In California, a person can seek a Civil Harassment Restraining Order to prevent a person from harassing, abusing, stalking, or threatening conduct to him or her. Civil Harassment Orders are intended to protect a person from harm and threats of harm from someone else. When properly brought before a Court, a permanent restraining order can remain in place for a period of up to five years and can prevent the restrained person from engaging in a host of harassing conduct. Violating the terms of a CHRO is a crime governed by Penal Code 273.6 and other charges and can lead to misdemeanor charges in most cases. A violation of Penal Code 273.6 is punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.00. Multiple violations can bring multiple years in jail.
The conduct addressed by a CHRO is conduct that is prohibited by statute as defined in Code of Civil Procedure Section 527.6. “Harassment” as that statute defines it generally includes unlawful violence (such as assault, battery, or stalking), a credible threat of violence, and/or conduct that is annoying or harassing that serves no legitimate purpose. Harassing conduct can include telephone calls, email, or social media messages, and must be directed at the protected party by someone who is not in a “close relationship.” This means that a CHRO cannot be obtained against a spouse, ex-spouse, domestic partner, and/or cohabitant. The harassing conduct must also cause substantial emotional distress.
Compared to criminal cases or other forms of civil liability the burden of proof is much lower in restraining order proceedings There is no jury involved in these kinds of proceedings making these cases far easier to win then when you are faced with criminal charges. A Judge or Commissioner will act as both the Judge and the Jury in this case determining what evidence should and should not come in and then rendering the decision as to who, if anyone, was right in the case before them.
The long and short term impact of receiving one of these orders can also be very profound and can affect your freedom, your job, school and many other rights.