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Message #721 Harrassment

mp3 #721 How to Stop Someone from Annoying You (mp3 file)

If you are a victim of harassment, you may obtain a court order called an injunction or temporary restraining order against the person who is causing the harassment. A simple form and instructions for use are available at the clerk's office of the superior court in your county. After you fill out the form and file it with the clerk, a copy is then served on the person harassing you, and there is a court hearing within 15 days. You can sometimes get a temporary court order against the other person, even before the hearing.

The law says that harassment is "a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses such person, and which serves no legitimate purpose". The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the victim.

You can't use this procedure against your husband or wife, unless there are allegations or threats of domestic violence, or against a debt collector collecting a debt, but it is available to use against any other person who is causing annoyance. You have the right to file or defend this type of lawsuit with or without an attorney and the other party has the same rights. You can even file this action without paying filing fees if you can't afford them by requesting the court to allow you to do so. The law allows the court to make the losing side, whether it's the person who filed or the one against whom the papers were filed, to pay the winning side their court costs and attorney's fees.

If you are requesting a temporary restraining order, the court will need to know all the details of the harassment, and the problems it has caused you. You can also file sworn statements by persons who have personal knowledge of the other person's conduct. Your papers will be presented to a judge who will decide whether the facts you have stated show that the other person has engaged in harassment as defined by the law. Before reaching a decision, the judge may require that you notify the other person that you have filed the lawsuit.

You must be personally present at the court hearing, and you should have any witnesses to the other person's conduct or your emotional distress also be personally present at the hearing.

Among other things, the court can order that the other person refrain from threatening, striking or making physical contact with you, prohibit the other person from alarming, annoying or harassing you, make the person stay a certain distance away from specific locations, prevent the other person from following you or keeping you under surveillance, make the other person keep a certain distance away from you, prevent the other person from contacting you by telephone or blocking your movements in public places.

Any orders made by the court may be enforced by all peace officers of the state, and violating the court order is a crime called a misdemeanor. This law was designed to protect your right to safety, happiness and privacy guaranteed by the constitution.

If you think you are a victim of harassment and want to put a stop to it, ask the county clerk for a "petition prohibiting harassment" or see your attorney. If you need an attorney and do not know one, call your local lawyer's referral service.

You may want to review SmartLaw Message #760, "What to do about noisy neighbors."

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