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Legal Information: Washington

Restraining Orders

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December 3, 2020

What is the legal definition of harassment?

The law defines “harassment” as a series of willful acts over a period of time that:

  • seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or harms you without “serving a legitimate purpose”; and
    • reasonably causes you to suffer substantial emotional distress (harm); or
    • reasonably causes you to fear for the well-being of your child.

Note: This “course of conduct” does not include constitutionally protected activity or constitutionally protected speech.1

As explained above, for the acts to be harassment, they cannot be considered to “serve a legitimate purpose.” To decide if the actions are for a legitimate (valid) purpose, the court will consider whether:

  • the abuser started the current contact between you two or whether you both contacted each other;
  • the abuser has been given clear notice that all future contact with you is unwanted;
  • the acts appear designed to alarm, annoy, or harass you;
  • the abuser is acting to try to protect a legal interest in his/her property, to enforce a law, or to meet a legal obligation;
  • the abuser’s acts unreasonably interfere with the your privacy or create an intimidating, hostile (unfriendly), or offensive living environment for you;
  • there was a court order in the past that limited the abuser’s contact with you or your family.2

1 R.C.W. § 10.14.020
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.030