Restraining Orders

Restraining orders, also referred to as “Orders of Protection” or “Injunctions” are imposed by courts with the intention of mandating a person stop a certain behavior.

There are many types of injunctions, but most that we deal with at The Ansara Law Firm are those that forbid people from contacting or abusing the individual who has requested the order. The majority of restraining orders are filed in connection with:

  • Domestic violence
  • Conflict within intimate relationship
  • Conflict with family member
  • Conflict with neighbor, acquaintance or co-worker
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Sexual assault

Individuals who are the target of a restraining order must know that this is a serious matter that can negatively impact not only your intimate relationship but also restrict your movements, revoke your right to carry a firearm and block access to your children. Also because a restraining order is a public record, your employer or future employers will be able to find out about it. That could result in lost career opportunities and damage to one’s public reputation.

Types of Restraining Orders

Florida statutes allow for four general types of restraining orders. Those are:

  • Dating Violence Injunction – Involves violence between two people who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of an intimate or romantic nature.
  • Domestic Violence Injunction – Involves threats or violence between two family or household members, any individuals who reside together as a family or persons who share a child together.
  • Repeat Violence Injunction – Involves individuals who do not necessarily have an intimate relationship, but where there are allegations of violence, stalking or harassment. Could include a co-worker, fellow student, roommate, neighbor, employee, etc.
  • Sexual Violence Injunction – Involves an individual who has made an allegation of a sex crime against the respondent. Must assert at least one incident of sexual battery, lewd or lascivious act on or in the presence of a person under 16, luring or enticing a child into sexual performance or any other forcible sex offense.

Sometimes, a criminal court will impose an injunction on a defendant in a criminal case, barring that individual from contacting the alleged victim or others involved. However, usually what we’re talking about here are injunction requests personally filed by the alleged victim or his or her representative.

Know Your Rights

If someone has filed a request for a restraining order against you (they are called the “petitioner”), there are a number of rights you (the “respondent”) should exercise and ensure are protected. These include:

  • The right to be notified of the request.
  • The right to a court hearing.
  • The right to defend yourself.
  • The right to be represented by an attorney.

There are some exceptions to this where Temporary Restraining Orders come into play. You should also know that the court is not required to appoint a lawyer for you at these hearings. You must take the initiative to hire one on your own.

Understanding the Injunction Process

The process usually starts with a petition that is filed within civil court by an alleged victim or representative of that alleged victim.

The judge will take into consideration whether emergency action must be taken, pending a full evidentiary hearing. Based on a cursory review of the facts, the judge will decide whether to impose a Temporary Restraining Order. There is no opportunity for the respondent prior to that decision to defend himself or herself. The judge considers only the information contained in that petition.

In the event the judge imposes a temporary restraining order, a hearing date is automatically set for no more than 15 days from that order. It will be at this final hearing that respondent has the chance to refute the allegations. Respondent will be able to:

  • Present photographs
  • Offer witness testimony
  • Turn over any other evidence in support of respondent’s position

It is strongly advised that an individual hire an attorney for this hearing because this is a formal court process and the implications this could have on your current situation and your future are serious.

Know also that injunctions that are issued in the State of Florida will be valid everywhere else in the country. Similarly, restraining orders issued out-of-state are recognized here in Florida as well.

The Worst Thing You Can Do

One of the worst things you can do after receiving notification of a restraining order is to ignore it.

First of all, if you fail to read the contents carefully and violate any provision – even unintentionally – you can be charged with a crime.

Also if you do nothing after receiving notice of a request for a temporary order, you forfeit the right to defend yourself. That could result in a permanent injunction, at which point there are long-term restrictions, prohibition from having a gun and the order will be part of your permanent record.

Additionally, it’s a poor decision to attempt to:

  • Destroy evidence against you;
  • Attempt to talk to either the petitioner or possible witnesses (this includes texting or contact over social media);
  • Violate the order in any way.

Engaging in any of these actions will not only make it tougher for you to defend against the imposition of a permanent restraining order, it could potentially lead to criminal charges, depending on the circumstances.

Instead, it’s advisable for respondents of restraining orders to:

  • Read the order carefully.
  • Obey all orders contained therein.
  • Contact a lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights and options.

Remember, a final hearing on the matter has to be held within 15 days of the issuance of the temporary restraining order. That doesn’t give you much time to prepare. It’s essential that respondents be ready for that hearing.

If you have received notice of a request for an injunction against you, call our offices today to learn more about how we can help.

If you have received notice of a restraining order in South Florida, contact the Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (877) 277-3780.