Civil Harassment Restraining Orders
Being the subject of ongoing harassment can seriously impact your way of life. Perhaps a neighbor’s behavior that may have started off as a minor annoyance morphed into something that’s become unbearable. Or maybe a co-worker or roommate has their goals set on ruining your life. If these situations sound familiar, a Civil Harassment Restraining Order may provide you with invaluable protection from the harassment you are currently experiencing.
At Power Trial Lawyers, our Los Angeles restraining order attorneys have a successful track record obtaining Civil Harassment Restraining Orders on our client’s behalf. We understand the substantive legal doctrines that come into play, and we have the practical knowledge of the Los Angeles court system to ensure these claims proceed efficiently. We take an all-hands-on-deck approach to every Civil Harassment Restraining Order we handle, ensuring we take as much time as we need to understand exactly what you’ve been through so we can custom-tailor your petition so it best serves your needs and protects your interests.What Is a Civil Harassment Restraining Order?
A Civil Harassment Restraining Order (CHRO) is a legal order issued by a court to protect someone from being harassed, stalked, abused, or threatened by another individual in non-domestic situations. In contrast to a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, which primarily applies to parties who are family or household members or who have certain types of intimate relationships, the Civil Harassment Restraining Order is more broadly applicable to other situations.How Do You Obtain a CHRO in Los Angeles?
A Los Angeles court will issue a Civil Harassment Restraining Order if the petitioner (the person seeking protection) can prove that the respondent (the person the petitioner is seeking protection from) engaged in harassment. Under California Code of Civil Procedure § 527.6, there are three ways to establish harassment. More specifically, if someone engages in any of the following:
- Commit an unlawful act of violence,
- Make a credible threat of violence, or
- Engage in a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person and that serves no legitimate purpose.
Cases involving an unlawful act of violence or a credible threat of violence tend to be more straightforward than those petitions proceeding on a “course of conduct theory.” There are a few reasons for this. First, the course of conduct must be such that a reasonable person would suffer substantial emotional distress, and the petitioner must establish that they actually experienced substantial emotional distress.
Section 527.6 also provides a definition for “course of conduct,” which, in this context, refers to
Conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose, including following or stalking an individual, making harassing telephone calls to an individual, or sending harassing correspondence to an individual by any means, including, but not limited to, the use of public or private emails, interoffice mail, facsimile, or email.
In other words, a single incident that seriously annoys or alarms a person is likely insufficient to establish a course of conduct; there almost always needs to be a series of disruptive, harassing acts. Compare this to CHROs alleging an unlawful act of violence or a credible threat of violence, for which one instance is sufficient to establish the harassment element.What Terms Can Be Included in a Civil Harassment Restraining Order?
If the judge grants a CHRO, the person being restrained may be ordered to:
- Stay a certain distance away from the petitioner and his/her home, school, work, and/or children. This is often referred to as a Stay Away Order.
- No Contact Order - Avoid contacting the petitioner in any way, including by phone, mail, email, or other electronic means. This is often referred to as a No Contact Order.
- Move out of a shared residence.
- Turn in any guns they own, and refrain from purchasing, carrying, or using a gun in any capacity.
To obtain a Civil Harassment Restraining Order, you must request one from the court, usually where the conduct occurred. To start off this process, you’ll need to complete a Request for Civil Harassment Restraining Orders (form CH-100). This form asks you basic information about yourself, the party whose behavior you are seeking to stop, and your current relationship with them.
Perhaps the most important part of form CH-100, however, is the “description of abuse” section. Here, you will outline in full detail everything that the other person has done to harass you. For example, you will need to indicate the last date harassment occurred, whether they had or threatened to use a firearm, whether you suffered physical injury and whether the police were notified. You will also indicate whether you want the CHRO to provide protection for any other individuals, such as minor children, in your custody.
If you’ve taken a look at CH-100, you’ll note that the form does not give you more than a few lines. You are permitted to attach a separate document titled “CH-100 Description of Abuse,” where you can elaborate in as much detail as possible. Keep in mind, however, that the most compelling allegations are those that can be supported by evidence.
Finally, you’ll be asked whether you are seeking immediate protection. Essentially, this is asking whether you would like the judge to hold a hearing before the final hearing to determine if a Temporary Restraining Order is appropriate. A temporary restraining order takes effect once the judge issues it and lasts until the judge rules on the merits of your petition. The burden of proof for obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order is lower than for a permanent Restraining Order. In part, this is because there is no requirement that the other party be present.
Regardless of whether you seek or obtain a Temporary Restraining Order, the court will schedule a hearing, during which it will hear the merits of your case. This is your opportunity to tell the court why a Civil Harassment Restraining Order and to present evidence substantiating your petition.What Evidence Is Admissible in a Hearing for a CHRO?
Courts adhere to the California Rules of Evidence when presiding over Civil Harassment Restraining Order hearings. That said, there is broad discretion involved in interpreting the Rules of Evidence, and evidentiary rulings are often contested. However, typically, non-hearsay evidence such as text messages, emails and photographs are admissible. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to testify, and you can also call other witnesses. However, it is important to keep in mind that judges prefer to only hear from witnesses whose testimony meaningfully contributes to the case. For example, a witness should be able to testify to more than your good character or the respondent’s bad character. Witnesses who personally observed the harassment are the most valuable.Defending Against a Civil Harassment Restraining Order
Defending against a Civil Harassment Restraining Order is a serious matter, and it's crucial to approach it with diligence and care. If someone has filed a CHRO against you, it's best to consult with a Los Angeles Civil Harassment Restraining Order attorney to ensure you understand the entirety of your situation. However, below are general steps and considerations to help you prepare a defense:
Understand the Order and Allegations: Familiarize yourself with the specifics of the order and the exact allegations made against you. This will help you identify areas to challenge and gather evidence.
Retain Legal Counsel: An experienced restraining order lawyer in Los Angeles can guide you through the process, help you understand the laws in your jurisdiction, ensure your rights are protected and aggressively advocate on your behalf.
Gather Evidence: Collect any evidence that can support your side of the story. This might include:
- Texts, emails, or other correspondence between you and the petitioner that might refute their allegations.
- Witnesses who can provide testimony or affidavits supporting your claims.
- Alibis for dates and times you’re alleged to have committed harassment.
- Records that might contradict the petitioner’s claims, such as phone records, GPS data, or security footage.
- Character references from people who can speak to your reputation and behavior.
Document Everything: Keep a detailed record of any interactions with the petitioner, including dates, times, locations, and a description of what occurred.
Adhere to All Court Orders and Appearances: Even if you believe the order is unjustified, it's essential to comply until the court has made a decision. Failing to do so can lead to legal consequences and weaken your defense.
Prepare a Defense: With the help of your attorney, build a defense strategy. This could involve challenging the veracity of the petitioner's claims, presenting evidence that contradicts their story, or showing that their claims don't meet the legal threshold for harassment.
Stay Calm and Professional: Emotions can run high in these situations, but it's important to stay calm and composed, especially during court proceedings. Avoid any confrontations with the petitioner.
Understand the Possible Outcomes: Depending on the evidence presented, the court may decide to grant a permanent restraining order, deny it, or modify its terms. Familiarize yourself with the possible outcomes and their implications.
Lastly, it's important to recognize the gravity of a CHRO and to respect the rights and feelings of the petitioner. While defending yourself, it's essential to be respectful of the legal process and all parties involved. Failure to do so will not only compromise your personal integrity but can also negatively impact your case and may even result in additional legal challenges.
Learn More About Los Angeles CHROs By Speaking with an Experienced Civil Harassment Restraining Order Lawyer at Power Trial Lawyers
If you are being harassed or someone wrongfully filed a restraining order petition against you, the dedicated Los Angeles CHRO lawyers at Power Trial Lawyers can help. At Power Trial Lawyers, we believe that knowledge is power and that the more you know about the process, the better prepared you’ll be and the better outcome you can expect. This is why we take the time to familiarize each of our clients with the restraining order process, answering any questions you have along the way. To learn more about Civil Harassment Restraining Orders and to schedule a no-obligation consultation with Matthew Barhoma or another attorney at Power Trial Lawyers, call (213) 800-7664, or connect with us through our online contact form.