Luis A. Santiago, Appellant,
Carlos Leon, etc., Appellee.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower
Tribunal No. 17-16905 Deborah White-Labora, Judge.
Palomares Starbuck & Associates, and Lorenzo J.
Palomares, for appellant.
Martinez-Scanziani & Associates Law, P.A., and Denise
Martinez-Scanziani, for appellee.
LOGUE, SCALES and GORDO, JJ.
Santiago, the respondent below, appeals a final judgment
imposing a permanent stalking injunction against him in favor
of the petitioner below, M.L., a minor child. Because there
is not competent, substantial evidence in the record to
support the trial court's determination that Santiago had
"stalked" M.L. as that term is defined in section
784.048 of the Florida Statutes (2017), we reverse the final
judgment imposing the permanent stalking injunction.
RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
and M.L.'s father, Carlos Leon ("the father"),
had a long-distance relationship during which M.L. was born
through a surrogate. The relationship ended when M.L. was
approximately one and a half years old.
12, 2017, the father, on behalf of M.L., filed a verified
petition against Santiago in the lower court seeking a
permanent injunction against Santiago based on Santiago's
alleged stalking of M.L. The verified petition alleged that,
beginning in February 2017, Santiago had stalked M.L. by: (i)
getting a tattoo of M.L.'s name on his body; (ii) posting
images of M.L. on his social media accounts (including
Facebook and Instagram) and representing thereon that M.L. is
Santiago's son; (iii) mailing packages to M.L.; (iv)
twice emailing the father to express his love for M.L.; (v)
contacting the father's surrogate in search of
information about M.L.; (vi) appearing once outside the
father and M.L's home; and (vii) driving by a restaurant
the father and M.L. were patronizing and making eye contact
with the father and M.L. The father further represented that
Santiago regularly frequented the same restaurants at the
same time as the father, oftentimes when M.L. was also
December 17, 2018, after holding two evidentiary hearings on
the injunction petition, the trial court entered a final
judgment precluding Santiago both from having any contact
with M.L. and from posting any images or comments about M.L.
on all social media. Santiago appeals this December 17, 2018
784.0485(1) of the Florida Statutes (2017) "create[s] a
cause of action for an injunction for protection against
stalking." The statute authorizes a trial court to
enter a statutory injunction against a respondent whose
conduct meets the statutory definition of stalking set forth
in section 784.048 of the Florida Statutes. See Richards
v. Gonzalez, 178 So.3d 451, 453 (Fla. 3d DCA 2015).
Hence, a review of the relevant statutory text - and whether
the respondent's conduct constitutes behavior proscribed
by the relevant statutes - is critical to our analysis.
784.048 defines "stalking" as when "[a] person
. . . willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows,
harasses, or cyberstalks another person." §
784.048(2), Fla. Stat. (2017) (emphasis added). Hence, to
warrant issuance of a stalking injunction, the record must
establish that the respondent either "followed,"
"harassed," or "cyberstalked" another.
Here, the transcripts for the two evidentiary hearings
reflect that, aside from determining that Santiago had
engaged in "stalking-like" and "creepy"
behavior, the lower court neither referred to section
784.048, nor made any express findings with respect to any of
the statutory elements for stalking set forth therein. As
outlined in more detail below, we conclude that there is not
competent substantial evidence in the record to support the
trial court's legal ...