My client and his wife own a house on the intercoastal in Indian Rocks Beach. It is a vacation home, so they come to Florida to relax on the water and near the beach.
New neighbors moved in and began running a commercial fishing charter operation from their dock. This meant that every morning two or three men would park at the neighbor’s house, go out on the boat for the day and then return in the evening. Once they returned, they would clean the boat, restock the coolers with ice, refuel the boat with a gas tank hooked up to a pickup truck, and otherwise prep for the trip the next morning. On occasion, flocks of seabirds would be on the deck trying to get scraps of fish or bait.
The operation of the charter business upset my client who simply wanted peace and quiet. After asking his neighbor to stop without success, he knew he had to get the authorities involved.
He took photos and videos of the workers of the charter business working on the boat. He then submitted them to the City of Indian Rocks as a formal complaint. An investigator charged his neighbor with an ordinance violation and took the case to court.
Relationship Between Neighbors:
After my client filed the complaint, his neighbor was obviously upset. Their relationship soured. My client continued to take pictures of the charter business and sent them to the City to help the case.
One evening, my client was on his golf cart driving around. The neighbors called the police complaining that he was staring at them and blocking their driveway. The police responded and did nothing. Later on, the neighbors called the police on my client again as he was sitting on his own dock petting their dog. My client had enough and yelled at the police to leave him alone.
In October, the ordinance violation was dismissed by the court. That week, the neighbor filed a stalking injunction against my client.
The Allegations in the Injunction:
In the stalking injunction, the neighbors claimed that my client was taking videos and pictures of them. (which was already public information) They claimed that he was filming the neighbor’s wife and daughter in bathing suits.They claimed that my client’s security cameras were able to see into their backyard. They also claimed that he blocked their driveway with his golf cart and stared/mumbled at them.
The Stalking Injunction Trial:
The neighbor had a lawyer to assist him with the case. The neighbor and his wife testified that they were being stalked by the videos and photos. They were unable to produce any photos or videos of anyone in a bathing suit. They also conceded that their backyard was open to the public and if any boater drove by, they could see the same thing that my client could see. They also conceded that my client never threatened them and the yelling the one night was directed at the police, not to them.
My client testified that he had taken videos and photos of the charter business several times, but it was always to help the case with the City. He produced a series of emails between him and the investigator where he was sending the pictures to him. He also testified that he never turned his security cameras toward the neighbor, they are just wide angle and might catch some of his neighbor’s yard.
The judge dismissed the injunction. He found that my client was taking the photos and videos to assist the City ordinance violation case. Thus, he had a legitimate purpose and it did not qualify as stalking. He ruled that the security cameras were not stalking because the backyard was open to the public and there was no expectation of privacy. He also pointed out that there was no evidence of any inappropriate videos having been taken. Finally, he said that when my client yelled at the police, it was not directed at the neighbor, so did not qualify as stalking.
The case was dismissed and my client was happy. He is not thrilled that the charter business is allowed to keep operating, but he was happy to win this case.