Have you been served with a Petition for Injunction for Protection against Stalking, sometimes referred to as a “restraining order”? If so, you nonetheless may be able to avoid entry of a final injunction and the associated collateral consequences, stress and stigma.
Florida State section 784.0485 provides for an injunction for protection against stalking. Stalking is defined as when a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.” To “harass” means “to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.” A “course of conduct”, in turn, is a “pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose.” In determining whether an incident causes “substantial emotional distress,” courts use a “reasonable person” standard, and not a subjective one.
A July 11, 2018 opinion from the First District Court of Appeal in Paulson v. Rankart illustrates how a party subject to a temporary stalking injunction may avoid it becoming permanent. There, Mr. Paulson and Ms. Rankin were neighbors. Ms. Rankin filed a petition alleging Mr. Paulson was stalking her by complaining to code enforcement and animal control about her outdoor lights and barking dogs keeping him awake at night. She also alleged Paulson was watching her sunbathe on her deck from his property and was examining utility meters on her street. Rankart further alleged she was afraid Paulson might get angry and drunk and shoot her dogs. She claimed to suffer from anxiety and depression, which she said was exacerbated by Paulson’s alleged conduct. Continue reading