What is a protection from stalking order?
A protection from stalking order is a civil order issued by the court telling the abuser to stop certain acts that are considered stalking.1 You do not need to file criminal charges to be able to apply for/receive a civil protection from stalking order.2
1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4013(g)
2 33 L.P.R.A. § 4023
What is the legal definition of stalking?
Stalking is a “course of conduct” (two or more incidents) that involves surveillance over a specific person for the purpose of intimidating the person or his/her family members. It could include behaviors such as the following:
- sending unwanted written or verbal communications to a specific person;
- threatening a specific person verbally, in writing, or in an implied (unspoken) way;
- committing acts of vandalism against a specific person;
- repetitive acts of harassment through words, gestures, or actions made with the intention of intimidating, threatening, or following the victim and/or members of her/his family.1Note: For these purposes, “family” is defined as:
- your spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, or cousin; or any other person related to you by blood or marriage who is part of your nuclear family;
- a significant other with whom you live or used to live; or someone with whom you are/were dating relationship; or
- a person with whom you live or used to live in the same house for at least six months before the stalking started.2
1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4013(a),(b)
2 33 L.P.R.A. § 4013(c)
Who can file for a protection from stalking order?
Any person who has been a victim of stalking (as defined by law) can file for a protection from stalking order on his/her own, through a legal representative or through a law enforcement officer.1 In addition, anyone can file on behalf of another person who is suffering from a mental or physical incapacity, in case of an emergency, or when the person is unable to file it on his/her own.2
If someone is stalked in his/her workplace, an employer can file on behalf of an employee if the employee has been a victim of stalking that occurred in or near the workplace. The employer has to notify the employee of his/her intention to file the order before filing it.3
1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4015(a)
2 33 L.P.R.A. § 4015(e)
3 33 L.P.R.A. § 4015 (b)
What protections can I get in a protection from stalking order?
A protection from stalking order can include some or all of the following terms. The judge can order the abuser to:
- turn over his/her firearms to the police of Puerto Rico (temporarily or permanently) and the suspension of the abuser’s gun license;
- be excluded from the home you share together, regardless of any legal claim that the abuser may have to that home;
- stop harassing, stalking, following, intimidating, or threatening you;
- stay away from any place where you are (if the judge believes that this limitation is necessary to prevent the abuser from bothering, intimidating, threatening or stalking you and/or your family members);
- pay you financial compensation for damages resulting from the acts of stalking, which can include (but are not limited to): moving expenses; the cost of repairing damage to your property; legal, medical, psychiatric, psychological, or counseling fees; and expenses related to housing and other similar costs; and/or
- do whatever else is necessary for your protection.1
1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4015(c)
What types of protection from stalking orders are there?
There are two types of protection from stalking orders: ex parte orders (temporary) and protection orders that are more permanent.
Ex parte orders (temporary)
If you need immediate protection, you can let the court clerk know that you also want to apply for an ex parte protection from stalking order. “Ex parte” means that the abuser does is not present in the court or notified beforehand. A judge can grant an ex parte order if:
- you can prove that there is a significant risk of immediate abuse to you and/or your family members; or
- it is likely that giving notice to the abuser that you are seeking a protection order would cause the type of harm that you are trying to prevent by filing for the protection order.1
Even if the judge doesn’t issue you an ex parte order, s/he can still schedule a court hearing within 5 days where both you and the abuser have a change to be present and you can try to prove to the judge that you were stalked.2
After getting the ex parte order, the abuser will have to be notified by “personal service” of the court hearing, which will be scheduled within the next 5 days.3 In this hearing, the abuser will have the opportunity to fight against the order. During the hearing, the court can cancel the order or extend it for as much time as the judge believes is necessary.1
After the court has granted you an ex parte protection order, you will have to go back to the court to get a more final protection order. A protection order can be issued after a hearing in court where you and the abuser have a chance to give your versions of what happened. If you win the case, the judge will grant you a protection order that lasts for the time the judge believes to be necessary.4
1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4017
2 33 L.P.R.A. § 4016(c)
3 See 33 L.P.R.A. § 4019(b)
4 See 33 L.P.R.A. § 4018(a)
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.