Articles Posted in Injunctions / Restraining Orders

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If you’ve been served with a Petition for Injunction for Protection against Stalking, sometimes referred to as a “restraining order”, there’s good news for you.  A recent case from the First District Court of Appeal has made it harder to get a stalking injunction.

In Venn v. Fowlkes, 43 Fla.L.Weekly D2455 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018) Mr. Venn filed a Petition for Protection Against Domestic Violence against Ms. Venn with whom he shared a child from their 15 year relationship.  Mr. Fowlkes’s Petition alleged Ms. Venn stalked and harassed him 24/7 at his work and home, and harassed him by filing a child support case. The allegations included that Ms. Venn called Mr. Fowlkes numerous times without leaving a message; knocked on the door of his house and ran; created problems at the restaurant where he works; claimed to have many pictures of him and his wife; called and bothered Mr. Fowlkes’s brother; claimed to be in fear of Mr. Fowlkes; and told a third-party that she would “get the crackers on [him].”  Claiming to be “tired of [Ms. Venn’s] games, [her] stalking, [and her] harassment through the child support case,” Mr. Fowlkes’s Petition requested the trial court to stop it immediately by granting him an injunction.

At the injunction hearing, Mr. Fowlkes testified the allegations in his petition were true and correct.  He provided no further substantive testimony. Ms. Venn objected to the injunction and testified she had legitimate reasons for visiting Mr. Fowlkes’s workplace and home. For example, Ms. Venn informed the court she had gone to the restaurant several times with the parties’ minor daughter, at the daughter’s request and after Mr. Fowlkes had invited the daughter to eat there. Ms. Venn also acknowledge placing something in Mr. Fowlkes’s mailbox related to her child support case against him. Ms. Venn contended Mr. Fowlkes’s petition was filed in retaliation for her having filed a child support case against him. Continue reading

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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. Rankartillustrates 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