What is an Injunction?
Injunctions, commonly referred to as “restraining orders” or “temporary restraining orders” (“TROs”) are court orders for protection against violence or harassment. Simply put, the orders tell someone not to touch, contact, or otherwise communicate with the protected person. The petitioner is the person who files the injunction (e.g. the person seeking protection), and the respondent is the person against whom the injunction is requested. In Florida injunctions are heard by Civil judges in the Family Law section. The cases typically have a “DR” designation. But, do not be mistaken, these cases can have serious criminal ramifications.
Florida has four different types of injunctions:
- Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence
- Injunction for Protection Against Dating Violence
- Injunction for Protection Against Repeat Violence
- Injunction for Protection Against Sexual Violence
It is important to realize that violating an injunction can be very serious. Not only can a court hold the respondent in contempt, but the Office of the State Attorney could also file felony criminal charges that carry a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment!
What is the Process?
The injunction process begins by filing a petition. The Florida Supreme Court has an approved form for injunctions (see Family Law Forms ).
Filing the petition starts the process. A judge may issue a temporary injunction by finding clear and convincing evidence of domestic violence, dating violence, repeat violence, or sexual violence. Since the judge must find clear and convincing evidence, the petition should be written clearly and include all important facts.
After the initial process, the respondent is given an opportunity to respond. Usually, the hearing for final injunction is within 15 days from the date of the temporary injunction. At the final hearing, the judge will hear from the witnesses and accept evidence both for an against the injunction.
Many people attempt to represent themselves, either as petitioners or respondents. These are known as pro-se litigants. Since the hearing deals with witnesses and evidence, a lawyer can help issue subpoenas and question the witnesses more effectively than a pro-se litigant. The chances of a petition being granted or denied increase significantly with the help of an attorney, because the court must adhere to the rules of evidence and civil procedure.
How Long Does the Temporary Injunction Last?
Typically, fifteen days. However, the period can be extended if the respondent is incarcerated and other factors are present.
If a Permanent Injunction is Granted, How long Does it Last?”
Generally, there is no set time limit for a permanent injunction. However, since relationships and circumstances change over time, the courts sometimes set one year and five year increments. An injunction can be renewed or dissolved at any time prior to the expiration.
What Happens if the Injunction is Granted?
Most people do not realize the seriousness of a permanent injunction. The worst aspect of an injunction is that it cannot be sealed or expunged from a criminal record. Also, injunctions are public record. As a public record, many third party websites publish these injunctions. Employers routinely check these third party websites, and an injunction, regardless of the outcome, could affect your ability to be hired.
Injunctions can have wide ranging effects on other court proceedings such as custody disputes, alimony or child support. In custody dispute, an injunction is an important factor in the decision as to who will be the primary care-giver for the child.
Another serious consequence is your potential loss of your Second Amendment rights. When a temporary injunction is granted, the respondent must immediately surrender any and all firearms to local law enforcement. The restriction not to own a firearm could carry over for the entire period the injunction is in effect! An attorney can help by filing a motion to have your firearms returned to you.
Finally, many petitioners use the injunctions as a weapon. For example, if a petitioner sees the respondent in a grocery store or at a baseball game, the petitioner can claim that the respondent violated the injunction, although the respondent did not know the petitioner was even present! This is a recurring theme that my firm has seen time and again, especially in divorce cases. If you believe that the injunction is being used inappropriately, please contact me immediately.
Why Do I Need to Contact An Attorney Experienced in Handling Injunctions?
As stated before, it is a serious mistake to represent yourself either as a petitioner or respondent. Although many people agree to stay away from each other, the respondent should be advised as to the ramifications of such an agreement. On the other hand, a petitioner should have the advice of an attorney in filling out the petition and obtaining the evidence necessary to prove the case.
I have successfully handled dozens of injunction cases (both Petitioner and Respondent). Have the right legal strategy is important no matter what side of the table you sit.
What Happens if I have Been Accused of Violating an Injunction?
According to § 784.047, Florida Statutes, a person can violate an injunction in several ways:
- Refusing to vacate a residence
- Going to the petitioner’s residence, school or place of employment
- Telephoning, contacting or otherwise communicating with the petitioner directly or indirectly
If you are accused of violating one of the conditions above, or other conditions stated in the injunction, you could face criminal charges. Depending on the severity or the frequency, you could face a felony charge with penalties up to five years in prison!
Whether you are a petitioner or a respondent, please contact my office for a free consultation.