What are the definitions of stalking and sexually oriented offenses?
To get an SSOOPO, you must show that the abuser (known as the “respondent” in court) has committed acts that would come under the crime of menacing by stalking or that the respondent committed a sexually oriented offense against you. It does not matter if the respondent was ever charged with either of these crimes not. It only matters that s/he has committed one of the acts described in these crimes.1
You can read the definition of menacing by stalking on our Selected Ohio Statutes page (see sections (A)(1) and (A)(2)).
The definition of a sexually oriented offense is when someone commits or attempts to commit an act that comes under one of these crimes (even if the person was not arrested for it):
- sexual battery;
- unlawful sexual contact with a minor (see the statute sections (A)(2) and (3) for certain conditions regarding the age difference of the victim and offender);
- gross sexual imposition;
- sexual imposition;
- importuning (soliciting a minor for sexual activity);
- voyeurism (deals with secretly videotaping sexual acts or similar actions);
- compelling prostitution;
- promoting prostitution;
- pandering obscenity;
- pandering obscenity involving a minor;
- illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance;
- felonious assault when committed with a sexual motivation; and
- committing menacing by stalking with a sexual motivation.2
- Note: There are additional acts involving human trafficking, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and other crimes when sexually motivated, which we have not included in the above list; to read these, see sections (A)(4),(7)-(11) of the law.
1 Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.214(C)(1)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 2950.01(A)
What is a stalking or sexually oriented offense protection order and how long does it last?
A stalking or sexually oriented offense protection order (“SSOOPO”) is designed to protect you, your family and household members from someone who has stalked you or committed sexually oriented offense against you.1 Like domestic violence protective orders, there are temporary and final SSOOPOs.
A temporary order may be granted by a judge if s/he believes that it is necessary for your safety and protection or that you are in immediate and present danger. The temporary order lasts for ten days or until the full court hearing.2
A final SSOOPO can be granted only after a full court hearing where the victim and abuser both get a chance to present evidence, witnesses and testimony. If granted, a final order may last for up to five years and may be renewed after that time for up to an additional five years.3
1 Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.214(C)(1)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.214(D)(1), (D)(2)(a)
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.214(E)(2)(a), (E)(2)(b)
What protections can I get in a stalking or sexually oriented offense protection order?
An ex parte or final sexually oriented offense protection order (SSOOPO) can:
- prohibit the stalker or sexual offender from harming or attempting to harm you, threatening, following, stalking, harassing, contacting you, or forcing sexual relations upon you;
- prohibit the abuser from entering your home, school, business, or place of employment, children’s school or daycare (including the grounds and parking lot) or that of any of your family or household members;
- prohibit the abuser from shutting off any utilities or removing or damaging any of your property or pets, canceling any insurance or health benefits, interfering with your phone service or mail delivery;1
- order that the respondent not remove, damage, hide, harm, or get rid of any companion animal owned or possessed by you (and the judge can allow you to remove your companion animal from the possession of the abuser).2
In addition, as part of a final order, the judge can order that the respondent wear electronic monitoring as long as you include the following in your petition:
- that at any time before you filed the petition, the respondent engaged in conduct that would cause a “reasonable person” to believe that his/her health, welfare, or safety was at risk;
- a description of the nature and extent of that conduct; and
- that the respondent presents a continuing danger to you.3
1 See sample ex parte order on Ohio courts website
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.214(E)(1)(a)
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.214(C)(2), (E)(1)(b)
Who can get a stalking or sexually oriented offense protection order? Where is the petition filed?
You may apply for a stalking or sexually oriented offense protection order (SSOOPO) against anyone who has committed stalking or a sexually oriented offense against you, regardless of your relationship to the person.1 You do not have to know the person or be related to the person.
To file for an SSOOPO against someone 18 or older, you would file your petition in the court of common pleas (in the general division) in the county in which you live.2 If you are filing against someone under 18, you would likely file for a juvenile civil protection order in the juvenile court.3
1 Ohio Rev. Code 2903.214(C)(1)
2 Ohio Rev. Code 2903.214(C)(1), (A)(1)
3 See the Juvenile Civil Protection Order FAQ from the Supreme Court of Ohio’s website
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.