What is the legal definition of harassment in California?
For the purposes of getting a civil harassment order, harassment is defined as:
- 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
- A credible threat of violence (a statement or actions that reasonably place you in fear for your safety, or the safety of your immediate family); or
- Repeated actions (such as following you, making harassing telephone calls, or sending harassing emails) that seriously alarm, annoy, or harass you, and that serve no legitimate purpose and cause you to be extremely emotionally upset (distressed).2
1 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(b); Ann.Cal.Penal Code §§ 240, 242, 646.9
2 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(b)
What is a civil harassment order (CHO)? How long do they last?
You can get a civil harassment order against someone with whom you are in a relationship, to whom you are related, or against someone with whom you do not have an intimate or familial relationship (such as an acquaintance, co-worker, neighbor, or stranger). The purpose of a civil harassment order is to stop further abuse and harassment.
In a civil harassment order, a judge can order the harasser to stop harassing you and to stay away from you. If the judge believes there is a good reason to do so, you may be able to include other family or household members on the order.1 You may receive a temporary order if you show reasonable proof of harassment and that you will suffer great or irreparable harm.2 A temporary order will last until you can have a full court hearing (usually within 21 - 25 days).3 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.4
1 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(c)
2 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(d)
3 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(f)
4 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(j)
Am I eligible to file for a civil harassment order?
Any person who has suffered harassment or stalking (as explained here) can apply to the court for a civil harassment order. It does not matter who the person harassing you is. It can be a stranger or someone you know.1
1 See Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6
How does a judge decide whether or not to extend 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 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(f)-(j),(o),(p)
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.1
1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(a)(6)