How do I know if I am a “victim of stalking” under Florida law?
Florida law defines “stalking” as when a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person”. § 784.048(2), Florida Statutes. Again, in order to get an injunction for protection against stalking you must prove that you are a victim of “stalking” as it is defined. Additionally, as discussed below, some words in the “stalking” definition have separate and unique definitions, which you must also meet.
How does Florida law define the term “harass” in this context?
§ 784.048(1)(a), Florida Statutes, the term “harass” is defined as “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.”
What is a “course of conduct” for stalking injunctions in Florida?
The terms “course of conduct” are defined as “a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose.” § 784.048(1)(b), Florida Statutes.
What is cyberstalking in Florida and why is it significant?
The term “cyberstalking” under Florida law means “[t]o engage 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 or [t]o access, or attempt to access, the online accounts or Internet-connected home electronic systems of another person without that person’s permission causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.” § 784.048(1)(d), Florida Statutes.
Cyberstalking is significant because Florida law provides people with the same level of protection online that they enjoy offline. If someone is targeting you online by sending you harassing messages through social media, email, or text messages you may be the victim of cyberstalking.
What does “substantial emotional distress” mean in this context and how do I prove it?
Unfortunately, the terms “substantial emotional distress” are not defined by Florida law. Whether you are suffering from substantial emotional distress will depend on the severity of the stalking objectively, as well as your reaction to it.
How you prove that you are suffering from “substantial emotional distress” will depend upon the individual facts of your case. For example, showing that the stalking causes you increased anxiety, loss of appetite, inability to sleep, fear, may meet this standard, depending upon the severity. Also, if you can show that you no longer perform certain daily activities may be relevant. For instance, do you refuse to be home alone, or walk to your car alone, do you now carry a firearm for protection? Ultimately this may be proven by your testimony at the final hearing or through another witness who has knowledge and can testify on the subject.