Florida changes stalking law to better protect women

New measure takes effect October 1

Orlando, FL - Florida lawmakers say they have taken action to help women protect themselves from stalkers.

Starting October 1, judges will have more power to grant injunctions.

"You can imagine all the circumstances that exist in which a woman is stalked," says State Senator David Simmons, R-Seminole County.

Simmons is the author of Florida's new stalking law, which eliminates the provision that forced a woman to prove a threat of bodily injury or death. A woman now only has to show she is in reasonable fear for her own safety or the safety of her family.

"You can get a thousand emails a day," says Simmons. "You can have someone stand outside your house and watch you or follow you or get in his car and follow you and never makes a threat that he's going to hurt you or kill you."

The new standard allows judges to help women they previously turned away, such as Loni Amber Turner, who was killed by her stalker after she couldn't convince a judge of the imminent threat and Alissa Blanton, who was shot to death in front of her new husband. As a result, Simmons expects judges to grant more injunctions.

"The great thing about the injunction is that if it is violated, then it is a criminal penalty," Simmons says.

Simmons said he hopes that now judges will  be able to stop stalking scares before they turn tragic.

"You have a mechanism to keep someone away and have an order to keep someone away, Simmons says. "We didn't have that in place. now we do."

Florida's new stalking law also covers cyberstalking, so the threat no longer has to be physical. Women also no longer need to spend thousands of dollars on an attorney to seek an injunction. On October 1, there will be simple, easy-to-use forms anyone can follow, so if a woman needs help, she can get it more easily.

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