Generally, no one wakes up and wants to obtain a restraining order against another party as it requires one to expend the time and energy to go to Court. Having said that, harassment, either in person or online, violence, or threats of violence are serious issues. As anyone will tell you, if you have an imminent fear of violence, or are experiencing violence at this moment in time, you should stop reading this post, and contact the appropriate authorities. If you have contacted the authorities, you should also consider your civil remedies in Superior Court. While restraining orders against parties one knows are governed by the Family Code, restraining orders against strangers are governed by the Code of Civil Procedure and are called Civil Harassment Restraining Orders (“CHRO”).
The distinction here is simple: if you are related to a party, or if they are your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, former husband, former wife, former boyfriend, or former girlfriend, the law classifies such problems as potential domestic violence, and the remedy is a domestic violence restraining order. However, if the relationship is that of a non-romantic roommate, co-worker, neighbor, random stranger, or anyone that does not fall into the above domestic violence category above, the remedy is a Civil Harassment Restraining Order.
Civil Harassment Restraining Orders are governed by Section 527.6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and under this section, individuals are entitled to a CHRO if they meet any of the following conditions: a) Are a victim of a continual pattern of conduct from another party – meaning, that they have been stalked or harassed in person or online; b) Believe that there is a credible threat of violence – meaning that a reasonable person would have fear for their safety and the safety of their family; and c) That they have been harassed, subjected to violence, threats of violence, or a course of conduct that serves no legitimate purpose – meaning that which would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress.
As one can see, the definition of harassment under the law is intentionally broad. This law covers: online stalking; in person stalking; online harassment; in person harassment; harassment by mail, phone, e-mail, or text; assault by the other party; threatened assault by the other party; and various other acts. In practical terms, the law covers a neighbor, who, for whatever reason, decides to either stalk, harass, or threaten violence against one’s person or property. The law covers a co-worker, who, for whatever reason, decides to harass a person online. The law covers a member of a group, who, for whatever reason, decides to harass a person via the phone, text, or e-mail. Finally, the law covers the repeated acts of random strangers who choose to do any of these things or more.
The point of a CHRO is first of all, mental and physical protection. If one obtains a temporary CHRO, or a permanent CHRO, the other party cannot threaten or harass the applicant; cannot go near the applicant’s place of business; home; school; or other areas; and the recipient of a CHRO cannot own or possess a firearm or ammunition. In order to obtain a CHRO, a party must complete Court-approved paperwork, and also produce what evidence that supports their claims. On the day of filing, the moving party will learn whether their request has been granted in whole, in part, or not at all pending a hearing date. On that hearing date, the moving party must appear, and may have to testify to ensure that they receive the relief requested. Once the hearing is completed, the Court may elect to enter a permanent order based on the evidence received for a period of time.
Like Domestic Violence Restraining Orders, Civil Harassment Restraining Orders are serious business, and a serious matter that one needs to be prepared for to obtain the relief that they want. If you have questions about Civil Harassment Restraining Orders, don’t just trust what advice you receive from family and friends, or the internet, but contact an attorney who can guide you between what is real – and what is a dead end, and who will advocate for you to get the protection you need. Contact our office today with any CHRO questions you may have to protect your personal safety.
Christopher Sunnen, Esq. is a San Diego, CA based attorney specializing in family law and bankruptcy law.