What is the legal definition of stalking in Georgia?
Stalking is defined as when someone does any of the following without your permission for the purpose of “harassing or intimidating” you:
- follows you;
- places you under surveillance; or
- contacts you (in person, by phone, email, computer or other electronic device, etc.).1
“Harassing or intimidating” you means that the stalker does repeated acts that cause you emotional distress by placing you in reasonable fear for your safety or the safety of a member of your immediate family (and the acts serve no legitimate purpose). There does not have to be a specific threat of death or bodily injury.1
1 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-90(a)(1)
What protections can I get in a stalking protective order?
An ex parte temporary order can do any of the following:
- Order the respondent to stop stalking, harassing you or interfering with you and your immediate family;
- Order the respondent to stay a certain number of yards away from you;
- Order the respondent to have no contact, directly or indirectly, with you and your immediate family.1
A final protective order can do any of the following:
- Order all of the protections listed above;
- Order the respondent (or you) to get psychiatric or psychological services to prevent continued stalking in the future; and
- Order the respondent to pay your attorney’s fees (or, if you lose the case, order that you pay the respondent’s attorney’s fees).2
Note: If the stalker is also arrested for stalking, you also have the right to be notified when bail hearings are scheduled and when the stalker is released from custody if you provide the court with a landline telephone number.3
1 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-94(d); see GA Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority, petition for a stalking ex parte temporary protective order
2 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-94(d); see GA Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority, petition for a stalking twelve month protective order
3 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-93
What types of stalking protective orders are there and how long do they last?
When you file for a protective order, if the judge believes that stalking has happened in the past and that it may likely happen again in the future, the judge can issue a temporary ex parte order to protect you. An ex parte order can be issued by the court without the presence of the stalker (respondent). After the court issues an ex parte order, a hearing must be held within 30 days, at which point you and the respondent will have a chance to prove your case, and the judge will decide whether or not to issue a final order.2 A final order will generally last for up to one year. However, you can later file a motion (legal papers) asking that it be extended for up to three years or permanently.3 For more information on how to extend the order, we suggest that you talk to a lawyer. Go to our GA Finding a Lawyer page for free and paid legal services.
1 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-94(d)
2 O.C.G.A. §§ 16-5-94(e); 19-13-3(c)
3 O.C.G.A. §§ 16-5-94(e); 19-13-4(c)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.