What is the legal definition of stalking in Washington?
For the purposes of getting a stalking protection order, the petitioner has to be a victim of “stalking conduct.”1 The law defines “stalking conduct” as any of the following:
- Any act of stalking as defined under by law; or
- Any course of conduct involving repeated or continuing contacts, including attempts to contact, monitor, track, keep you under observation, or follow you that:
- would cause a reasonable person to feel intimidated, frightened, or threatened;
- actually causes you to feel intimidated, frightened or threatened; and
- The stalker knows or reasonably should know his/her conduct threatens, frightens, or intimidates you, even if the stalker did not intend to intimidate, frighten, or threaten you.
If the stalking-like behavior serves a lawful purpose, it cannot be considered stalking.2
Note: The judge cannot deny your order because you did not report the stalking to the police. Also, the judge cannot require you to show proof of the abuser’s intentions behind his/her actions in order to grant you a stalking protection order.3
1 R.C.W. § 7.92.040
2 R.C.W. § 7.92.020(3)
3 R.C.W. § 7.92.100(1)(b)
Who can file for a stalking protection order? Can a minor file?
If you do not qualify for a domestic violence order of protection, you may be eligible for a stalking protection order if you are the victim of stalking or cyberstalking, as defined by law. A minor who is at least sixteen can file on his/her own.1 Also, you can file on behalf of a minor child if you are:
- the child’s parent;
- the child’s legal guardian; or
- if you are an adult who lives with the child - but only if the person the child is filing against is not his/her parent.2
You may also file on behalf of a “vulnerable adult” who is the victim of stalking if you are what the laws considers to be an “interested person.”3 A vulnerable adult is defined as someone who:
- is 60 years old or older and is not physically or mentally able to care for himself or herself;
- was declared incapacitated by a judge;
- has a developmental disability;
- was admitted into a facility;
- is receiving services from a home health care aide or agency, a hospice, or an individual provider; or
- is directing his/her own care and receiving services from a personal aide.4
An interested person is anyone who proves to the judge that:
- s/he is interested in the welfare of the vulnerable adult;
- s/he has a good faith belief that the court’s intervention is necessary; and
- at the time the petition is filed, the vulnerable adult is unable to protect his or her own interests due to incapacity, undue influence, or duress.5
Note: If you file on behalf of a minor or a vulnerable adult and the judge issues an order, the protections only apply to the victim, not to you, even though you are the “petitioner” (unless the order says otherwise).6
1 R.C.W. §§ 7.92.040; 7.92.050(2)
2 R.C.W. § 7.92.040(1),(2)(a)
3 R.C.W. § 7.92.040(2)(b)
4 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(22)
5 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(12)
6 R.C.W. § 7.92.100(3)
How long does a stalking protection order last?
An ex parte stalking order generally lasts for 14 days, unless the judge allows you to serve your paperwork by mail or by publication. In those cases, the emergency order can last up to 24 days.1 A final stalking protection order can last a fixed period of time or be permanent.2
1 R.C.W. § 7.92.120(4)
2 R.C.W. § 7.92.130(1)
What protections can I get in a stalking protection order?
In a stalking protection order, the judge can order the abuser to:
- not have any contact with you directly, indirectly or through another person (a “third party”); (Note: It does not matter if the other person (third party) who contacts you knows about the order or not.)
- not enter the home, work, school, or daycare of you or your child;
- stay a certain distance away from a specific location;
- not keep you or your children under surveillance (including electronic surveillance);
- pay all court costs, service fees, and reimburse you for any costs you paid to bring the protection order case including reasonable attorney’s fees; and
- not do any other actions that are necessary or appropriate to keep you safe (including ordering a mental health or drug evaluation of the stalker).1
If you and the person stalking you attend the same public or private elementary, middle, or high school, the judge must consider the following additional factors:
- how serious the stalker’s behavior is;
- any continuing physical danger or emotional distress to you; and
- the expense, difficulty and educational disruption that would be caused by transferring the stalker to another school since the judge can order that the stalker not attend your school. If this happens, the stalker’s parent(s) or guardian(s) are responsible for his/her transportation and other costs of changing schools.2
1 R.C.W. § 7.92.100(2)
2 R.C.W. § 7.92.100(4)
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.