What if the Stalker Files for a Stalking Protection Injunction?

If you ever want to find the crazy people then visit a courtroom for injunction hearings. In those courtroom you will find the most bizarre allegations of domestic violence. If you want to find the craziest people of all - wait for the neighbor vs. neighbor injunction hearings for "repeat violence" or "stalking."

Over the years I've defended more than my share of neighbor vs. neighbor injunction cases in Tampa and Hillsborough County, FL. I always represent the respondent in these cases. I'm morally opposed to representing a petitioner in an injunction case but particularly in a neighbor vs. neighbor case.

I've seen cases involving allegations of poisoning the cat, fighting over hanging tree limbs, letting chickens run free in the backyard, and making obscene gestures while looking out the kitchen window. The craziest cases always involve hours of blurry surveillance videos.

The individuals involved in these fights end up filing for an injunction because no law enforcement officer or prosecutor would believe their claims.

Most normal people have no idea that such a place exists. Who knew you could ask for an injunction for protection? Well, the crazy people know about it. The crazy people use that process when it suits them. The craziest people use the system to stalk and harass their victims.

Of course, hidden in the chaos are the few cases where a real victim actually needs help from the court. It's up to the judge to sort through it all.

Florida's New Staking and Cyberstalking Laws

The Florida legislature just added a new level of chaos to the process by introducing yet another category for protection injunctions - the stalking protection injunction. On October 1, 2012, House Bill 1099 for Stalking and Aggravated Stalking took effect. The bill makes a wide variety of changes to s. 784.048, F.S., the stalking statute, and s. 784.0485 for stalking protection injunctions.

If you thought the stalking definition was vague before, just wait until you read all the new provisions:
  • It broadens the stalking-related definitions, primarily the definition of “credible threat.”
  • It broadens the definition of "aggravated stalking."
  • It creates a statutory cause of action for an injunction for protection against stalking and cyberstalking.
  • It creates a new mechanism for collecting economic damages for an injury or loss that results from a violation of the stalking injunction.
  • It creates a new first degree misdemeanor crime for violating an injunction against stalking or cyberstalking.
  • It creates a new first degree misdemeanor crime for the respondent to have in his possession a firearm or ammunition after the issuance of an injunction for protection against stalking while that injunction is in effect.
  • It requires the court, for any sentence, to consider issuing an injunction restraining a defendant from victim contact for up to ten years.

Injunction for Protection Against Stalking and Cyberstalking under §784.0485

Prior to the new law, a statutory cause of action did not exist specifically for protection against stalking or aggravated stalking. So if a person wanted an injunction based on stalking behavior then the person had to pursue injunctive relief through the domestic violence, dating violence or the repeat violence injunction statutes.
  • Domestic violence injunctions required stalking or aggravated stalking resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another member.
  • Dating violence injunctions required stalking or aggravated stalking resulting in physical injury or death between individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.
  • Repeat violence injunctions require two incidents of stalking or aggravated stalking, one being within six months of the petition’s filing, which are directed against the petitioner or an immediate family member.
The new law in Florida creates a separate statutory cause of action for an injunction for protection against stalking and cyberstalking. It is similar to, but considerable broader than, the current causes of action for injunctions for protection against domestic violence, repeat violence, and dating violence.

Unlike other types of allegations in injunction for protection cases, allegations of stalking are particularly broad and just became even broader.

Making Stalking-Related Definitions Even More Vague

At the same time the legislature created an entire new category for protection injunctions, it also watered down the stalking-related definitions.

For instance, it substantively changes the definition of the term “credible threat” to “a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including a threat delivered by electronic communication or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm.”

Now, Florida law provides that it is not even necessary to prove that the person making the threat had the intent to actually carry out the threat.

The law also deleted the prior language requiring that the threat be against the life of, or a threat to cause bodily injury to, a person.

The bill removes “intent to place the person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury” as an element of aggravated stalking as defined in s. 784.048(3), F.S.

Consequently, under subsection (3), aggravated stalking occurs when a person willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person, and makes a credible threat to that person.

So now the focus is on the "fear for safety" of the complaining witness instead of the actual intentions of the person accused. When you add it all up, just about anything now constitutes stalking or cyberstaking.

Has anyone considered the fact that the stalkers will just use the new petitions for stalking protection injunctions to terrorize their victims? If you accept the fact that a person might stalk another person then why would you doubt the fact that a stalker will make false or exaggerated claims in a petition for a staking protection injunction?

The pendulum has swung too far.

Leslie Sammis fights to protect her clients in injunction hearings against false claims of domestic violence, repeat violence, dating violence and stalking at the courthouse in Tampa and Plant City for Hillsborough County, FL.

"Day of Action" to Gather Signatures on Petitions to Legalize Medical Marijuana in FL in 2014

So what are the chances that the medical marijuana issue will end up on the Florida ballot in 2014?

Time is running out for United for Care to gather enough signatures to get the medical marijuana issue on the 2014 ballot. This Saturday, United for Care is planning a "Day of Action." The organization is looking for volunteers to come out this Saturday to help them collect petitions. Volunteers go to certain locations throughout Tampa Bay to collect petitions that are returned to United for Care at the end of the day.

If you are intereted in volunteering your time then meet the Tampa Leader, Bianca Garza for the morning pick-up from 10 a.m. to 12 o'clock noon at:
Avid Brew and Grow Supplies 1745 1st Ave S. St. Petersburg, FL 33712

After you have collected the signatures on the petitions then drop off the petitions in the evening between 5 p.m. to 8p.m. at:
Chic-A-Boom Room 319 Main St. Dunedin, FL 34698

When you arrive you will be handed a stack of petitions. Regional leaders can answer all your questions and help you find good locations for collecting signatures from registured voters. Then in the evening drop off the petitions.

Also - follow United for Care on Twitter or Facebook for all the updates.

Tag Readers Used by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

The Hillsborough County Sheriff Office spent $25,000 to install automatic license plate readers (often called "tag readers"). The tag reader collects certain data, including the tag numbers for every vehicle that passes near the intersection at 15th Street and 122nd Avenue in Tampa, FL. 

The equipment includes two cameras installed on a pole. It has been reading tags for the last year.

HCSO has estimated that the tag reader collects data on 1.3 million tags over a three month period. Once the tags are read, the data is send through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and Florida Crime Information Center (FCIC) databases.

If the tag belongs to a person with an outstanding warrant, for instance, law enforcement officers might be able to use that data to track down the owner of the vehicle. Other purposes for collecting the data might include finding stolen plates or vehicle, finding vehicles used in the commission of a crime or finding wanted persons.

Law enforcement officers are testing out the equipment in a pilot program. If law enforcement likes this new high tech tool, the cameras might pop up at more intersections near you. 

If you thought it was a waste of taxpayer money to pay $25,000 to install a tag reader, then don't worry. The money came from a $1.3 million federal grant. The rest of the money was used to install additional "Eye on Crime" surveillance systems in the neighborhoods around the University of South Florida campus.

The tag readers could be used to set up permanent records to track the movement of citizens going about their daily activities. In the wrong hands, the data could be prone for abuse. The ACLU has gathered some startling data on how often these types of camera are being used throughout the country.
Automatic license plate readers have the potential to create permanent records of virtually everywhere any of us has driven, radically transforming the consequences of leaving home to pursue private life, and opening up many opportunities for abuse. The tracking of people’s location constitutes a significant invasion of privacy, which can reveal many things about their lives, such as what friends, doctors, protests, political events, or churches a person may visit.
In our society, it is a core principle that the government does not invade people’s privacy and collect information about citizens’ innocent activities just in case they do something wrong. Clear regulations must be put in place to keep the government from tracking our movements on a massive scale.
 Read more about the dangers of automatic license plate readers. Are you being tracked?