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Know the Laws: Minnesota

UPDATED August 15, 2016

Harassment Restraining Orders

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A harassment restraining order is an order issued against a harasser, regardless of your relationship to him/her.  It can order him/her to stop harassing you and to have no contact with you.

 

Basic info and definitions

back to topWhat is the legal definition of harassment in Minnesota?

For the purposes of getting a harassment restraining order, harassment is defined as:

  • a single incident of:
  • repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a significant negative effect or are intended to have a significant negative effect on your safety, security, or privacy;
  • targeted residential picketing; or
  • a pattern of attending public events after being notified that the person's presence at the event is harassing to another.*

* MN Code § 609.748(1)(a)

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back to topWhat types of harassment restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

You can get a temporary order without the harasser present in court if the judge reasonably believes that the respondent has harassed you.  If your petition is based on a single incident of harassment, your petition must also state that there is an immediate and present danger of harassment before the court may issue a temporary restraining order.*  A temporary order is in effect until a hearing is held on a final restraining order.*1  If the petitioner or the respondent wants to request a hearing, s/he must do so within 20 days of service of the petition.*2 

A final restraining order will generally last up to two years.  However, if you have had two or more previous restraining orders in effect against the same respondent or the respondent has violated a prior or existing restraining order on two or more occasions, your HRO can be issued for up to 50 years.*3  Note: If the judge makes the order for a period of up to 50 years, the respondent can request to have the restraining order dismissed or modified (changed) if the order has been in effect for at least five years and the respondent has not violated the order.*4

* MN Code § 609.748(4)(b)
*1 MN Code § 609.748(4)(d)
*2 MN Code § 609.748(3)(d),(4)(f)
*3 MN Code § 609.748(5)(b)(3)
*4 MN Code § 609.748(5)(d)

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back to topWho is eligible for a harassment restraining order?

Anyone who is a victim of harassment can file for a harassment restraining order ("HRO") from district court.*  It does not matter what relationship you have with the harasser.  To see the legal definition of harassment for the purposes of getting an HRO, go to What is the legal definition of harassment in Minnesota?

* MN Code § 609.748(2)

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back to topHow can a harassment restraining order help me?

A temporary or final harassment restraining order can order the harasser to (1) stop harassing you; and (2) have no contact with you.*

* MN Code § 609.748(4)(a),(5)(a)

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back to topCan a minor get a harassment restraining order?

A parent, step-parent or guardian of a minor who is being harassed can file for the restraining order on the minor's behalf.* 

* MN Code § 609.748(2)

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back to topCan I get a harassment restraining order against a minor?

Yes.  The law allows for an order against an adult or juvenile who has committed harassment against you.*

* MN Code § 609.748(1)(b)

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Getting a harassment restraining order

back to topWhat are the steps for getting a harassment restraining order?

To file for an HRO, you can go to the district court in the county where you live, where the harasser lives, or where the harassment took place.*  A judge will decide whether or not to issue you an ex parte temporary order on the day you file.  If so, the temporary order will be in effect until a hearing is held on a final restraining order.*1  The petition and any temporary restraining order must be served personally served on the respondent, which is usually done by a peace officer (but could also be done by a corrections officer, including probation officers, court services officers, parole officers, and employees of jails or correctional facilities).*2 For more information on service of the order, see How can a harassment restraining order be served?

If the respondent or the petitioner (you) wants to request a hearing, it must be done within 20 days of service of the petition.*3  If the respondent requests a hearing, you will get notice of the hearing date in the mail at least five days before the hearing.  If you request a hearing, the respondent must be personally served with notice at least 5 days before the hearing.*4

* MN Code § 609.748(2) 
*1 MN Code § 609.748(4)(d)
*2 MN Code § 609.748(5b)
*3 MN Code § 609.748(3)(d),(4)(f)
*4 MN Code § 609.748(3)(a)

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back to topHow can a harassment restraining order be served?

The petition and any temporary restraining order must be personally served on the respondent at least 5 days before the hearing (if you request one). If personal service cannot be completed at least 5 days before the hearing, the court can set a new hearing date.*

Service is usually done by law enforcement (a "peace officer") but it could also be done by a "corrections officer," such as a probation officer, court services officer, parole officer, or an employee of a jail or correctional facility.**  As an alternative to serving the actual petition, order, and notice of the hearing, the law allows a peace officer to serve the respondent with a "short-form notification." (This may be appropriate, for example, if the respondent comes into contact with the police and the police learn that there is an unserved temporary restraining order.)  The short-form notification must include the following: the respondent's name; the respondent's date of birth, if known; the petitioner's name; the names of other protected parties; the date and county in which the temporary restraining order or restraining order was filed; the court file number; the hearing date and time, if known; the conditions that apply to the respondent, either in checklist form or handwritten; and the name of the judge who signed the order.  In addition, the short-form notification will have the following instructions to the respondent:  “The restraining order is now enforceable. You must report to your nearest sheriff's office or county court to obtain a copy of the restraining order. You are subject to arrest and may be charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony if you violate any of the terms of the restraining order or this short-form notification.”***

Note: If service was attempted by a peace officer but it was unsuccessful because the respondent is avoiding service by hiding or for any other reason (for example, refusing to answer the door when the police arrive), you can file an affidavit with the court to explain what happened.  The judge can then allow the respondent to be "served" by publishing notice of the hearing in the newspaper (for one week) as well as mailing a copy to the respondent's home or business (if the addresses are known).****

* MN Code § 609.748(3)(a)
** MN Code § 609.748(5b)
*** MN Code § 609.748(5a)(a)
**** MN Code § 609.748(3)(b)

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back to topHow much does it cost to file for a harassment restraining order?

There can be a filing fee for a harassment restraining order, depending on the facts of your case and who you are filing against.  The district court can tell you what the fee is but it can likely be a few hundred dollars.*  However, if you are a low-income person and meet the income guidelines, the fee will be waived.  Also, regardless of your income, if you allege that the respondent committed stalkingthe fee will be waived.**

* According to the Minnesota Judicial Branch, the base filing fee is $287 plus possible "law library fees"
** MN Code § 609.748(3a)

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Violation of a harassment restraining order

back to topWhat happens if the abuser violates the order?

In addition to being held in contempt of court, violating a temporary or final harassment restraining order can be a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on the circumstances.*  For the violation to be a gross misdemeanor, the abuser would have to commit the violation within ten years of a prior conviction for a "qualified domestic violence-related crime" (or juvenile offense).**  To read the list of crimes that are considered “qualified domestic violence-related offenses,” see MN Code § 609.02(16).

The abuser may be guilty of a felony for violating a harassment restraining order if the abuser violates the order under any of the following circumstances:

  • within ten years of two or more convictions for qualified domestic violence-related offenses (or juvenile offenses);
  • because of your actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, or national origin (as defined in MN Code § 363A.03);
  • by falsely impersonating another person;
  • while possessing a dangerous weapon;
  • with the goal of influencing a juror or tampering with a judicial proceeding or retaliating against a judicial officer, prosecutor, defense attorney, or officer of the court because of the person’s performance of official duties in connection with a judicial proceeding; or
  • against a victim who is under the age of 18 and the abuser is at least 36 months older than the victim.***

* MN Code § 609.748(6)(b),(c),(d),(h)
** MN Code § 609.748(6)(c)
*** MN Code § 609.748(d)

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back to topWhat is the punishment for violating the order?

In Minnesota, if a person is guilty of a misdemeanor violation, s/he could be imprisoned for up to 90 days, fined up to $1,000, or both.*

If s/he is found guilty of a gross misdemeanor violation, s/he could be imprisoned for up to one year, fined up to $3,000, or both.**

If the abuser is found guilty of a felony violation, s/he could be imprisoned for more than one year, fined up to $10,000, or both.***  The length of possible jail time and the amount of the potential fine will depend on many factors and will ultimately be determined by the judge.  See What happens if the abuser violates the order? for more information about what violations are considered misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, or felonies.

* MN Code § 609.02(3)
** MN Code §§ 609.0341(1); 609.02(4)
*** MN Code §§ 609.02(2); see MN Code §§ 609.0341(1) & 518B.01(14)(d)

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back to topWho can file a contempt of court petition to report a violation to the judge?

In addition to (or instead of) reporting a violation to the police, a petition to hold the abuser in contempt of court can be filed in the court that issued the harassment restraining order.  You (the victim) can file the petition or it can be filed by a peace officer, or an “interested party” who is chosen by the judge.  The judge will then issue an order requiring the abuser to appear in court within 14 days to explain why s/he should not be held in contempt of court.  The judge can also refer the violations to the appropriate prosecuting authority.*

* MN Code § 609.748(6)(i)

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