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Legal Information: U.S. Virgin Islands

Restraining Orders

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December 7, 2020

What is a stalking protection order?

A stalking protection order is a court order that aims to protect victims of stalking or cyberstalking by someone with whom you do not have an intimate or familial relationship1 (such as an acquaintance, co-worker, neighbor, or stranger).  If you have an intimate, family-member, or household-member relationship with the person stalking you, you may qualify for a domestic violence restraining order instead.

1 VI ST T. 5 § 1471(a)

What is the legal definition of stalking in the U.S. Virgin Islands?

Stalking is when someone purposely and repeatedly follows you and engages in a course of conduct or makes a credible threat with the intent of annoying you or placing you in reasonable fear of death or bodily harm or injury and causes you emotional distress.1

An abuser makes a “credible threat” when s/he makes an explicit or implicit threat with the intent and the apparent ability to carry out the threat, so as to cause you to reasonably fear for your personal safety or the safety of a family member.2

1 VI ST T. 5 §§ 2071(a); 1472(1)
2 VI ST T. 5 §§ 2071(b); 1472(2)

What is the legal definition of cyberstalking in the U.S. Virgin Islands?

Cyberstalking is defined as when someone communicates (or is responsible for communicating) words, images, or language to you through email or electronic communication that causes you substantial emotional distress. The communication must be directed at you and cannot serve a legitimate purpose.1

1 VI ST T. 5 §§ 1472(5); 2071(e)

What is a course of conduct?

A course of conduct is an act that happens more than once, however brief, within a year, that is directed specifically at you and shows a continuing purpose to cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress. A course of conduct can include the following behavior (done directly or indirectly and by any action, method, or by any device):

  • monitoring;
  • observing;
  • pursuing;
  • threatening;
  • communicating to or about you; or
  • interfering with your property.1

1 VI ST T. 5 § 1472(c)

What protections can I get in a stalking protection order?

In a stalking protection order, the judge can order the abuser (or anyone acting on the abuser’s behalf) not to:

  • follow you or harass you in person or by telephone, computer, or by any other form of communication;
  • abuse, molest, or interfere with your privacy rights;
  • enter your property, residence, or place of employment, or come within fifty feet of those locations;
  • The judge can also order anything else necessary to keep you safe.1

Note: The judge can order the abuser to pay your attorney’s fees and can award you money for injuries you suffered during an incident. If the judge finds that your request for a protection order was not in good faith, the judge may order you to pay the respondent’s attorney’s fees.2

1 VI ST T. 5 § 1475(a)
2 VI ST T. 5 § 1475(e)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.