Injunctions For Protection and Technology: How Unintentional and Inadvertent Contact Through Social Media May Land You In Jail.

Through the evolution of technology, people no longer communicate the way that they used to. Where as most business and social interactions used to always take place face to face, in today’s tech world that is no longer the case. Now a substantial amount of social interaction and business interactions are through email or social media sites such as Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc. Although this has been great in many respects, there have also been many downfalls for clients in the legal system. This has been extremely true for people who have had domestic violence injunctions or restraining orders issued against them.

In years past when an alleged victim took out an injunction for protection in Florida, the prohibited conduct was normally clear. Do not call the victim. Do not go within 500 feet of certain addresses. If you called the person, there was a record of the call, which would mean that you violated the terms of the injunction and would go to jail on a misdemeanor violation of injunction. This is no longer the case. With the inventions of social media sites, violating an Injunction or commonly known as a restraining order has become more complicated and potentially more dangerous for the person who has an injunction against them. As a result, there have been allegations that a person may violate an injunction and not even know it.

Just this week it was reported that a Google+ invite to a former girlfriend landed a man in jail. The police reported alleged that an ex girlfriend had just broken up with the man and obtained a restraining order against him. Shortly after receiving the injunction, the girlfriend discovered an invitation to join one of his Google+ circles. She called the police and they arrested the man for this one act. Upon first look many people would think this is no different than the woman who was arrested for violating an injunction for a “poke” on Facebook. In the Facebook case the evidentiary issue was whether it could be proved that it was actually the woman herself or her involvement that caused the poke or had another person had access to her computer.

The Google+ story was a terrifying case for any person who has an injunction issued against them. In the case of Google+ the man alleges that he did not send the Google+ invite and had no knowledge that Google+ had sent the invite. This is not the first complaint of Google+ acting on “your behalf” without your knowledge or consent. When a person registers for Gmail, they are automatically enrolled into Google+ as well. If you want to post comments on YouTube, it is required that you have a Google+ account. It is alleged that Google+ goes through your email contacts and sends out Google+ notifications automatically. Similar issues have landed people in jail due to violations caused by twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking cites where the person may not have had any intent to violate the terms of the injunction but end up doing so through social media.

Although each person’s injunction has specific terms that apply to each situation there are general prohibitions on conduct that you should be aware of and make sure to follow. If someone has an injunction or restraining order against you, it means that you cannot contact that person in any way, shape or form. Conduct that is prohibited includes but is not limited to no texting, no contact through social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, MySpace, Google+, instagram or any other social media outlet. This does not only include messaging the person but also includes Facebook “pokes” or friend requests, LinkedIn endorsements, invites to join social media such as Google+, pictures sent through instagram etc. A judge will not be persuaded that your specific order did not specifically state that these forms of contact were prohibited. The spirit of the injunction says no contact and that means no contact. You also do not want to be charged with other offenses such as cyber stalking, or sending written threats, which are both felonies.

If you do not want to worry about being stuck in this situation the best thing you can do is challenge the injunction in the first place before it is granted. When a person petitions for an injunction, they are automatically issued a temporary injunction. When the respondent is served with the injunction it normally states a court date approximately two weeks later which is the final hearing for a permanent injunction. If the Respondent chooses not to show up and the victim does, the injunction will be granted.

However if you chose to attend the hearing and do not consent to the injunction being entered against you, the petitioner has the burden to establish that he or she is either a victim of domestic violence or that there is reasonable cause to believe that there is imminent danger of the petitioner becoming a victim of domestic violence. The burden of proof is on the person requesting the injunction. If the Respondent does not challenge the injunction, it can cause a significant impact on his or her life. For example, if you have an injunction granted against you, many times it will impact your right to own a firearm. It can also cause limitations or a prohibition on you having contact with your children and or spouse. It may not only prohibit you from contacting the person or showing up at their home or place of business, but could also prohibit you from going to certain public places such as certain churches, schools, offices etc. If you violate the order, that is considered a misdemeanor offense punishable in Florida by jail time. As a result of the impact that an injunction hearing can have on your life it is important for you to contact an experienced lawyer who has experience representing your best interest in court.

As a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney who has represented thousands of clients in northeast Florida and has argued and won numerous motions, I can fight to protect your rights and aggressively represent you. If you would like to schedule a free consultation with a Jacksonville Criminal Attorney, you can contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman at (904) 685-1200.

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