As technology and society advance, the laws limiting a person's ability to associate with certain individuals have had to adapt. With the advent of computers, smart phones, and the popularity of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc., instances of these laws being violated with the use of social media will increase.
There are two categories of laws that focus on limiting a person’
s ability to associate with another person. The first, are the various laws that allow for a court to issue an injunction, which is often referred to as a "restraining order." In Florida, if an injunction is violated, the violator would be charged with a first degree misdemeanor, face up to a year in the county jail and up to $1000 in fines.
The other category covers the laws that allow a Florida court to issue a "no contact order." A no contact order can be a condition of pre-trial release, and if violated, the accused could have their bond revoked. Fl. Rule Crim. Pro. 3.131. A no contact order can also be a condition of probation, and if violated, the violator would face the maximum penalty for the original charge.
Social media contact can be the source for a violation of an injunction charge or a violation of a no contact order. An injunction can be violated by a threat or word of violence to the subject of the injunction. Fl.Stat. 741.31(4) (2009). A Facebook status update or a "tweet" could very easily be construed as a threat. The more direct the status update or tweet in naming the individual and describing a violent action or intended harm, the easier it will be for a prosecutor to prove that the status update or tweet is a threat or word of violence.
A respondent can also violate an injunction by communicating with the subject of an injunction directly or indirectly. Fl. Stat. 741.31(4) (2009). Sending a message on Facebook, commenting on the the subject’s status updates or pictures, or even following the subject on twitter could be construed as direct contact. See Sauriol v. Sauriol, 2012 WL 413811 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012)(holding that a criminal contempt order was the proper remedy for respondent sending an email to his wife in violation of a domestic violence injunction).
No contact orders, whether as a condition of pre-trial release or probation, can also be violated by sending a Facebook message, using Facebook’s “poke” feature, comments left on status updates or pictures, and following the subject of the no contact order’s twitter account.
When faced with an injunction or a no contact order, it is highly advisable to delete all social media connections with the subject of the injunction or no contact order. Deleting social media connections eliminates the possibility of inadvertent contact or the possibility of false accusations of contact.
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