Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

What Actually Is A No-Contact Order In Florida?


Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

When someone is arrested for a sexual offense involving another person, a domestic violence offense, and certain other types of personal crimes such as battery, aggravated assault, or aggravated battery, it is quite common for there to be a specific condition of a bail bond whereby the defendant may not have any contact with the complaining witness. The state always calls the complaining witness a victim. The reason I call the complainant either the complainant or the complaining witness is because the state uses the word “victim” repetitively to bias the judge. If allowed to do so during the trial, this can bias jurors. When someone has a no-contact order, it’s important to remember that that means direct contact, which can be in person, electronically or otherwise, as well as indirect contact.

There is a famous case in Florida where someone was under a no-contact order and very unhappy about it. Thinking that they were in the clear, they rented a small airplane that towed advertising banners. Instead of an advertising banner, a message to the complaining witness was printed and pulled by the aircraft several miles from the complainant’s home. However, the complainant’s family, friends, neighbors, as well as just about anyone in a very wide area could see both the plane and the message. The Assistant State Attorney prosecuting the defendant, in that case, filed a motion with the judge to revoke bond. The defense argued that there was no violation of the no-contact order. Nevertheless, the court ruled otherwise; the person was found in violation of the contact order, and their bond was revoked. No contact orders are very dangerous because quite often, the complaining witness will contact the defendant after the arrest.

The defendant is at a very high risk if responding to such contact by text message, or a Facebook private message, or simply answering a telephone call because the complainant is not under a no-contact order. Instead, the defendant is subject to punishment for violating a no contact order. This may not seem fair. Nevertheless, it is important to understand so that one does not violate a no-contact order accidentally. The best thing to do when someone has a criminal case with the no-contact order is to allow their legal team and defense counsel to try and change the conditions of bond, from no contact to contact that is not violent. We call that a Change in Bond Conditions from no contact to no violent contact, thus permitting the defendant and the complainant to communicate, or even reside together.

What Is The Difference Between Direct And Indirect Contact Relating To No Contact Orders In Florida?

Quite often, people believe that if they do not have direct contact with a party, then they are not violating a no-contact order. However, indirect contact has a very broad definition. For example, asking your brother to ask his wife to speak to the complainant and to communicate a message is a classic example of indirect contact, which can result in a bond revocation without even a hearing. This is very important because if the bond is revoked due to inappropriate contact, there are many judges who will not release the defendant until the case has been resolved. Considering that a misdemeanor case has a 90-days speedy trial window, yet may have continuances causing it to last 4, 5, or even 6 months, this can be a rather lengthy incarceration, and exceed the amount of jail time they might serve otherwise.

In the case of a felony, a violation of a no-contact order can result in many months of incarceration prior to the conclusion of the criminal case. An example of direct contact is to go to the residence of the complaining witness, knock on the door, and to speak with them. If the defendant who is subject to a no-contact order engages in this form of direct contact and is reported to either law enforcement or the Office of the State Attorney, then the state is almost certain to contact the complaining witness and then file a motion to revoke the bond. Quite often, these bond revocations are done without a hearing in the interest to public safety, regardless of whether the contact is dangerous in any way.

Indirect contact is where notes are left, where the complaining witness can find it, third parties are used to communicate verbal messages, and even postings on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter etc., can be construed as violating a no-contact order by indirect contact.

Does Consent Of The Other Party Have Any Effect Of Lifting A No Contact Order?

The only way to lift a no-contact order is by a written or oral pronouncement, in the form of an order of the court by the trial judge with jurisdiction over the case. In other words, the complaining witness can send text messages, private messages on social media platforms, make phone calls, and even drop by the defendant’s new residence, and suffer no penalty whatsoever. They are not subject to the no-contact order. Additionally, the other party who is not subject to the no-contact order, such as the defendant, does not have the legal authority to lift a no-contact order. During the course of my career, I’ve lost count of the number of times in a domestic violence case where someone has said to me, “The other party is going to drop the charges,” or “The other party has said its okay for me to contact them.” In both of those scenarios, that is not true.

In the former, that will result in a prosecutor carefully trying to manipulate the complaining witness’s recantation in order to save the prosecution against the defendant. In the latter, that will result in bond conditions being violated, and a no bond warrant being issued. When the defendant goes to their first appearance and has legal counsel ask for reinstatement of the bond, the request is almost always denied. In sum, the other party can neither drop charges nor lift a no-contact order. That being said, if the other party wants to lift a no-contact order or wants to request the state to drop charges, there is a specific method for doing so that should be followed in every case. Unfortunately, people often rely on hearsay and popular opinion when it comes to many aspects of their criminal defense case when they should be talking to competent legal counsel, and actively assisting legal counsel with the defense of the case, including getting no contact orders lifted.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on No-Contact Orders In Florida, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 466-1522 today.

Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

Get your questions answered - call me for your free, 20 min phone consultation (850) 466-1522

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