Definition of ‘No Contact’ Order
Under Florida law, a ‘no contact’ order is a type of injunction or restraining order imposed by a court as a condition of a defendant’s pretrial release. It prohibits a defendant from having direct or indirect contact with the alleged victim for the duration of the criminal case, or until the court lifts or modifies the order.
Unless otherwise specified by the court, a no contact order in Florida means that a defendant is to have no interaction- direct or indirect- with the alleged victim. The defendant can not call, text, e-mail, write, fax, leave messages for, instant message, send packages to, gesture towards, touch, or even intentionally be in the alleged victim’s vicinity. Communications through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and other social media sites are all forms of “contact” that will violate a no contact order.
Indirect contact is also prohibited under a Florida no contact order. Thus, a defendant can not cause a communication to be made through an intermediary, or third party. The most common example of this is where the defendant uses a friend or family member to send a message to the alleged victim on the defendant’s behalf.
Consent of the other party does NOT have the effect of lifting a no contact order. Only the court can modify the order. It is also NOT a defense that the alleged victim contacted the defendant first.
How to Lift a ‘No Contact’ Order in Florida
In Florida criminal prosecutions, it is often necessary to request the court to lift a No Contact order in order to alleviate the hardship caused to the parties who are subject to the order. This is especially true in domestic violence cases, where the defendant and the alleged victim may have children together, may depend on one another for financial and personal support, and wish to reconcile their relationship.
Since it was the court that imposed the no contact as a condition of the defendant’s pretrial release in the first place, a defendant or alleged victim must seek court’s permission before resuming any form of contact. This is accomplished through the filing of a Motion to Modify Conditions of Pretrial Release, which sometimes styled as a Motion to Lift No Contact Order. Broadly speaking, the motion will state that:
- The parties wish to resume contact;
- The alleged victim seeks to lift the order freely and voluntarily;
- The alleged victim is not afraid of the defendant;
- The alleged victim does not fear or anticipate future violence;
- The nature of the contact the parties wish to have (unrestricted contact, limited contact, no violent contact, no unconsented contact, contact for purposes of child visitation, telephone contact, third party contact, etc.).
Upon filing the Motion a hearing will be held where the judge will decide whether to lift or modify the no contact order. Typically, the hearing will consist of testimony from the alleged victim, a brief cross examination by the prosecutor, and short oral argument by the attorneys. It is generally not advisable for the defendant to make a statement at the hearing, as this poses a risk of making incriminating statements.
Violating a No Contact Order
In Florida, a violation of a no contact order is a criminal offense classified as a first degree misdemeanor. Thus a violation, will subject an accused to a new series of charges where each instance of contact is a separate offense. The charges will be termed “Violation of Condition of Release,” or “Violation of Pre-trial Release Conditions.” Where multiple contacts occur, a defendant could theoretically face years in jail (if maximum sentences are run consecutively).
Moreover, in domestic violence and most other cases, a defendant will automatically be placed on a “no bond” status, at least until first appearance. It is not uncommon for this no bond hold to remain in effect up to arraignment. If a bond is then set, it will be significantly higher than the defendant’s original bond.
A violation of a no contact order is a serious matter in Florida. You must scrupulously abide by the order until you have the order lifted or modified by the court. If you are seeking to lift or modify a no contact order in Jacksonville, Duval County, Clay County, or Nassau County Florida, contact Hussein & Webber, PL for a free consultation.