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Your Guide to Filing and Fighting a Harassment Restraining Order California

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Civil Harassment Restraining Orders California Overview

Also known as a protective order, a restraining order is a court order issued to protect an individual or group from being abused, harassed, or threatened by another person.

California code defines harassment as unlawful violence, credible threats of violence, or harassing conduct. That conduct has to cause a reasonable person, the one petitioning for the order, to suffer substantial emotional distress.

Civil harassment restraining orders can be asked if two parties are not related, don’t have a close relationship, and one party is worried about their safety because the other party harassed, stalked, made threats of violence, or sexually assaulted the other party.

When a restraining order is issued, the court will require the restrained person (the defendant) to refrain from engaging in any acts listed in the order. If a restraining order is violated, the defendant may face criminal charges.

Types of Restraining Orders in California

There are four main categories of restraining orders in California:

  • Domestic violence restraining order
  • Dependent adult abuse restraining order
  • Workplace violence restraining order
  • Civil harassment restraining order

A dependent adult or an elder abuse restraining order can be asked for if a person is 65 or older or between 18 and 64 with certain disabilities. That person has to be a victim of neglect, abuse, or suffer another type of deprivation by their caregiver.

Workplace violence restraining orders can be obtained by employers to protect their employees from immediate danger, threats of violence, or abuse at the workplace.

Other harassment cases in California can be pursued under domestic violence or civil harassment restraining laws. In order to determine how to proceed, certain aspects of the case have to be determined. One of these aspects includes determining the relationship between the restrained person and the person accused of committing alleged harassment. A civil harassment restraining order is designed to protect people from someone they are not in a close relationship with.

Whether you’re looking to protect yourself through this legal avenue or you believe that a California civil harassment restraining order has been unfairly issued against you, having solid legal assistance is essential.

With experience representing victims of harassment as well as an extensive criminal defense background, The Law Offices of Christopher Chaney can help you achieve the desired result while protecting your rights, safety, and freedom.

Domestic Violence vs. Civil Harassment Restraining Orders California

To understand your rights and options when involved in a harassment-related restraining order, it’s essential to understand the difference between domestic violence restraining orders and civil harassment orders in California.

In short, civil harassment restraining orders involve non-familial relationships. In contrast, domestic violence restraining orders are issued if the defendant is closely related to the party requesting the order (the plaintiff).

Domestic relationships can include a family member such as a parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, wife, husband, former spouse (if divorced/separated), or someone you are dating or used to date. Suppose the relationship is that of a non-romantic roommate, neighbor, colleague, stranger, or anybody else who does not fall into the above domestic violence classification. In that case, the solution is to ask for a civil harassment restraining order.

Restraining orders against parties of a domestic nature are governed by California’s Family Code, while the Code of Civil Procedure governs restraining orders against strangers or non-domestic acquaintances. Your attorney will help you determine which category your situation falls under and use those laws as the basis upon which to defend you.

Establishing Evidence Under California Harassment Law

The definition of civil harassment is outlined in the Code of Civil Procedure section 527.6. To establish civil harassment, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has behaved in a threatening or harassing manner toward the plaintiff.

This can include the following types of conduct:

  • Assault/battery or stalking
  • A credible threat of violence which would make a reasonable individual fear for their safety
  • A course of conduct that is intended to harass, vex, or annoy and which has no genuine function

For the plaintiff to successfully request a restraining order, there must be admissible evidence that the harassment has caused reasonable psychological distress. There must also be evidence that, unless the court issues a restraining order against the accused, the plaintiff will suffer severe and lasting harm or fall victim to violence.

Additionally, any threats of violence must be credible. This means that the threat would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of their loved ones. The other action that might lead to a civil harassment restraining order is a “course of conduct.” This means that the defendant must have engaged in a pattern of harassing or annoying behavior.

If you are filing a restraining order against someone, our attorneys can help you argue and prove this pattern and establish any other evidence. Alternatively, if a restraining order has been issued against you, we can help defend you if the plaintiff claims a pattern of abuse or threatening behavior.

Filing Restraining Order Forms in California

Before the restraining order process in California can begin, the individual requesting the order must file the required forms in court. On these court forms, the person seeking protection should explain why they are requesting a restraining order. Once complete, they submit the forms to the court clerk and the filing fee.

If there is no credible threat of stalking or violence and the filing fee and service fee weren’t waived, you can apply for a fee waiver if you can’t afford to pay them.

If you are seeking a restraining order, your attorney can help you determine which types of forms you may need and guide you through the process of requesting and completing them. Once the forms are submitted, the judge will review them and decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order in your court case.

Civil harassment restraining orders can remain in effect for up to five years from the court hearing date upon which the order was issued.

Beginning the Restraining Order Process in California

If issued, the temporary restraining order will generally last for 21 days. Following the issuance of the TRO, California courts usually schedule a hearing to identify whether to transition it to a permanent restraining order. It is called the permanent order because it can last up to 5 years.

Before this court hearing, the defendant must be served with a copy of this order by a process server or other qualified people, such as an attorney, and proof of service must be filed to the court.

If a temporary restraining order has been issued against you, any orders that the court needs you to follow will be mentioned in the order. The TRO will likewise include a date for the permanent restraining order hearing. To fight the restraining order, the defendant must attend the court hearing with this information on the restraining order notification.

Having Several Restraining Orders at the Same Time

An individual can have several restraining orders at the same time. For example, someone could have both civil harassment restraining and criminal protective orders.

One of the reasons for doing this is that a criminal protective order can expire for reasons beyond your control. On the other hand, a civil harassment restraining order can’t expire if a judge does not order a court order after a hearing.

Fighting a Restraining Order in California

Given that a restraining order requires you to stay away from the person filing it against you as well as other related persons, the impacts of having one issued against you can vary from losing the right to go to places you enjoy to losing the right to see your loved ones — including your kids. If you and the protected person live together, you may also be ordered to leave your home.

Additionally, suppose you are accused of violating a restraining order. In that case, you could face up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, with additional penalties applying for subsequent convictions.

Although the first offense of a restraining order violation is a misdemeanor, a second conviction for the same offense can become a wobbler, mainly if the second violation results from an act of violence. A wobbler is a crime that can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony. If it is charged as a felony, this crime can be punishable by up to three years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Due to the potentially devastating nature of these consequences of a restraining order, it’s essential to take action against the order as soon as you receive notification of it.

You can challenge the requested orders in writing, but you’ll then need to appear in court to contest the permanent restraining order. This might include revealing why the scenario isn’t severe enough to necessitate a restraining order or proving that the accusations against you are fallacious. Your attorney can help you build a strong argument for this in your favor.

What Happens at a Restraining Order Hearing in California?

If the defendant does not attend the hearing, they will have no input if a permanent restraining order, valid for up to five years, is issued against them. On the other hand, if the plaintiff does not participate in the hearing, any temporary orders will end that day, and no further decisions will be made on issuing a permanent restraining order.

At the hearing, the judge will listen to testimony from both parties and any potential witnesses, such as the arresting law enforcement officer, if applicable. Then, the judge may:

  • Grant the restraining order with all requested protections;
  • Grant a few of the requested protections, but not all;
  • Delay the case and reschedule a new court date.

If the judge delays the case, the temporary order is in effect until the next hearing date.

Generally, when a restraining order is issued against you, there is an additional criminal case stemming from the alleged victim’s claims of abuse, harassment, or stalking. Any declarations you make at the civil restraining order hearing could be used against you in your criminal case, and successfully fighting both with a trusted California criminal law attorney is the best way to protect your freedom.

Contact an Experienced California Criminal Defense Attorney

No matter the circumstances of your civil harassment restraining order, you should contact an experienced and knowledgeable California criminal law attorney to assist in fighting the charges. Your attorney can help you build a strong argument and navigate the complexities of the law to increase your chances of a successful outcome.

They can also provide invaluable support if law enforcement officers come to your home to serve you with the restraining order. You must cooperate and not become confrontational with law enforcement officers. With your attorney’s help, you can proceed appropriately and minimize the possible consequences of a restraining order against you.

You can fight for the best result in your restraining order case and protect your rights by working with a skilled criminal defense attorney. Our legal team at The Law Offices of Christopher Chaney has great experience handling restraining order cases.

Contact us today to arrange a free consultation during which we will hear your side of the story, explain your options, and start working to uphold your legal rights in all contexts.

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Regardless of your circumstance, you are not alone in your fight. We are ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights, freedom, and reputation. Contact us today to schedule a free remote or in-person consultation, and let us assist you in finding a solution to your problem.