Restraining orders are a big part of our nation’s justice system.
They are at the heart of many domestic disputes and have given consolation
and peace of mind to countless people across the country. All too often
they are not as effective as they could be, or should be. There are a
number of reasons why this is, but one particularly problematic issue
is when the police refuse to enforce a restraining order.
In a nutshell, what a restraining order does is tell someone that they
are prohibited from making contact with another person. This order comes
from a judge and when a person violates it by making contact or going
against what the order says, they can be found guilty of a crime under
Florida law. So, it makes sense that when victims find that the person who should
be restrained disobeys, they call the police. Many times the police will
refuse to follow up on these types of calls.
Police Liability, Supreme Court
In situations where the police refuse to show up and something bad happens,
can the police be held liable under a civil suit? That was exactly the
question asked of the Supreme Court in Town of
Castle Rock v. Gonzales, in 2005. That case was a tragic example of what can happen when restraining
orders are not enforced.
In that case a woman had separated from the father of her children and
because of abuse, got a restraining order against him. One day the father
showed up, took the children, and did not let the mother know. When she
discovered that her children were gone she immediately knew who had taken
them. In response, she called the town’s police department to have
the restraining order enforced. The police did not go out looking for
the children, nor act in any way to help the mother. They simply said
to call back later. When the mother did call back several times she finally
went to the police department and filled out a report.
Finally, the man showed up at the police station, but showed up shooting.
The man got into a shootout with the police and was killed. It was discovered
after the fact that he had already killed the girls before coming back
to the police station. As a result of this, woman sued the police department
for failing to enforce the restraining order.
After making its way through the appellate process, the case landed in
the Supreme Court. In a 7-2 decision the court held that the woman did
not have a right to sue the police department for failing to enforce the
restraining order. Some of the reasons given were impracticality and taking
away a police department’s ability to decide what calls to pursue.
Panama City Area Accident and Injury Attorney
The Pittman Firm is dedicated to fighting on behalf of victims of negligence, medical malpractice,
product liability, and other accidents and injuries. Our job is to give
a voice to those who otherwise would not have a way to be compensated
for the pain and suffering that happens at the hands of others. If you
have been injured in an accident or injury,
contact us. We look forward to going over your case with you.
See related blog posts:
Wrongful Death Laws in Florida;
Florida Supreme Court Wrestles With Contempt Issue.