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Restraining Orders: Can You Sue if Police do not Respond?

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.


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