According to Florida law, it takes two incidents of harassment to satisfy the requirements for an injunction against stalking under Florida Statute 784.048:
“[B]y its statutory definition, stalking requires proof of repeated acts.” Lukacs v. Luton, 982 So. 2d 1217, 1219 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008). “It takes two incidents of harassment to satisfy the requirements for an injunction against stalking.” Carter v. Malken, 207 So. 3d 891, 892 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017).
A finding of harassment requires a showing of “substantial emotional distress.” § 784.048(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2021). “Whether a communication causes substantial emotional distress should be narrowly construed and is governed by the reasonable person standard.” David v. Textor, 189 So. 3d 871, 875 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016). Substantial emotional distress “is greater than just an ordinary feeling of distress.” Johnstone v. State, 298 So. 3d 660, 665 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).
Unpleasant, uncivil, and distasteful communications “do not rise to the level required to support a permanent injunction against stalking.” Reid v. Saunders, 282 So. 3d 151, 151 (Fla. 1st DCA 2019). Likewise, “[m]ere irritation, annoyance, embarrassment, exasperation, aggravation, and frustration, without more, does not equate to ‘substantial emotional distress.’ ” Cash v. Gagnon, 306 So. 3d 106, 110 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020) (citation omitted). While profanity and accusations of lying might be offensive or even defamatory, “this speech does not fall within a ‘course of conduct’ that allows for injunctive relief.” Id. Similarly, testimony that a petitioner was scared of the respondent’s “erratic behavior” was held to be insufficient to establish substantial emotional distress. Gonzalez v. Funes, 300 So. 3d 679, 684–85 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020). In short, “injunctions are not available to stop someone from uttering insults or falsehoods.” Logue v. Book, 297 So. 3d 605, 614 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).
By contrast, where the complained-of conduct is more extreme and outrageous, courts have found the conduct to be sufficient to cause substantial emotional distress in a reasonable person. See Robertson v. Robertson, 164 So. 3d 87, 88 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) (holding that where an ex-husband went to his ex-wife’s home “in the middle of the night” and “looked inside her darkened windows with a flashlight” “for three consecutive nights,” the ex-husband’s actions were sufficient to cause substantial emotional distress in a reasonable person); Auguste v. Aguado, 282 So. 3d 937, 937–38 (Fla. 3d DCA 2019).
Another required element of harassment is that the course of conduct “serves no legitimate purpose.” § 784.048(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2021). “[W]hether a communication serves a legitimate purpose is broadly construed and will cover a wide variety of conduct.” David, 189 So. 3d at 875.
“Whether the purpose for contact is ‘legitimate’ is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.” O’Neill v. Goodwin, 195 So. 3d 411, 413 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016). “However, courts have generally held that contact is legitimate when there is a reason for the contact other than to harass the victim.” Id.
See: Rosaly v. Konecny – 346 So.3d 630
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