Tag: Domestic Violence

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.


New Supreme Court Domestic Violence Ruling

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.

It’s not every day the U.S. Supreme Court decides a case impacting family law. This week, it ruled on the intersection between domestic violence and gun control.

NPR reports that the majority opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, concludes that misdemeanor assault convictions for domestic violence are sufficient to invoke a federal ban on firearms possession.

I’ve written before about domestic violence. A 1996 federal law prohibits a person with a “qualifying” misdemeanor domestic violence conviction from possessing, shipping, or receiving a firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

The plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Stephen Voisine, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault charges after slapping his romantic partner. Several years later, he was caught with a firearm in violation of a federal law affecting convicted domestic abusers.

Stephen’s case, Voisine v. United States, attracted a lot of attention recently because Congress has been trying to tighten gun control laws, and because Justice Thomas asked questions during oral argument for the first time in a decade.

In Voisine, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-2 vote, that people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence can be barred from owning firearms.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, concluded:

Our answer is informed by congressional recognition … of the special risks posed by firearm possession by domestic abusers. “Domestic violence often escalates in severity over time … and the presence of a firearm increases the likelihood that it will escalate to homicide….”

The NPR article is here.

Send Domestic Violence Victims To Jail?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Wednesday, October 14, 2015.

Domestic violence injunctions are critical for safety in divorce, but unlike other crimes, domestic violence victims sometimes fail to appear at trial. Can a victim go to jail?

I’ve written about domestic violence (D.V.) before. And anyone scanning the headlines in the Miami Herald knows that the dangers of domestic violence are all too real.

But in D.V. cases, a victim’s non-cooperation by failing to appear at trial, or recanting testimony, is a well-known problem. Some estimate up to 90% of D.V. victims recant or minimize reports of abuse.

The usual response to a failure to appear and recanting, (or even false statements) in D.V. cases is to turn a blind eye. After all, who wants the bad press for prosecuting – or sentencing to jail for contempt – a poor, battered, traumatized domestic violence victim?

On the other hand, turning a blind eye to a crime committed by domestic violence victim, such as perjury or disobeying a subpoena, has its own repercussions. This is a big conflict in D.V. court.

Earlier, a Seminole County domestic violence judge resolved the conflict by scolding the victim and then sentencing her to 3 days in jail for failing to appear to testify against her attacker.

The link below has a video of the proceedings in July as a sobbing woman tried to explain why she didn’t attend the trial for the father of her 1-year-old son – even though a subpoena required her presence and the judge seated a jury.

“Your Honor, I’m very sorry for not attending …,” said the woman. “I’ve been dealing with depression and a lot of personal anxiety since this happened …”

As deputies placed the woman in handcuffs, she begged Collins for a different outcome. But the judge closed her binder and told the woman to “turn around.”

In addition to the wasted resources, because she refused to testify against her attacker, the defendant was sentenced to only 16 days in jail, minimizing a violent crime.

There is a conflict about how to handle victims who fail to appear or lie in a domestic violence cases. There is little guidance over when and if a victim should be charged can be arbitrary.

The video and story can be seen here.

New Domestic Violence Law & Does Margarine Cause Divorce?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Violence on Friday, May 16, 2014.

Few people realize that the first hearing for a divorce injunction is ex parte – meaning the other side doesn’t show up or even know about it. In ex parte hearings, you can’t introduce evidence other than sworn pleadings and affidavits. A new law changes that.

The latest legislative session ended, and Governor Scott signed many bills into law. As part of the flock of bills flying out of Tallahassee, a new bill amends Florida law to allow courts in domestic violence cases to take judicial notice of court records when imminent danger is alleged.

Ordinarily, the Due Process clause of the Constitution protects litigants in ex parte hearings, limiting the kind of evidence a party can try to admit without them knowing.

This new bill, which became law this week, provides a waiver to the Due Process requirements for the admissibility of evidence at ex parte temporary injunction hearings.

The Senate bill can be read here.


Is there a link between eating margarine and the divorce rate?

Florida is a No-Fault Divorce state, so it doesn’t much matter the cause of a divorce. But, have you ever wondered why people get a divorce? I’ve blogged about this topic before. For instance, could divorce rates be linked to other variables?

There could be a correlation, but proving a mere correlation between things does not mean that one causes the other. Just because there is snow outside your window in the morning doesn’t mean sleeping causes snow. Some events are just coincidences, or in statistic-speak, “spurious correlations.”

A spurious correlation occurs when two things appear related, but in reality are not. For the statistically inclined, Tyler Vigen has assembled a few funny charts of spurious correlations. I’ve copied a funny chart showing the rates of divorce and margarine consumption.

More of these funny correlations are available at Tyler Vigen’s website.