Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Domestic Violence

When a party seeks a civil restraining order in Florida, also known as an injunction, there might also be concurrent criminal proceedings arising from the same alleged incident of violence. In this case, the accused might be concerned that being forced to testify in the civil case will jeopardize his or her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the pending criminal case. Such was the issue on appeal in the case Speegle v. Rhoden, 236 So.3d 498 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018).

Mr. Speegle was accused of severely beating Ms. Rhoden which caused two legal proceedings to arise - one was a criminal complaint filed by the State charging Mr. Speegle with battery and the second was a petition for injunction against dating violence filed by Ms. Rhoden. A temporary injunction was entered as a result of Ms. Rhoden’s petition and a hearing was scheduled to determine the entry of a permanent injunction. The day before the scheduled hearing, Mr. Speegle requested a stay of the civil injunction proceedings, arguing that “defending himself in the injunction case would jeopardize his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.” He also argued that there would be no prejudice to Ms. Rhoden because he agreed the temporary injunction could remain in place.

Despite Mr. Speegle’s request, the trial court declined to grant a stay and went ahead with the hearing. At the hearing, Ms. Rhoden testified but Mr. Speegle did not and the trial court ended up entering a permanent injunction against Mr. Speegle. Subsequently, he entered a plea of no contest in the criminal case and was placed on probation. Mr. Speegle then appealed the trial court’s decision not to stay the proceedings as he had requested.

The appellate court acknowledged that while many judges may have granted Mr. Speegle’s request, the court found no abuse of the trial court’s “wide discretion” to deny it. The court reasoned there is no per se rules requiring a stay in civil proceedings when related criminal matters are pending. The court cited case law which stated a stay is not constitutionally required when a relevant criminal case is pending. Last, the appellate court noted that while Mr. Speegle argued there would be no harm in delaying the proceedings since the temporary injunction would be in place, the trial court could consider factors such as “the availability of witnesses and the fading memories associated with delay.” Therefore Mr. Speegle’s appeal was denied.

Domestic violence cases present an interesting intersection between criminal and civil law. If you are facing a similar situation either as a victim or as the accused, contact a Florida domestic violence lawyer to determine your rights and options. A consultation may help you decide the best way to move forward.