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Know Your Legal Rights

It is against the law to physically hurt another adult, no matter how the two people are related. Every survivor of domestic abuse has a right under Florida law to be protected.

There are two kinds of courts that handle domestic violence:

Criminal Court and Civil Court. There are a number of legal steps survivors can take to protect themselves from further abuse including calling the police and/or filing for an Injunction for Protection.

Serene Harbor’s Legal Advocacy Program is designed to assist those who seek legal services or police protection due to domestic violence. Serene Harbor’s legal advocates are available in both civil and criminal court for support and help through the legal process. For more information, call the HELPLINE at 321-726-8282 and ask for a legal advocate.

Domestic Violence (Florida Statutes 741.28)
Florida law says: Florida law defines domestic violence as any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.

Family or Household Member means spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married with the exception of persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit.

Repeat Violence
means two (2) incidents of violence or stalking committed by the respondent, on 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.

Dating Violence
means violence between individuals who have had or still have a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The term does not include violence in a casual acquaintanceship or violence between individuals who only have engaged in ordinary fraternization in a business or social context. The existence of a continuing and significant relationship shall be determined based on the consideration of the following factors:

  • A dating relationship must have existed within the past six (6) months
  • The nature of the relationship must have been characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement between the parties
  • The frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship must have included that the persons have been involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship

Civil Court
Civil Court hears non-criminal matters such as divorce, child custody and Injunctions for Protection (ANCHOR BELOW). This court, for example, may order a parent to pay child support, or it may order that the children not be removed from the state without approval of the court. If a civil order is not obeyed, the judge may hold a violator in contempt of court, which may result in a fine and/or imprisonment. Injunctions for Protection can also be enforced by the police.

Injunction for Protection / Restraining Order
Any person who is the victim of Repeat Violence, or the parent or legal guardian of any minor child who is living at home and who seeks an injunction for protection against repeat violence on behalf of the minor child, has standing in the circuit court to file a sworn petition for an injunction for protection against repeat violence.

Any person who is the victim of Dating Violence and has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of another act of dating violence, or any person who has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of another act of dating violence, or the parent or legal guardian of any minor child who is living at home and who seeks an injunction for protection against dating violence on behalf of that minor child, has standing in circuit court to file a sworn petition for an injunction for protection against dating violence.

This cause of action for an injunction shall not require that the petitioner be represented by an attorney.

The clerk of the court shall provide a copy of this section, simplified forms, and clerical assistance for the preparation and filing of such a petition by any person who is not represented by counsel.

In the event the person desiring to file for an injunction pursuant to this section does not have sufficient funds with which to pay filing fees to the clerk of the court or service fees to the sheriff or law enforcement agency and signs an affidavit so stating, the fees shall be waived by the clerk of the court or the sheriff or law enforcement agency to the extent necessary to process the petition and serve the injunction, subject to a subsequent order of the court relative to the payment of such fees.

Note: You do not have to file any other civil action (such as divorce), or call the police in order to obtain an Injunction for Protection.

If you live in Serene Harbor’s service area (Brevard County Florida) you can file for an Injunction for Protection at the Clerk of Courts Office listed below.

If you do not live in Brevard County Florida, please call the national domestic violence help line at 800-7989-SAFE (7233) so they can put you in touch with the domestic violence agency in your area. Or call a courthouse in your area regarding filing an Injunction for Protection.

HOURS OF OPERATION: Monday through Friday,
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (excluding Holidays)

 

clerk_map1. Historic Titusville Court House:
506 South Palm Avenue, Titusville, Florida 32780

2. Parkway Complex:
700 South Park Avenue, Titusville, Florida 32780

3. Moore Justice Center:
2825 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera 32940

4. Melbourne Branch Courthouse:
51 South Nieman Avenue, Melbourne 32901

5. Merritt Island Office:
Sheriff’s Department Complex,

2575 North Courtenay Parkway,
Room 129, Merritt Island, Florida 32953

6. Palm Bay Office:
450 Cogan Drive S.E.,

Palm Bay, Florida 32909

 

To file an Injunction for Protection you must appear in person in the Clerk’s Office at any location weekdays, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. It takes one to two hours to file. Arrive early. A legal advocate or clerk will assist in preparing the paper work. There is no fee for filing an Injunction for Protection.

You (the petitioner) will be asked to describe in the petition the actual incidents of abuse, injuries, threats of violence, stalking, kidnapping, or false imprisonment, as well as the approximate dates. In other words, you must clearly and factually state the reason for your fear of the person from whom you seek protection.

The assigned judge will review your petition that day and, if granted, the Temporary Injunction will be valid for 15 days unless further continued by the court. A law enforcement officer must attempt to serve a copy to the respondent (abuser being filed against) within 24 hours. There is a fee for out-of-county and out-of-state service, which is determined by the receiving county. It is important that you have a safety plan for you and your children. This is an especially dangerous time because you have taken an action that lessons the abuser’s sense of control.

Click here to learn how to make a Safety Plan

A short Return Hearing is held before a judge within 15 days of the Temporary Injunction. Both parties (you and your abuser) have the right to appear. You must appear, or the injunction may be dismissed. If you’d like a Serene Harbor advocate to appear with you, please call 321-726-8282 at least one week in advance of your return hearing.

As the petitioner, you should be prepared to speak directly and clearly about why you fear for your safety. This is the time to bring any photos, witnesses and recorded messages to be used as evidence. The Court may grant the injunction permanently, or choose to limit it to a specific time period. Issues of visitation and support may be referred to the General Master if more time is required.

Be prompt and dress conservatively for court. You should address the judge as “Your Honor” and try to remain calm. It is suggested that you avoid looking at or sitting near your abuser since it may be intimidating. After receiving a certified copy of the permanent injunction, keep a copy with you at all times. Make extra copies to give to schools, landlords, work, etc.

Either party (you or your abuser) may request changes to the injunction at any time, but only the Court may modify or dismiss the injunction. Permanent Injunctions are valid and enforceable in all states after service by law enforcement, but each state has special rules regarding enforcement of out-of-state Injunctions. Only the respondent (abuser) can be punished for criminal violations of the Injunction.

If the respondent (abuser) criminally violates the injunction, the police should be called immediately. If the abuser commits a civil violation, such as refusing to obey custody, visitation, or support orders, the Clerk of Courts should be contacted. Keep a journal of all violations and document the nature of the contact, include witnesses’ names and dates. Evidence such as threatening messages or letters should be saved. If there has not been an arrest, the petitioner may go to the Clerk of the Courts to file either an Affidavit in Support of Violation or a Motion for Contempt, depending on the type of violation.

 

Q: Is there emergency help available to me?
  If you need immediate assistance to protect you from an abuser, contact your local law enforcement agency. The number for the Serene Harbor 24 Hour Helpline is: 321-7268282.
   
Q. What is a Permanent Injunction?
  A Permanent Injunction is an order entered by the court granting the relief as determined to be necessary for the protection of the victim(s) of domestic violence.The permanent Injunction for Protection is ordered following a court’s review of the situation and can be valid for as long as the Judge deems necessary, even permanently.
   

Q.

How do I file for an Injunction For Protection?
  You must appear in person at the Family Civil Department of the Clerk’s Office to file for an Injunction for Protection. The staff will assist you in completing the necessary paperwork to petition the court for an Injunction for Protection.A Temporary Injunction for Protection will be entered if the court determines you need protection until you can be brought before the court for a hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to allow the court to review your situation and determine if a Permanent Injunction is necessary.

Domestic Violence Felony
A felony charge means serious abuse may have occurred. If you are a victim of a domestic felony, an investigation is set up by the local police department with the State Attorney’s Office in order to collect evidence and obtain sworn testimony about the domestic violence felony charge. The determination of whether the action constitutes a felony or not is made by the State Attorney in conjunction with the arresting officer.

 

You will be notified of the time and date for the investigation by one of the following people: the police officer that made the arrest at the time of the incident, a Serene Harbor advocate, the Victim Advocates Division from your local Police Department, or the victim advocate at the State Attorney’s Office. Other city police departments may hold investigations at the County Sheriff’s office. Please call Serene Harbor at 321-726-8282 if you would like an advocate to be with you for moral support during the investigation.

The investigation usually lasts about 15-30 minutes. The decision to press or drop charges in a criminal case is made by the State Attorney’s Office. During the investigation the Assistant State Attorney must speak to you about the crime. You may tell the Assistant State Attorney what you would like to happen with the case. The Assistant State Attorney will consider your wishes and do her/his best to work on behalf of your best interest. However, the final decision to press or drop charges is still made by the State Attorney’s Office.

Document Injuries in a Domestic Violence Felony
It is imperative that medical personnel document injuries in a precise manner. Make sure your medical records include the following:

  • Chief complaint and description of the abuse event, using the patient’s own words, whenever possible, along with the physician’s assessment
  • Complete medical history
  • Relevant social history
  • A detailed description of the injuries, including type, number, size, location, resolution, possible causes, and explanations given. Where applicable, the location and nature of the injuries recorded on a body chart or drawing
  • When possible and with medical approval of the patient, take photographs prior to medical treatment using color film. Date all photos
  • Provide adequate demonstration of the size of the injury using a coin, ruler or other object
  • Include the patient’s face in at least one photo
  • Take at least two photographs of every major trauma area
  • Mark photographs precisely with the time, patient’s name, location of injury, name of the photographer, and others present
  • An opinion on whether the injuries were adequately explained
  • Results of all pertinent laboratory and other diagnostic procedures
  • Name of the investigating officer and any action taken.

For additional information regarding Domestic Violence Felony, contact the

State Attorney’s Office at:

Viera Main Office
State Attorney’s Office

Brevard Government Center Complex
2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way
Building D
Viera, Florida 32940
(321) 617-7510

Office Hours: 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday

Melbourne Branch Office
State Attorney’s Office
Branch Courthouse
51 South Nieman Avenue
Melbourne, Florida 32901
(321) 952-4617

Office Hours: 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday

Titusville Branch Office
State Attorney’s Office
North Brevard Government Center
400 South Street
Titusville, Florida 32780
(321) 264-6933

Office Hours 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday

Brevard County Sheriff’s Department at:
http://www.brevardsheriffsoffice.org/

or call Serene Harbor’s 24 hour helpline line: 321-726-8282