What 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.1 Below you will find the definitions of the emboldened terms:
- 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 to communicate or cause to be communicated, directly or indirectly, words, images, or language through e-mail or other electronic communication that is directed at you or that pertains to you; or
- accesses or attempts to access your online accounts or Internet-connected home electronic systems without your permission, causing you substantial emotional distress and serving no legitimate purpose.3
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.4
1 Fla. Stat. § 784.048(2)
2 Fla. Stat. § 784.048(1)(a),(b)
3 Fla. Stat. § 784.048(1)(d)
4 Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(3)(d)
What 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.1 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.2 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.3
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.4
1 Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(5)(a),(b)
2 Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(5)(a)
3 Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(5)(c)
4 Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(6)(b)
What protections can I get in an injunction for protection against stalking?
In a temporary ex parte 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 are necessary for your protection;
- include any orders directed at law enforcement.1
In a final injunction, the judge can:
- order all of the protections listed above; and
- prohibit the respondent from coming within 500 feet of your home, school, or workplace;
- prohibit the respondent from coming within 500 feet of any specific place that you, your family members, or people closely tied to you regularly go to;
- prohibit the respondent from intentionally coming within 100 feet of your motor vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is occupied;
- prohibit the respondent from contacting you by telephone, mail, by e-mail, in writing, through another person, or in any other manner;
- order the respondent to not have any firearms or ammunition in his/her care, custody, possession, or control;
- order the respondent to participate in treatment, intervention, or counseling services to be paid for by the respondent.2
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.3
1 Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(3)(e),(5)(a)
2 Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(6)(a); see Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Stalking
3 Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(6)(a)(3)
Where 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.1
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.1
1 Fla. Stat. § 784.0485(1)(f)