I Violated a Florida Domestic Violence Injunction. Now What?
You violated a Florida domestic violence injunction. What now?
Florida courts take domestic violence matters very seriously. Something as simple as sending a text message or answering a phone call can lead to jail time. If you’ve made a misstep, it’s important to think carefully about your next move so you don’t make things worse.
First thing’s first: Hire a defense lawyer, if you don’t already have one. You are not necessarily entitled to have one appointed to you by the court. Yet the benefit of having a legal advocate in your corner, protecting your rights and fighting for your best interests throughout these proceedings cannot be overstated.
The ways in which one could violate a Florida domestic violence injunction are legion. Judges have a great deal of discretion in setting the terms. While most restraining orders have similar provisions (forfeit your firearms, maintain physical distance, zero contact, mandatory batterer’s intervention course, etc.), courts can include additional stipulations tailored to the specific circumstances/individuals involved.
In deciding whether to impose an injunction and/or what conditions to require, the court will consider the defendant/respondent’s prior history with the victim/petitioner - with particular attention to evidence of threats, harassment, stalking, battery, sexual assault, previous injunctions, and whether the petitioner has reasonable cause to fear imminent risk of becoming a victim of domestic violence.
As longtime Broward domestic violence defense lawyers, we’re committed to helping defendants navigate this process, mitigate the potential adverse impacts, and argue for the best case scenario outcomes.How Florida Domestic Violence Injunctions Work
There are several different types of injunction for protection in Florida. These include:
- Domestic violence injunction. Applicable following a single act of violence against a current or former spouse, relative by marriage/blood, a person with whom you live/have lived as a family, or with whom you share a child.
- Repeat violence injunction. Issued following two or more 2+ incidents of violence or stalking in the last six months against the petitioner and/or petitioner’s immediate family.
- Dating violence injunction. Applicable when those involved are dating or have dated at some point in the last 6 months - meaning they’ve been involved in a relationship characterized by continuous/frequent contact, physical affection, and/or sexual involvement.
- Sexual violence injunctions. Ordered when petitioner alleges sexual assault or battery committed by the respondent. Petitioner must report the allegation to police and agree to cooperate with prosecutors. Also applies if a person convicted of a sex crime against petitioner is being released from incarceration.
Two main ways domestic violence injunctions are granted in Florida: A result of a civil petition or part of a criminal case.
Civil petitions are filed by the alleged victim/target. The process is as follows:
- Petitioner files a request with the local court for protection from domestic violence.
- The court issues an ex parte order (meaning they won’t hear all sides of the issue upfront) either granting or denying a temporary injunction. If granted, a hearing for a final injunction is set. Respondent is served with notice of the injunction and hearing date.
- At the hearing, the court allows evidence from both sides and determines whether to grant a final injunction. If a respondent doesn’t show up, there’s a good chance that final order will be granted - and will most assuredly impact your life beyond not having contact with the petitioner. It is in your best interests to attend this hearing with a lawyer to represent you.
- Compliance with the terms of injunction are enforced by law enforcement and the court. Even if the injunction is civil, violation of an injunction is a criminal matter.
Criminal case injunctions - more commonly called “No Contact Orders” - are imposed by trial court judges as a condition of release for defendants facing domestic violence criminal charges. The terms can vary a bit, but most prohibit defendants from direct or indirect contact with the victim for the duration of the criminal case or unless the court modifies or lifts the order.What Constitutes a Violation of a Domestic Violence Injunction?
Violations of a domestic violence injunction can include any action (or failure to act) that is outside the express terms of the order. The Florida Supreme Court has held that in order to be actionable, violation of an injunction must be willful, meaning intentional.
Almost all injunctions contain no contact provisions. “No contact” means just that - no calls, texts, emails, written letters, faxes, messages, instant messages, packages, gestures, or being physically anywhere near the alleged victim. Communication through platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter - that all counts, and can land you a violation.
Indirect contact is prohibited too. You can’t ask someone to act as an intermediary to pass on a message. You can’t involve your kids, your parents, your siblings, or mutual friends to act as go-betweens.
It doesn’t matter if the petitioner/victim reaches out to you first. The court *might* consider that a mitigating factor if you’re reported for a violation, but ultimately: Defendants/respondents subject to a Florida domestic violence injunction are not freed from the terms of it just because the petitioner/alleged victim consents to it. Even if the petitioner initiates the contact: Stay away. So long as the injunction is still in place, the respondent/defendant must refuse to engage. Only the court can modify or lift that order.
Other violations can include things like failing to attend a mandated batterer’s intervention course, not turning over your firearms to law enforcement, damaging their property, or getting within a certain distance of the alleged victim/their immediate family/their workplace, school, home, or car.Penalties for Florida Domestic Violence Injunction Violations
Courts may enforce violation of a domestic violence injunction through either a civil or criminal contempt proceeding, pursuant to F.S. 741.31.
Willful violation of an injunction for protection is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 in jail, 1 year of probation, and a $1,000 fine.
If the violation involves having a firearm or ammunition despite a final order domestic violence injunction that forbids it, F.S. 790.233 stipulates this is also a first-degree misdemeanor (with exceptions if the defendant is a state or local officer with active certification who receives/possesses a gun/ammo for use in performing their official duties by their employer).
If the person has a history of two or more previous injunction violations and then commits a third, it’s a third-degree felony, per FS. 741.31(4)(c), punishable by up to 5 years in prison.Defense Strategies in Florida DV Injunction Violation Cases
If you’re accused of violating a domestic violation injunction, keep a cool head - and a quiet mouth. Remember: Even if you aren’t arrested, it’s still potentially a criminal matter, meaning any communication in which you engage might be used as evidence against you.
Factors that will work against you in these proceedings:
- Your communication, contact, or threat was written, recorded, or photographed. It will be more difficult for your attorney to disprove or deny.
- You have prior convictions for domestic violence and/or violation of injunctions. Prior offenses aren’t clear evidence of guilt in new cases, but they can be used to establish a pattern.
- The contact/communication was not initiated by the victim/respondent. To be clear: That won’t necessarily excuse the violation, but it could be presented as evidence the violation wasn’t willful or at least as a mitigating circumstance.
Some of the defense strategies a South Florida criminal defense lawyer may employ:
- No intention to violate. In order to be punishable, violation of a domestic violence injunction must be wilful. That means it was done knowingly, with intention, and purpose. If a defendant reasonably believed that their actions were within the scope of what was allowed per the terms of the injunction, a defense attorney may argue a good faith mistake or misunderstanding.
- Defendant had inadequate notice of injunction. To prevail on a charge of injunction violation, there must be evidence the defendant had notice of the order in the first place. If the state fails to show the injunction was served to the defendant or at minimum that they were notified in some other way, they’re lacking evidence of a willful violation.
- Unintentional contact. A domestic violence injunction might order a defendant to stay 100 feet away from the victim/petitioner, but if they accidentally end up behind them at a grocery store - that’s unintentional contact. (Remove yourself from that situation as soon as safely possible with as minimal communication as possible - and contact your lawyer right away to notify them of a potential issue.) If you talk to a third party about the petitioner - and then that third party reaches out to the petitioner without your request or knowledge - that is not intentional contact on your part.
The exact approach may differ depending on the circumstances. If you’re in Southeast Florida, we can help. With free initial consultations, we will do our best to answer your questions and point you in the right direction.
If you are accused of violating a domestic violence injunction in Broward, Palm Beach, or Miami-Dade Counties, contact The Ansara Law Firm today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.