Tag: Domestic Violence & Custody

Free Speech and Family Law Clash

Free speech and family law clash again, as a Florida appellate court rules on just how far a judge can go in restraining an online stalker of a politician. Like the plot of Tiger King gone wrong, a Broward state senator filed an injunction against a convicted sex offender who also happens to be a public advocate on behalf of registered sex offenders.

Free Speech Family Law

Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin Redux

Lauren Frances Book is a Florida State Senator who also runs a non-profit called “Lauren’s Kids” to assist survivors of sexual abuse and to prevent its occurrence. Because of her own childhood experience as a victim, she has been an advocate for laws that support and maintain sex offender registries, and place residency restrictions on convicted offenders.

Derek Logue, like the senator, is also a public figure of sorts. After he was convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl in 2001, he co-founded what is described as the Anti-Registry Movement – which opposes sex offender laws.

Channeling “Joe Exotic” and “Carol Baskin”, Logue travels to, organizes, and participates in various demonstrations and counter-demonstrations around the nation opposing the type of sex offender laws for which the senator advocates. He also has Facebook and Twitter accounts and internet websites. One website is “Floridians for Freedom: Ron and Lauren Book Exposed.”

Sen. Book has complained about Logue’s online comments:

“I think I found the official Laura Ahearn/ Lauren Book theme song” next to a link to a YouTube video for a song titled, “You Are A C—,” by Australian singer and comedian Kat McSnatch:

“Why don’t you shut that scabby c— mouth before I f— up your face.” The crude video also features an image of a tombstone that reads, “R.I.P. Annoying C—.”

On his website as well as other social media platforms he uploaded a picture of the senator’s home along with her address; a video for a song containing an obscene title, with lyrics that are “Not Safe For Work” posted on his Twitter page and a cartoon depicting a headstone with a vulgar insult and the phrase, “Died of Natural Causes.”

Sen. Book filed an injunction claiming she fears for her and her family’s safety following physical threats Logue allegedly made against her online and in person during two public events in 2015 and 2016. She wants to keep him from coming within 500 feet of her home and her offices.

The trial court granted the injunction without identifying which of the various occurrences supported it.

Florida Free Speech and Family Law

I’ve written about free speech in family cases before. Family courts have a lot of power to protect children, and that can involve restraints on free speech. Speech can also be enjoined under our domestic violence laws. In Florida, the term “domestic violence” has a very specific meaning, and it is more inclusive than most people realize.

It means 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.

It can also mean cyberstalking. A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree.

A credible threat means a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm.

Tiger King 2

Logue appealed, saying his actions served a legitimate purpose advocating against legislation affecting sex offenders, his social media posts don’t constitute “a course of conduct directed at a specific person” and the senator’s subjective fear does not satisfy the objective “reasonable person” standard required by the statute.

The court found that here, although the posting of the vulgar song may have been directed at the senator, and was certainly intended to be insulting, it was not credibly or objectively threatening. Even if it were, an injunction is not the appropriate remedy.

The case presented an issue that goes to the foundation of our country— freedom of expression under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. While the senator was irritated by Logue’s actions, the Constitution protects the right of the political irritant to voice his opinions as much as it protects any citizen’s right to do so.

Publicly expressing anger toward an elected official is not a basis for entry of an injunction. In public debate, elected officials must tolerate insulting remarks—even angry, outrageous speech—to provide breathing room for the First Amendment.

Courts have acknowledged that what may be actionable in the context of interactions between private individuals are viewed differently in the context of political debate by public actors. Because the senator is a public figure and not a private citizen what constitutes harassment, credible threats, or even defamation against her is different.

The opinion is available here.

 

Divorce and Domestic Violence

Police in California are investigating whether a “tumultuous divorce” was the reason a father is accused of murdering his still-missing 5-year-old son. What is the link between divorce domestic violence?

Aramazd Andressian Sr. was arrested on Friday and set to be arraigned this week — allegedly executed a “pre-planned” killing of little Aramazd Andressian Jr., investigators said in a news conference. The boy was last seen after midnight April 21 at Disneyland in Anaheim with his dad, prompting an ongoing months-long search.

Andressian had intended to take his own life before he was found hours later passed out in South Pasadena’s Arroyo Park, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said.

Police initially charged him with child endangerment and child abduction, but a lack of evidence allowed him to walk free from jail a few days later. Authorities arrested Andressian in Las Vegas Friday because they feared he would flee the country, they said Monday.

Florida Domestic Violence

Injunctions for protection against domestic violence are critical to the safety of many. I’ve written about domestic violence before. Anyone scanning the headlines in the Miami Herald knows that the horrors of domestic violence are all too real:

“Dania Beach man arrested in fatal shooting of girlfriend”

Miami Herald, Aug. 12, 2015

“Miami Gardens man held in fatal shooting of ex-girlfriend”

Miami Herald, June 25, 2015

“Man Charged with Murder After Killing Girlfriend . . .”

Miami Herald, May 17, 2015

In Florida, the term “domestic violence” has a very specific meaning, and it is more inclusive than most people realize. It means 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.

When discussing family or household members, Florida law defines these to mean 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.

In Florida, individuals who have experienced domestic violence have civil and criminal remedies to protect themselves from further abuse. Protection orders may include the victim’s children, other family members, roommates, or current romantic partner. This means the same no-contact and stay-away rules apply to the other listed individuals, even if the direct harm was to the victim.

Signs of Domestic Violence

While there are many signs, you may be experiencing domestic violence and not even realize it. For example, if your partner is doing any of these or other unwanted behaviors, you may be a victim of domestic violence:

  • Using your children against you
  • Calling you names and hurting you emotionally
  • Harming your pets
  • Acting with extreme jealousy and possessiveness
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Threatening to commit suicide or to kill you
  • Controlling your money
  • Withholding medical help
  • Stalking you
  • Hiding assistive devices
  • Minimizing the destructive behavior

Is there a link between divorce and domestic violence? Many believe that divorce can be a triggering event for domestic violence.

In fact, the danger of serious violence may be at its highest point when a person acts on a decision to leave an abusive relationship.

The California Case

The man, who’d dyed his hair and shaved his beard, was exhibiting behavior inconsistent with that of a grieving parent, police said. A detective cited “a tumultuous divorce that they were going through at the time” as a potential motive for the apparent killing.

“My heart is shattered and I will miss my son immensely each and every second of every day for the rest of my life,” Aramazd’s mother, Ana Estevez, said in a statement.

The grieving mom went on to use the little boy’s nickname: “Picqui was everything great in my life, and I cannot imagine the emptiness and the void that I will bear until we are together again someday,” she said. If convicted, Andressian faces 25 years to life behind bars.

The CNN story is here.

 

Divorce, Separation & Domestic Violence

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Thursday, August 13, 2015.

Injunctions for protection against domestic violence are critical to the safety of many. But they also represent a court system which can be easily abused as a tactical advantage in a custody case.

I’ve written about domestic violence before. Anyone scanning the headlines in the Miami Herald knows that the horrors of domestic violence are all too real:

“Dania Beach man arrested in fatal shooting of girlfriend”

Miami Herald, Aug. 12, 2015

“Miami Gardens man held in fatal shooting of ex-girlfriend”

Miami Herald, June 25, 2015

“Man Charged With Murder After Killing Girlfriend . . .”

Miami Herald, May 17, 2015

However, because they are easy to obtain, restraining orders are misused, usually against men, but sometimes against women too.

When someone has an injunction against violence issued against him, many automatically think that they are an abuser, and injunctions also force you to leave the home, stay away from a partner, and your children.

In order to obtain an injunction against domestic violence, you must prove you are in imminent danger of becoming the victim of domestic violence. In addition to an injunction prohibiting domestic violence, Florida law allows for other types of injunctions as well, including:

Repeat violence injunctions, when two incidents of violence or stalking

Sexual violence injunctions, for certain criminal sexual acts are committed.

Dating violence injunctions, available to protect those who have a “continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” from violence.

Injunctions are issued ex parte, which means the accused has no notice of the proceedings and does not have the opportunity to defend themselves prior to its issuance.

Far too many people use injunctions to gain a strategic. One study found that 59% of allegations of domestic violence between couples involved in custody disputes could not be substantiated by the courts as true.

However, the filing of a false domestic violence injunction can also backfire. In the event your injunction is dissolved, and it is demonstrated that it was filed falsely, that could be evidence in a custody battle.

Every day it seems the Miami Herald has a story about domestic violence. The results are tragic. Conversely, many people abuse the system. Domestic violence injunctions are a part of family law and divorce cases to consider carefully.