Maybe it the rising temperatures around the country or the fact that our economy is still teetering slowly back and forth like a drunken unicyclist, but the latest statistics from LegalMatch show a jump in the number of litigants seeking attorneys who specialize in harassment cases. By the way, apologies to those who clicked that last link hoping to see a drunken unicyclist; hope this one makes up for any unintentional confusion.
Anyway, with the rise in the number of people seeking legal
counsel to resolve their harassment issues, it seems fitting to write a blog
explaining the first line of offense utilized when one is confronted with such
disputes: the restraining order.
They are one of the most commonly granted court orders issued in our judicial system, and with good reason. Restraining orders can put an end to threats from angry neighbors, harassing phone calls, loiterers outside your coffee shop, creepy and obsessive ex-boyfriends seeking to win your heart back, and almost everything else in between. In all seriousness, a well-worded restraining order can do wonders in making people feel safer and sleep better.
Restraining orders prevent unwanted contact to you, your
home or business by people who have been continuously harassing you by imposing
penalties on those who violate the restraining order. These penalties can vary from fines up to
In most states, getting a restraining order requires that you provide the court with the name of the person who you’re trying to get a restraining order against, the type of harassment that person has been doing against you, and some sort of proof or justification. That last requirement can vary a lot from state to state, but typically you’ll need to be able to prove the ongoing harassment in order to get a permanent restraining order (more on that later).
What is considered harassment is very broad, as well. The harassing conduct itself doesn’t
necessarily have to be continuous in order to get a restraining order. In most states, if the harasser’s acts place
you in fear for your life, then just one act or even a well-established
justification is all that is necessary for the court to issue a restraining
order against your harasser.
For example, if you’re a key witness against a defendant in a murder trial, the court would likely be willing to grant your request for a restraining order against the defendant simply on the basis that you feel the defendant may harm you due to your testimony against them. What is considered harassment can encompass many different sorts of behavior depending on your local laws. Generally though, the laws defining this term are very expansive simply because the government wants to deter people from being able to scare or unduly annoy innocent private citizens.
There are two types of restraining orders: temporary and
permanent. Temporary restraining orders
generally only last for the duration of any case you’re litigating against
you’re harasser, but usually can be extended for good cause (hence
“temporary”). But the good thing about
these is that you can get them issued by the court without the other party
being present at the hearing. In lawyer
terms, it’s called getting the order ex parte.
Permanent restraining orders on the other hand require the other party to be present at the trial because these restraining orders have larger consequences against the accused. Unless the accused doesn’t show up of course, then you can get one through a default judgment (which is sort of like forfeiting a game if you don’t show up). And the though the name would make you think these restraining orders last forever, generally that’s not these case. Permanent restraining orders normally are issued to last between 3-10 years, and only on rare occasions will a truly permanent restraining order ever be issued. One last note, most courts usually give temporary restraining orders automatically when a litigant applies for a permanent restraining order.
And the best part about restraining orders is generally, the paperwork required to get one isn’t very complicated in the legal sense, so even non-lawyers can petition the court with ease. Most courts nowadays have a self-representation assistance department that can help guide you through the process. So remember folks, you don’t have to live in fear.
By: Andrew Dat