that was not “conduct that was threatening or might reasonably place [the plaintiff] in fear.” Perhaps the plaintiff did not want to speak to the defendant again. But a domestic violence injunction is not the proper vehicle to address such a situation.
Who Can Seek a Domestic Violence Injunction?
In a footnote, the Second District also questioned whether Florida’s domestic violence law even applied to this type of relationship. (The defendant did not pursue this issue on appeal, so the court did not formally address it.) Florida law defines domestic violence as certain criminal acts against “one family or household member by another family or household member.” This means the parties must be spouses, ex-spouses, or “presently residing together” in a family-like relationship.
In other words, Florida’s domestic violence is not designed to protect someone from being contacted (or even harassed) by someone they dated years earlier.
Get Help From a Florida Domestic Violence Defense Attorney
If you are accused of domestic violence, you need to act quickly to protect your rights. Florida law permits accusers to seek an “ex parte temporary injunction” against a defendant. This allows a court to issue a temporary restraining order based on nothing more than the plaintiff’s word. However, a permanent domestic violence injunction may only be issued following a hearing where the defendant may be represented by counsel.
And you should have counsel. A domestic violence charge is not something that goes away on its own. Even if you think there has been a misunderstanding, you should still work with an experienced Miami domestic violence defense lawyer. Contact the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos, P.A., today if you need immediate legal assistance.