If you are subject to an injunction related to domestic violence in Broward County, it’s important to follow the rules established by the injunction. Typically, an injunction for domestic violence includes restraints on the defendant’s communications with the victim. A domestic violence injunction may require you not to communicate at all with the victim, and to stay a certain distance away from her person, her home, her car, and her workplace. Failure to follow the mandate of the injunction can result in greater charges. In a recent Florida appellate decision related to aggravated stalking, the court considered whether text messages to the victim could be impeachment evidence. There had been texts between the defendant and his wife, who was the victim of his stalking before a domestic violence injunction had been put in place.
When trial started the defendant and the government talked about whether the texts should be admitted. The lower court found that texts couldn’t be admitted because the government had failed to file a timely notice to admit the texts as collateral crime evidence, but it found that they could be used as impeachment evidence by the defense or presented by the government during its rebuttal to the defense.
At trial, the government provided testimony that after separating from her spouse and getting an injunction against him for protection against domestic violence, the defendant had threatened his wife and her family with great bodily harm or death. He’d come to the victim’s workplace without invitation or notice. He’d called the victim’s office more than 100 times in an afternoon. He’d attacked the victim in a pharmacy parking lot.
When the defense presented its case, the defendant testified that the victim had invited him to come to her workplace without the knowledge of her employer and had called him every day from work. He testified that he and the victim changed their minds about their relationship and that the victim had texted and called him throughout the period when a domestic violence injunction was in place. The defendant admitted he had called the victim at work over and over but had done so because he wanted to calm her down related to his affairs with women.
The prosecutor introduced texts the defendant sent during cross-examination. In the texts, the defendant asked why the victim wasn’t answering her phone when he called and threatened to call her office repeatedly irrespective or a restraining order. He said he would come to the office and beat her like a man. The defense asked for a mistrial claiming the texts were sent before the injunction had been entered. The lower court denied the motion, claiming these were impeachment evidence.
The appellate court explained that a witness can open the door to impeachment about issues that wouldn’t be permissible during direct testimony. The other party can introduce extrinsic evidence to contradict the witness’s testimony even if it’s otherwise about an issue that’s collateral. In other words, if the defendant inaccurately or misleadingly testifies about material facts, he opens the door to be impeached.
In this case, the defendant argued that the messages didn’t contradict what he’d said and were sent before the victim had gotten an injunction against him. The government argued that the defendant had opened the door to be cross-examined about the texts because they contradicted his testimony that the victim was the one contacting him repeatedly because she wanted to get back together. Rather, the texts established that he had persisted in communicating even when she avoided him.
If you are charged with domestic violence or aggravated stalking in Broward County, you should consult a skillful criminal defense attorney. Call us at The Hoffman Firm at (954) 524-4474 or (800) 223-1866 or contact us via our online form.