Is Cyberstalking an Act of Violence Under Florida Domestic Violence Injunction Law?

Under Florida law, s. 741.30(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2014), a judge can enter a domestic violence injunction in favor of a person who is either the victim of domestic violence or who has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence.

The crime of cyberstalking doesn’t necessarily evoke a sense of violence being inflicted, yet under Florida law stalking, including cyberstalking, is one of the several criminal offenses specifically defined as domestic violence. It constitutes as cyberstalking when it takes place between two family or household members, or two people who have had a child together. Florida law defines cyberstalking as engaging in

a course of conduct to communicate, or to 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.”

This definition is included in the description of stalking as a criminal offense in s. 784.048(2), Fla. Stat. (2014).

In a recent July 25, 2014 decision from the appellate court, the Second District Court of Appeal considered an appeal of a domestic violence injunction entered against a man based on his cyberstalking of the victim. He had sent over 300 emails to her in a six-week time period. Although none of the emails threatened violence, the appellate court upheld the domestic violence injunction, explaining that cyberstalking, standing alone without any threat of future violence, is enough to support entry of a domestic violence injunction. Why? As they explained, because stalking is one of the specific crimes that qualifies as a domestic violence offense under Florida law. When the victim proved that cyberstalking had occurred, the victim proved at the same time that she was a domestic violence victim who was entitled to the domestic violence injunction.

If you or someone you know needs help when it comes to cyberstalking or domestic violence, contact an experienced family attorney.

 

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