Harassment Protection Orders
Civil Anti-Harassment Protection Orders
Washington law allows victims of unlawful harassment to file for a protection order to prevent future unlawful harassment. After a valid antiharassment protection order is entered, violation of the order is a crime. In order to get antiharassment protection order, the petitioner/victim must show that there was unlawful harassment. Unlawful harassment has a specific meaning and is defined by statute. :
(1) "Course of conduct" means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. "Course of conduct" includes, in addition to any other form of communication, contact, or conduct, the sending of an electronic communication, but does not include constitutionally protected free speech. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of "course of conduct."
(2) "Unlawful harassment" means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to such person, and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose. The course of conduct shall be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and shall actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner, or, when the course of conduct would cause a reasonable parent to fear for the well-being of their child.
The first step is to file a petition for an antiharassment protection order. The petition can typically be filed in district court or municipal court either where the respondent/harasser lives or where the unlawful harassment took place. Parents can seek antiharassment protection orders to protect their minor children as well.
The victim can ask the court for an ex parte temporary order that is issued immediately without notice to the respondent/harasser. The court will set a full hearing within 14 days and will allow both parties to present their case, like a mini-trial. The petitioner/victim must have the respondent/harasser served with a copy of all court paperwork within 5 days of the full hearing.
At the full hearing, the court will allow both sides to present testimony and evidence to support their case and arguments. Common evidence consists of texts messages, call history, photographs, and e-mails. Each side can have witnesses testify about things the witness has “personally” seen or heard.
After the full hearing, the court will make a ruling on whether to enter an antiharassment order or to deny the request. It’s possible to appeal or challege the court’s decision but there are strict timelines and rules. so it is best to consult with an attorney if a party wishes to do this.
False allegations of unlawful harassment are a real danger and can have serious real world consequences. For example, a person can be ordered to surrender his/her firearms, barred from going to specific locations, and subject to arrest for alleged violations of the order. An expierenced attorney can help defend against allegations by gathering evidence, investigating, and arguing for a respondent in court.
This post is intended to provide general information about the civil antiharassment protection order process in Washington and is not a substitute for competent legal advice.