This is the next post in a series of articles about seeking protective orders in Melbourne, Florida. The previous article provided an overview of the topics to be discussed and the objectives of this series. It also stressed the importance of contacting an experienced attorney to help you navigate the process. This post will address a common problem for victims: failing to seek a protective order immediately after the danger has occurred. As we will discuss, delaying the filing may impair one’s ability to obtain a TPO. If you are a victim of stalking, harassment or domestic violence and need protection, contact our office today to speak to a lawyer.
A Florida court will issue a protective order when a victim can demonstrate to the court that they are in fear of danger from the adverse party. The applicant must be able to present evidence to the court that the threat is credible. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many victims allow threatening behaviors to continue over a period of time before taking legal action. They may believe the behavior will stop or that the person will retaliate for the filing. They may simply not not be aware that a TPO is available. In some cases, victims attempt to ignore or tolerate the situation without involving the authorities. It is important to understand, however, that the amount of time that lapses between the time the threat began and the time the party is seeking an order may have a negative impact on the case.
As stated previously, the victim must present objective evidence to the court of the threatening behavior. Evidence such as phone or text records, home security footage, eyewitness statements may be used. If several weeks or months have passed since the initial behavior, records may have been deleted or difficult to track down and therefore unavailable to present to the court. Furthermore, it may be more difficult to convince a judge that one is sincerely afraid of the dangerous behavior if a victim has tolerated it for a long period of time. From a court’s perspective, if an applicant has waited to file for the TPO, it may seem as though the threat is less than imminent. On the other hand, filing immediately after a threat has occurred may remove this element from the court’s consideration.
For example, an ex-boyfriend drives by his ex-girlfriend’s house 40 times and pounds on her doors and windows repeatedly, during a 2 day period after their break-up. If she immediately seeks a TPO, a court would likely determine that there is a credible threat to her safety and issue the protective order. If, instead, she waits for three months to file for the TPO after he begins sending her angry text messages, a court may not feel that the current behavior poses an imminent threat of harm. While the court may have considered the initial behavior threatening at the time it occurred, it may now view the delay as an indication that she had not been sincerely concerned for her safety.
If you need protection from an immediate threat, contact law enforcement right away. If you wish to file for a protection order, contact our office today to speak to a Melbourne attorney. Our office is also dedicated to representing clients in the cities of Titusville, Cocoa, Palm Bay, Grant, Valkaria, and Rockledge, as well as in the Indian River County areas of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, and Orchid.