Burden of Proof at Injunction Hearing
Most injunction hearings become a he said, she said. Often no one else sees what happens. Still, the petitioner must show a preponderance of the evidence. Although a lower standard, the one on one nature makes the burden of proof tough to meet. Judges consider the credibility of the witnesses to figure out if the burden has been met. But what if the judge finds both witnesses in a he said, she said credible? The Fifth District Court of Appeal looks at that issue in Rollins v. Rollins.
Florida offers five types of injunctions. To read about them, click on my page about Injunctions. Here, Ms. Rollins seeks a Sexual Violence Injunction against Mr. Rollins. At the final hearing, the judge says that she finds both parties credible in this he said, she said. But Ms. Rollins does not meet the preponderance of the evidence standard. The judge rules against Ms. Rollins and denies a permanent injunction. She then denies a motion for reconsideration and a motion for rehearing. Thus, Ms. Rollins appeals.
Burden of Proof and Credibility at a Hearing
On appeal, Ms. Rollins argues that the judge found her credible. Therefore, she met her burden of proof. Unfortunately, the burden of proof and credibility are two different issues. Also, she misses the boat on how an appellate court looks at this matter.
First, the burden of proof is a party’s burden to show the charge. Because Ms. Rollins filed the petition, she needed to meet the burden. In a civil case, the burden of proof is the preponderance of the evidence. Simply put, that’s the greater weight of the evidence. It just means more.
Next, credibility means whether the witness is believable. A judge may find witnesses for both sides credible. Or neither credible. Surely, it depends upon how and what the witnesses say.
Lastly, the Fifth District does not hear the matter anew. It does not hear evidence. It does not reweigh the evidence. On appeal, it looks to see whether competent substantial evidence supports the judge’s decision. This is called the standard of review. The standard of review changes depending upon the issue on appeal.
Burden of Proof and Standard of Review Applied to Ms. Rollins
Basically, the Fifth District explains that Ms. Rollins confuses these three issues. Despite Ms. Rollins testifying credibly, Mr. Rollins did so too. However, her credibility is not the issue before either court. Initially, she either meets the burden of proof or she doesn’t. The judge rules that she doesn’t.
Now the Fifth District must consider whether the competent substantial evidence shows the judge ruled properly. It looks at other cases where equally credible witnesses conflicted with each other at the hearing. In those examples, the courts found the petitioner failed to meet its burden. Following those cases, the Fifth District affirms the denial of the injunction.
Read the Rollins v. Rollins opinion here!
Applicability to Criminal Cases
Although Rollins involves a civil injunction matter, these concepts apply to criminal cases too. Judges consider whether the evidence meets the burden of proof at motion hearings and trials all the time. Credibility matters, but it’s not the legal standard. Nothing matters more to the trial judge than the burden of proof.
Talk to an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney!
For years, Mr. Brown worked with a family law firm handling injunctions for their clients. He’s filed them and he’s defended them. He’s even defended a client facing both an injunction and criminal charges at the same time. Because these matters are especially tricky, call Mr. Brown as soon as you can!
The criminal defense firm Brown Legal PLLC operates from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but regularly handles cases throughout South Florida and the rest of the state. Before it’s too late, talk to Mr. Brown and see if he can help you! Reach out over the phone at (954) 524-6700 or through the Contact Page if you have any questions.