In the days and weeks after the COVID-19 hit, trials were postponed and courthouses in the Tampa Bay area became much quieter.
Many domestic violence victims wondered where they could go to get an emergency protection order if they needed one. The Florida Supreme acted quickly. They viewed protection orders as “critical to the company”.
That meant the Tampa Bay County courthouse was available to domestic violence survivors.
“With COVID in particular, there was the wrong feeling that everything was down and many services were down, and in reality we were just as busy as ever,” said Mindy Murphy, CEO of Spring of Tampa Bay.
In Hillsborough County, injunctions have been run virtually, and Tampa Bay Spring has now helped hundreds of survivors navigate the storm with free legal assistance.
Murphy says the new normal with video hearing was a good thing.
“Survivors don’t have to go to court now. It’s all done remotely. It’s been done throughout the pandemic and it actually reduces some of the barriers to restraining because you don’t have to worry about how to get it. ” to the courthouse. You do this from home. You don’t have to be physically present with your batterier so the process actually brings with it some hidden blessings, “she added.
Pinellas County simplifies injunction hearings and services in one place. Although the judge wears a mask behind a protective barrier in the courtroom where hearings are held, nothing has changed for the victim and the speed with which they can quickly obtain a protection order.