Authored by Neal F. Litherland in Legal
Published on 11-14-2009
In this modern day legal system, where the government has mostly stepped in to stop bloodshed and to mediate disputes between citizens, there are a lot more options in dealing with personal differences. However, this doesn’t stop people from being people, and things like bullying and harassment still occur on a fairly regular basis. Instead of lashing out, or doing nothing, victims of this kind of treatment have a legal recourse in a document known as a restraining order.
A restraining order, for those who don’t know, is a document filed by someone being harassed with the court. This document must be requested (a person can’t just file a restraining order for no reason), and proof of the harassment must be shown. Some types of harassment include: a single incident of physical or sexual assault; a continued pattern of intrusive, unwanted acts; targeted, residential picketing; and even a person’s presence at public events once they’re been informed that their presence is considered to be harassing to an individual or a group.
If these standards of proof can be shown, then the court will grant a harassment restraining order to the person who requested it. The length of time that these orders last is usually up to two years, or 45 days for a temporary restraining order. These orders detail restraints on the person or persons named should they violate the order and continue their harassing behavior. In some cases a hearing might be required before the judge either dismisses or grants the harassment restraining order.
When filing for a harassment restraining order, which is usually done at the court house but can be done at the police station in some places, there are certain things that need to be done. A narrative of the events that are being labeled as harassment needs to be given, along with names, dates, places, and times if at all possible. It helps if there is also documentation of assault (if one occurred) that can be provided by the police and the hospital if the assault was severe enough. The more specific a person is in their application, the better the chance that the restraining order will be granted.
While a harassment restraining order is a good idea (since it acts as a legal measure to stop harassment before it gets worse), it should be remembered that it’s just a law. People who generally respect the law may commit harassment that is uncomfortable or rude, but often they won’t go much further. Those who have committed violent crimes such as physical and sexual assault mentioned above may not respect the restraining order, as they didn’t respect the original law they broke. However, anyone is capable of being driven further in their harassment by a restraining order. While it does work in some circumstances, it may also escalate hostilities as easily as it stops them many times. This is part of the reason that it’s left to a judge’s discretion, and why these orders are carefully considered before they’re awarded.