Stalking Crimes in Pinellas County, FL
Stalking occurs when a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.” Section 784.048(2), Fla. Stat.
In this context, “course of conduct” is defined to include “a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose,” excluding “constitutionally protected activity such as picketing or other organized protests.” See Section 784.048(1)(b).
The courts apply a reasonable person standard (rather than a subjective standard) to determine whether harassment or cyberstalking causes substantial emotional distress. See Bouters v. State, 659 So. 2d 235, 238 (Fla. 1995).
In addition to criminal charges for stalking, the alleged victim might also file an injunction for protection against stalking under Section 784.0485, Fla. Stat., enacted by the Florida legislature in 2012.
Attorney for Stalking Accusations in Clearwater, FL
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm in Clearwater, FL, represent clients accused of stalking. We can help you fight both the criminal charge and a civil injunction for protection.
Defenses in a stalking case might include showing any of the following:
- the actions did not cause substantial emotional distress;
- the behavior served a legitimate purpose and was not intended to harass the other person; and
- the contact was not “directed” at the alleged victim.
Contact us to discuss your case. Call 727-210-7004.
Injunctions for Protection Against Stalking
The Clerk of the Circuit Court (Clerk) in Pinellas County accepts petitions for a temporary and final judgment of injunction against dating, domestic, repeat, sexual violence, and stalking electronically or at any of the following locations:
- the Pinellas County Justice Center (CJC);
- the Clearwater Courthouse; or
- the St. Petersburg Judicial Building.
Return hearings are assigned to the judge’s domestic violence injunction calendar within fifteen (15) days of issuing an ex parte temporary injunction order or order setting a hearing without granting a temporary injunction.
Does Stalking Require Two Acts or Four Acts?
At last count, the District Courts of Appeal were split on whether a repeat violence injunction requires two incidents of stalking (four separate acts) or only two acts. See, e.g., Lukacs v. Luton, 982 So. 2d 1217, 1220 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008) (two acts); Dudley v. Smith, 786 So. 2d 630, 631 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001) (four acts).
The courts that require only two acts have found that for an injunction for protection from stalking, the Petitioner does not need to prove that a respondent has “repeatedly stalked” them, just that the respondent has followed, harassed, or cyberstalked them “repeatedly.”
To explain it another way, the courts have found that “nowhere in the definitions of section 784.048 is stalking defined as a multiple of itself.” Pickett, 236 So. 3d at 1145.
Many allegations of stalking also involve harassment and cyberstalking.
The term “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.” See Section 784.048(1)(a).
The term “cyberstalking” means “[t]o engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person . . . causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.” See Section 784.048(1)(d)1.
Repeat violence requires a petitioner to prove “two incidents of violence or stalking committed by the respondent, one of which must have been within six (6) months of the filing of the petition, which are directed against the petitioner or the petitioner’s immediate family member.” Section 784.046(1)(b), Fla. Stat. (2020).
CASA Pinellas on Stalking Behaviors – Visit the website of CASA Pinellas to learn more about the definition of stalking and find examples of the most common stalking behaviors. The article explains why the most dangerous time for a stalking victim is right after the perpetrator is served with an injunction for protection. CASA’s injunction attorneys serve victims of stalking at no charge and operate a 24-hour hotline. The CASA Pinellas office is located at 1011 First Ave N, St. Petersburg (enter through the second floor).
This article was last updated on Thursday, April 6, 2023.