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Legal Information: California

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of January 11, 2024

What is the legal definition of harassment in California?

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

  1. unlawful violence, such as:
    • assault – attempting to cause a violent injury to you;
    • battery – use of force against you; or
    • stalking – repeatedly following or harassing you with the intent to place you in reasonable fear for your safety or your immediate family’s safety;1
  2. a credible threat of violence, which means a statement or actions that reasonably place you in fear for your safety, or the safety of your immediate family; or
  3. repeated actions that seriously alarm, annoy, or harass you, and that serve no legitimate purpose and cause you to be extremely emotionally upset (distressed), such as following you, making harassing telephone calls, or sending harassing emails.2

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(b); Cal.Penal Code §§ 240; 242; 646.9
2 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(b)

What types of civil harassment orders are there? How long do they last?

You may receive a temporary order if you show reasonable proof of harassment and that you will suffer great or irreparable harm.1 A temporary order will last until you can have a full court hearing, usually within 21 - 25 days.2 An order after hearing will last up to five years and can be extended for up to an additional five years. If the order does not have an expiration date on it, this means that it will last for three years from the date it was issued.3

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(d)
2 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(f)
3 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(j)

What protections can I get in a civil harassment order?

A temporary ex parte order or an order issued after a hearing can do any of the following:

  • prohibit the harasser from harassing, intimidating, molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, abusing, and telephoning you, including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls;
  • prohibit the harasser from destroying your personal property or disturbing your peace;
  • prohibit the harasser from contacting you, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise;
  • order the abuser to stay a specified distance away from you;
  • give you exclusive care, possession, or control of any animal that you own, possess, or that lived in your household; and
  • order the respondent to stay away from the animal and to not take, transfer, hide, attack, hit, threaten, harm, or get rid of the animal;
  • order the harasser to pay your court costs and attorney’s fees if you win the case; and
  • order the harasser to give up (relinquish) any firearms that s/he owns or possesses. Note: Even if the judge doesn’t specifically order this, it is illegal for anyone who has a civil harassment order issued against him/her to own, possess, purchase, receive, or attempt to purchase or receive a firearm or ammunition while the protective order is in effect.1

If the judge believes there is a good reason to do so, you may be able to include other family or household members as additional protected parties on the order.2

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(a)(6), (s), (u)
2 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(c)

How does a judge decide whether or not to turn my temporary CHO to a final CHO?

The judge will hold a hearing within 21 to 25 days from when the temporary order was issued to decide whether or not to extend your order. However, the respondent is entitled to one continuance, for a reasonable period, to respond to the petition. In addition, either party may request a continuance of the hearing, which the judge can grant if there is “good cause” to do so.

During this hearing, the harasser can respond to the allegations of harassment that you told the judge to get the temporary order and can try and explain, excuse, justify, or deny the harassment. The judge will then consider all of the evidence and decide whether or not the harassment actually occurred. If the judge decides that the harassment did occur, then s/he should grant you a final order, known as an order after hearing.1

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(f)-(j), (o), (p)