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Know the Laws: South Carolina

UPDATED April 2, 2012

Restraining Orders Against Stalking or Harassment

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A civil restraining order against anyone who is harassing or stalking you. 

Basic Info and Definitions

back to topWhat is a restraining order against stalking or harassment?

A restraining order against stalking or harassment is a civil order that is issued by the magistrate's court for people who are being harassed or stalked by someone. You do not need to have a specific relationship with the person harassing or stalking you. 

The restraining order against stalking or harassment can order the defendant to not:

  • abuse, threaten, or molest (bother) you or your family members;
  • enter or attempt to enter your home, workplace, school, or other location; and/or
  • communicate or attempt to communicate with you.*

* S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1770(B)

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back to topWhat are the legal definitions of "stalking" and "harassment?"

Harassment means a pattern of intentional, substantial, and unreasonable intrusion into your private life that serves no legitimate purpose and would cause a "reasonable person" to suffer mental or emotional distress. Harassment may include, but is not limited to:

1. following you;
2. verbal, written, or electronic contact that is initiated, maintained, or repeated and actually causes you mental distress;
3. visual or physical contact that  takes place after you have told the person not to contact you or after you filed an incident report with the police;
4. staying around or doing surveillance of  your home, workplace, school, or other place you regularly go; and/or
5. vandalism and property damage.*

Stalking means a pattern of words (verbal, written, or electronic) or conduct that serves no legitimate purpose and is intended to cause you and does cause you (and would cause a "reasonable person") to fear that you or your family member will be:

1. killed
2. assaulted
3. injured
4. criminally sexually abused
5. kidnapped or
6. subjected to property damage.**

Note: In the definition of stalking, a "pattern" means two or more acts; "family member" means your spouse, child, parent, sibling, or a person who regularly resides in the same household with you.***

* S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1700(A) & (B)
** S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1700(C)
*** S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1700(D) & (E)

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back to topHow long will the restraining order last?

The restraining order will be in effect for approximately one year.  The judge will decide the exact length of the order on a case-by-case basis.*

* S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1750(E)

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back to topWhat types of restraining orders against stalking or harassment are there?

There are two types of ordres: the emergency temporary order and the final extended order (which lasts for approximately one year).

Within twenty-four hours after you file for the restraining order, the judge can hold an emergency hearing.  If at that hearing, the judge believes your allegations, the judge can issue a temporary restraining order without first informing the defendant (abuser).  Then this temporary restraining order would be served upon the defendant along with what is called a "Rule to Show Cause."   The Rule to Show Cause must provide the date and time of the hearing where the defendant would have to convince the judge that the temporary order should not be extended for the full one-year period.* 

If the judge does not give you the temporary order, the judge can still set a date for a hearing to decide if you will get the final order.  This hearing will generally take place within fifteen days of the date that you file for the order.**

* S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1760(A) & (B)
** S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1760(C) & (D)

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