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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / Florida Stalking Laws Under Microscope After Tragic Murder

Florida Stalking Laws Under Microscope After Tragic Murder


In February 2024, a Clearwater woman was killed when her former boyfriend shot her as she ran to a neighbor’s home – mere days after she was denied an anti-stalking injunction from a judge in her district court. The judge ruled that the woman had failed to show enough proof that a stalking situation existed, but her judgment was tragically mistaken. In the aftermath, the efficacy of Florida’s anti-stalking statute has come up for discussion. If you are in a similar situation, it is crucial that you understand your rights.

A Complex Anti-Stalking Statute

There are many different types of injunctions for protection (also referred to as restraining orders) available in Florida. Anti-stalking injunctions make up roughly two-thirds of petitions for injunctions, but only a percentage are approved – at least in part because Florida’s anti-stalking statute is somewhat cumbersome and ambiguously worded. Stalking is defined in Florida as the act of “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follow[ing], harass[ing], or cyberstalk[ing]” another person, and in order to establish that stalking has occurred, the plaintiff must show that the defendant engaged in a “course of conduct.”

What this means is that merely an email or a couple of phone messages does not rise to the level of sufficient harassment – rather, the harassment must be significant, and it must have caused “substantial emotional distress.” While it is true that stalking is a serious crime, and that a defendant should always be treated as innocent until proven guilty, there is room to argue that the statute should be simplified to protect potential victims.

Public Policy Demands Better

The Clearwater woman was denied her injunction because the judge held that she did not establish that her former boyfriend had a “pattern” of stalking behavior. After news of the murder-suicide became public, calls for the judge’s resignation began to come in, with one in particular coming from a Florida representative who told a story of being victimized by a similar ruling from the judge in 2021.

While the issue of resignation or recall is left up to the voters in most cases, it is relevant to remember that public policy does not require a potential stalking victim to actually experience danger. The concept of public policy is somewhat vague, but in general, it is defined as a standard or set of standards that are held to govern a functional society. Anything that departs from public policy may shock the conscience of the public – for example, making stalking victims experience actual harm in order to receive an injunction they may need to protect themselves. If you are experiencing stalking behavior, you have the right to fight for your safety.

Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney

While it is unfortunately far too late for the woman from Clearwater, it is crucial to remember that if you are being stalked, you need an attorney who will work hard to get you the injunction that may protect you. A West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney from the firm of Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can help protect your rights. Call our office today at (561) 721-0552 to speak to an attorney.



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