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Know the Laws: Florida

UPDATED April 12, 2017

Injunctions for Protection Against Stalking/Cyberstalking

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An injunction for protection against stalking/cyberstalking can be obtained against anyone, regardless of your relationship to him/her.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of stalking in Florida?

This section defines stalking for the purpose of getting an injunction. 

According to Florida’s criminal law, stalking is defined as when someone willfully (intentionally), maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.*  Below you will find the definitions of the emboldened terms:

  1. Harassment is when someone commits a series of acts over a period of time against you, which causes you to have substantial emotional distress (and the acts serve no legitimate purpose).** 
  2. Cyberstalking is when someone commits a series of acts that communicate (or cause to be communicated) words, images, or language through e-mail or other electronic communication that is directed at you, causing you substantial emotional distress (and serving no legitimate purpose).***
Here are some examples listed on the court petition so you can get an idea of what behaviors/acts may qualify someone for an injunction:
  • Previously threatened, harassed, stalked, cyberstalked, or physically abused the petitioner;
  • Threatened to harm the petitioner or family members or individuals closely associated with the petitioner;
  • Intentionally injured or killed a family pet;
  • Used, or threatened to use, against the petitioner any weapons such as guns or knives; and
  • Destroyed personal property, including, but not limited to, telephones or other communication equipment, clothing, or other items belonging to the petitioner.****
* Fla. Stat. § 784.048(2)
** Fla. Stat. § 784.048(1)(a),(b)
*** Fla. Stat. § 784.048(1)(d)
**** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(3)(d)

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back to topWhat types of injunctions for protection against stalking are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of injunctions – an ex parte temporary injunction and a final injunction issued after notice to the respondent and a hearing.

If the judge believes that you have been stalked and/or that there is an immediate and present danger of stalking, the judge may grant you an immediate ex parte order.*  In the ex parte order, the judge can include any terms in the order that the judge thinks is proper, including ordering the respondent to not commit any act of stalking against you.**  An ex parte order is good for up to 15 days until there can be a full hearing where the respondent has the opportunity to be present in court and fight against a final order being issued.***

A final injunction can last forever, or until either the petitioner or respondent comes back to court to ask that it be changed (modified) or cancelled (dissolved).  Either party can file at any time to modify or dissolve the injunction.****

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(5)(a),(b)
** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(5)(a)
*** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(5)(c)
**** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(6)(b)

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back to topHow can an injunction for protection against stalking help me?

In an ex parte temporary injunction, the judge can:

  • order the respondent to not commit any act of stalking against you;
  • include any terms in the order that the judge thinks is necessary for your protection;
  • include any orders directed at law enforcement.*
In a final injunction, the judge can:
  • order all of the protections listed above; and
  • order the respondent to participate in treatment, intervention, or counseling services to be paid for by the respondent.**
Note: The judge may also refer you (the petitioner) to appropriate services by giving you a list of certified stalking centers, certified rape crisis centers, and other appropriate referrals in your area which you may contact.**

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(3)(e),(5)(a)
** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(6)(a)

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back to topWhere can I file for an injunction for protection against stalking?

You can file a petition for an injunction for protection against stalking in the circuit court located in the circuit where you currently live (even if it’s only a temporary residence), where the respondent lives, or where the stalking occurred.*

To look for the location of the courthouse near you, go to our FL Courthouse Locations page.  Note: There is no minimum requirement of residency to petition for an injunction for protection.*

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(1)(f)

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The injunction process

back to topWho can apply for an injunction for protection against stalking?

The following people can apply for an injunction for protection against stalking:

  1. a stalking victim can file for an injunction for himself/herself; and/or
  2. the parent/legal guardian of a minor child who is living at home can file fo an injunction for protection against stalking on behalf of the minor child.*
You can file against anyone who is stalking you, regardless of your relationship to that person** as long as you meet the definition of someone who is being stalked, according to the law.  See What is the legal definition of stalking in Florida? for more information.

The injunction petition is filed in the circuit court.  See Where can I file for an injunction for protection against stalking? for more information about where to file.

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(1)(a)
** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(1)(c)

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back to topIs there a minimum amount of time that I must live in Florida before I can file for an injunction?

No, there is no minimum requirement of residency for you to meet before you file a petition for an injunction for protection against stalking in Florida.  You also have the option of filing the petition in the county where the respondent lives, or where the stalking occurred instead of in the county where you currently live.*  This might be the best option for you if you have moved to a new county and the stalker does not know what county you are living in.

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(1)(f)

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back to topHow much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

There is no fee to file a petition for protection against stalking.*  You do not need a lawyer to file for one or to defend yourself if someone files against you** but it may be helpful to have one, especially if the other party has one or if the case goes to trial.  For free and paid legal referrals, go to our FL Finding a Lawyer page.  If you are going to be representing yourself, you can find tips for what to expect in court and how to prepare yourself on our Preparing Your Case page.

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(2)(a)
** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(1)(d)

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back to topCan I bring an advocate with me to court for support?

Yes.  The law allows you to bring an advocate from a state attorney's office, a law enforcement agency, a certified rape crisis center, or a certified stalking center with you during any court proceedings related to the injunction for protection against stalking.*

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(7)

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Steps for getting an injunction for protection against stalking

back to topStep 1: Go to the courthouse and get the necessary forms.

You can file a petition for an injunction for protection against stalking in the circuit court located in the circuit where you currently live (even if it’s only a temporary residence), where the respondent lives, or where the stalking occurred.*  Go to the clerk's office to get the forms that you need.  To look for the location of the courthouse near you, go to our FL Courthouse Locations page.

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(1)(f)

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back to topStep 2: Fill out the forms.

You will likely have to give the following information when you apply for an injunction:

  1. The respondent’s current address and last known place of employment;
  2. The respondent’s date of birth and a physical description of him/her;
  3. Any aliases (other names) that s/he uses;
  4. A list of any other current court cases involving you and the respondent; and
  5. A list of any other times you applied for an injunction against the respondent and what happened in those cases - (case numbers should be included, if available).*
The form will ask you to give a detailed description of the facts and circumstances about the stalking and your reasons for seeking protection.

Read the petition carefully and ask questions if you don't understand something.  The clerk may be able to provide some type of assistance but cannot tell you what to write or advise you.**  Describe in detail how the respondent stalked or cyberstalked you.  Be specific.  Include details and dates, if possible.

Do not sign the form until you have shown it to a clerk. The form may have to be signed in front of a notary public, clerk or a judge at the courthouse. If the paperwork asks for your address and you are afraid that giving your address will put you in danger, tell the clerk. S/he will help you fill out a form to ask the court to allow you to keep your address a secret.  Note: The clerk is supposed to try to protect your privacy as much as possible while you are completing the forms for an injunction for protection against stalking.

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(3)(b),(c)
** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(2)(c)(1)
*** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(2)(c)(3)

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back to topStep 3: A judge will review your petition and may give you an ex parte temporary order.

When you turn in your petition to the clerk, the clerk will send it to the judge for review.  If it appears to the judge that stalking exists or that there is an immediate and present danger of stalking, the judge can give you a temporary ex parte injunction, which will last until the full hearing (approximately 15 days).  The judge is supposed to set the hearing date at the earliest possible time.*

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(4),(5)(a),(b)

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back to topStep 4: Service of process

In order to serve the papers on the respondent, the clerk will give a copy of the petition, notice of hearing, and temporary injunction to the sheriff or a law enforcement agency in the county where the respondent lives or where s/he can be found.  Then the sheriff or other law enforcement officer will serve it upon the respondent as soon as possible, any day of the week and at any time of the day or night.* 

Another option for service, if you request it in court, is that you can give a certified copy of the order to law enforcement yourself and accompany/assist the officer who serves it on the respondent.**  To find contact information for your local sheriff, go to our FL Sheriff Departments page.

Note: The clerk of the court should give you two certified copies of the order of injunction and there will be a paper that explains what the procedure is for serving (and enforcing) the order.***

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(8)(a)(1)
** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(8)(a)(2)
*** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(2)(c)(4)

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back to topStep 5: The hearing

When you are requesting a final injunction for protection, you must prove that the respondent has committed an act of stalking (as defined by the law) against you.

You are required to go to the court hearing.  If you find out you absolutely cannot attend, you must contact the court clerk immediately and ask how you can get a "continuance" for a later court date.  However, continuances are normally not granted.  If the petitioner does not show up, generally the temporary injunction will be dismissed.

At the hearing, you will be asked to testify in court about the stalking you have experienced. The respondent will also be allowed to be present evidence and testify in the hearing.  See the Preparing Your Case section under the Preparing for Court tab at the top of this page for ways you can show the judge that you were stalked.

If the respondent does not show up, the court may issue a "default judgment" and you may receive a final injunction against the respondent without him/her being there.  If not, a date for another court hearing may be set.  If another hearing date is set and the judge does not extend the temporary injunction, you should request that s/he do so before leaving the courtroom.

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After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courtroom?

Review the injunction before you leave the courthouse.  If something is wrong or missing, you might be able to present your concerns to the judge at that time.  If you notice an error after you leave the courtroom or the courthouse, you may want to file legal papers called a “motion for clarification.” You may want to consult with an attorney for help with this.

  • The clerk of court will give you at least two certified copies of the injunction.  You may want to make several more copies of the injunction as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the injunction with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the injunction at your work place, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the stalker.
  • Give a copy of the injunction to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks and your phone number if permitted by law.
  • Be aware of your safety while leaving the courthouse.  If you are concerned that the stalker may try to approach you, contact a court officer to see if you can be accompanied to your car.
Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the injunction.  People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many stalkers obey injunctions, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  View our Safety Tips for Stalking Victims page for some suggestions.  Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.  For a list of domestic violence centers, see our FL State and Local Programs page - some of them may assist stalking victims even if the stalking is not part of an intimate relationship.

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back to topWhat can I do if the stalker violates the order?

You can call the police right away.  Tell the police that you have an injunction for protection against stalking.  Make sure you have a copy of the injunction to show the police when they arrive.  When the police arrive, you can tell them what happened and that you want the stalker to be arrested.  Violation of an injunction can be a misdemeanor in the first degree or a felony of the third degree if it is violated three or more times against the same victim.*

If the injunction is violated but the stalker is not arrested, you can report the violation to the clerk's office in the circuit court in the county where the violation occurred, which may be a different courthouse than the one that gave you the injunction.  The clerk will help you take the appropriate steps to file a violation petition to enforce your injunction.  Your affidavit (sworn statement) will then be sent to law enforcement and the state attorney for further action.**

The judge can hold the stalker in contempt of court or the state attorney can prosecute a violation as a criminal violation.***  Also, if you suffer an injury or loss as a result of a violation of the injunction for protection against stalking, the court that issued the injunction can award you money damages, including costs and attorney fees for enforcement of the injunction.****

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0487(4)
** Fla. Stat. § 784.0487(1),(2)
*** Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(9)(a)
**** Fla. Stat. § 784.0487(5)

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back to topHow do I change the injunction?

Either you or the respondent can file in court at any time to modify (change) or dissolve (dismiss) the injunction.*  The judge will decide, after hearing both sides, whether or not to take the action requested.

* Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(6)(b),(10)

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back to topWhat can I do to be safe besides getting an injunction?

You may be able to file criminal stalking charges against the stalker depending on the circumstances.  You can do this by going to the police station.  Be aware that if you file a criminal complaint, if you later decide not to pursue your complaint, the state of Florida will not necessarily drop the criminal charges.  Unlike an injunction, which is considered a private matter, a criminal charge is considered a public offense.  The state may decide to prosecute the accused stalker even if you are no longer interested in taking action.

Whether or not you decide to get an injunction, you should consider making a plan for your safety.  See our Safety Tips for Stalking Victims page for more information.

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