As a Broward County Domestic Violence attorney, one issue that arises in some cases and that is good for you be informed about ahead of time, is how to enforce a Domestic Violence Injunction. Although an Injunction is more than just a piece of paper because it does carry with it some important enforcement powers, in another respect it is just a piece of paper. If you are confronted by a violent spouse or significant other and no law enforcement or other source of safety is around, the Injunction is not going to provide protection, other than whatever concern the perpetrator may have regarding the consequences of violating the order. There are links here to domestic violence programs which can help with guidance, and also a domestic violence shelter when needed.
Law enforcement can arrest and take someone into custody for violating a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. If someone subject to an Injunction comes to your home, contacts you, comes within 100 feet of your car, damages your property or takes other action constituting a violation, you can contact law enforcement for assistance. Once arrested the person must be held in custody, and not released until they are brought in front of the Court for a bail hearing.
The other avenue for enforcement is to go the Domestic Violence Unit at the Courthouse, where the staff will assist you with filling out a Petition and Affidavit laying out the details of the violation, and requesting a hearing to determine if the perpetrator should be held in Contempt of Court for violating the Injunction. The Judge can impose fines or place a person in jail for violating the Injunction. The Florida Statute governing enforcement of Domestic Violence Injunctions provides that the Domestic Violence Unit at the court should also send the Affidavit to the State Attorney’s Office, and you can provide a copy of the Affidavit to the State Attorney’s Office yourself. Violating a Domestic Violence Restraining Order is a crime, and the Domestic Violence Unit can forward the Affidavit to law enforcement as well. There are links here for the Domestic Violence Units at the courthouses in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties, and you can find a copy of the Affidavit here.
One thing some people are not aware of, is that a Domestic Violence Injunction prohibits the perpetrator from contacting you directly or indirectly. That means it is a violation for the person with the Restraining Order against them to have someone other than themselves contact you, follow you, etc.
It is important to carry your Restraining Order with you. There is a procedure whereby information about the Injunction is entered into a statewide electronic database, but you should keep the Restraining Order with you, so law enforcement can see it, including seeing the specific terms and provisions the Judge has written into or checked off in the Order. This is especially true if there are provisions in the order regarding custody of children, and whether the Respondent can see the children.
One other area I wanted to address is some of the terms used in this post – I’ve used the terms Injunction and Restraining Order pretty interchangeably here. An injunction is a general type of order which prohibits a person or company from doing something, or requires them to do something. “Restraining Order” is a way of referring to an injunction which prohibits or restrains someone from doing something. There may be finer distinctions in older case law or statutes, but this explanation is pretty close. A domestic violence injunction is a particular type of injunction, with the rules governing it in Florida Statutes Chapter 741, and in the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, Rule 12.610. Two other terms – Respondent and Petitioner: the Petitioner is the person who files the Petition requesting the Judge to issue the Injunction, and the Respondent is the person who is alleged to have committed the domestic violence and who then responds to the allegations in court if they choose. Someone concerned with their safety probably isn’t most concerned with the different terms, but avoiding a little confusion may help sometimes.