Anti- Harassment | Stalking Protection Orders. A Lawyer’s | Attorney’s Perspective on these Civil Orders
“The legislature finds that serious, personal harassment through repeated invasions of a person’s privacy by acts and words showing a pattern of harassment designed to coerce, intimidate, or humiliate the victim is increasing. The legislature further finds that the prevention of such harassment is an important governmental objective.” The Legislative Findings for Anti-Harassment Orders.
The truth is that in today’s society, taking matters into your own hands is generally against the law and generally puts you in a bad position with the law, police and judges in the long term. In order to make a problem relationship go away, you are left to Petitioning and winning a civil Order of Protection unless the police will arrest someone. A valid civil Order of Protection functionally shifts the police and law to your side. Our lawyers have represented clients involved in anti-harassment protection orders originating from neighbor disputes, family disputes, employee assaults and disputes, harassment based on discrimination, stalking, interfamily disputes and disputes and harassment coming out of schools and colleges.
Where do you file an Anti-Harassment | Stalking Protection Order?
Anti- Harassment | Stalking Protection Orders can be filed by any person or on behalf of a child under the age of 18. In general, they are filed and litigated in the local district (with some exceptions requiring you to file in Superior Court) that handles the part of the county where
(1) the acts of harassment occurred or
(2) where the party who is harassing you resides.
Harassment Coming from out of State: In cases where the harassing party lives out of state, there is a specific provision of the law that allows for written statements sent by electronic mail or the Internet to be deemed to have “occurred within this state.” Consult with the lawyers | attorneys in our office about your specific situation as this issue can become tricky because you have to prove a local court has jurisdiction over the other out of state party.
How is an anti-harassment protection order filed?
There is a set of forms that need to be filled out and filed with the court clerks just inside the district court building. Although each District Court has its own link to forms, the forms used to ask for an anti-harassment protection order are universal throughout all the district courts in the State of Washington.
These forms, along with the declarations and facts that support your story are submitted and filed with the clerk at the appropriate district court. Our lawyers usually spend 1-2 hours talking, listening, asking questions, strategizing and taking notes before deciding how best to arrange a case for court. We generally spend a similar period of time organizing declarations, police reports, emails, Facebook, photos and any other evidence into the Petition to submit to court. As lawyers, we find we spend an average of 10-20 hours in total arguing one of these Orders though some complicated false accusation cases and litigious disputes have required 45-60 hours. All cases are fact dependent but this should give you an idea of how much time to expect to spend if you are really interested in winning.
Filing these forms with the front clerk at the local district court will automatically give you a court hearing (often the day you file them) where a judge or commissioner will decide whether to:
(1) Immediately enter a Temporary Anti-Harassment Protection Order (http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=10.14.080) preventing further harassment and simultaneously set a hearing in 14 days to hear argument from the other side as to whether the court should enter a full Anti-Harassment Protection Order for a longer period of time (generally at least one year).
(2) Not enter a Temporary Anti-Harassment Protection Order (http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=10.14.080) for immediate protection, but still set a Hearing in 14 days to hear argument from both sides before deciding whether a long term Anti-Harassment Protection Order should be entered.
(3) Deny your request for an Order.
If your request for an anti-harassment Order is denied, you can always come back to court at a later time with new facts and ask the court for an Order. The law starts drawing the line at three times.
If your request for an anti-harassment Order is granted, a copy of this Order must be served upon the offending party (if they appear in court, its judge functionally “serves” it on them when entering the court’s decision) and it becomes effective upon service. Though we have seen people try to use friends or family to serve paperwork, this is actually a terrible idea. As a policy, the lawyers in our office use police officers and/or professional servers to serve anti-harassment orders as this avoids unnecessary conflict, assures there is no argument about when and where the other party was served as well as it reinforces how serious the process is. This is included in our flat fee.
At the hearing 14 days later, all parties attend and the court will decide whether to enter an order after hearing both points of view. If a party fails to show, they default and an Anti-Harassment Protection Order is entered. The harassing party has a duty to provide a copy, in advance, of any paperwork they wish to submit to the court or else another continuance may be required to assure the harassed party has adequate time to prepare. If service of the anti-harassment protection order paperwork is made late in the two week period (it happens), expect a judge or commissioner to grant a continuance for an additional period of time to allow the other side to prepare.
If a Temporary Anti-Harassment Order was initially granted and a continuance is granted, expect a judge to renew the Temporary Order until the full hearing takes place.
In order to win this hearing, you must prove harassment by a preponderance of the evidence and follow the court rules in presenting your case. In general, we always proceed using written documents and work with our clients to prepare them for any potential questions, issues and pitfalls. Given the number of hearings we have attended, our advice is comprehensive and complete.
What happens if I win the hearing?
If you win the hearing, the judge will issue an order for no more than one year unless the judge believes the harassment will resume upon expiration (there are some unique aspects to this rule if minor children are involved). Judges are generally cautious about entering longer orders because the law allows the winning party to renew and extend a one-year order three months before its expiration. RCW 10.14.080
A valid Anti-Harassment Protection Order will be sent to a statewide police database and will allow the police to arrest if probable cause is found that the Order has been violated. In general, we find police departments take these orders very seriously. Valid Orders generally prevent any contact, surveillance and generally set distance restrictions from homes, work and the person(s) protected.
Over the course of our lengthy legal careers, our lawyers | attorneys have handled a wide variety of complicated and emotionally tangled cases in the criminal, civil and administrative legal arenas. Our office is a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge, skills and temperament. Our lawyers know cases are rarely as simple as police reports or accusations claim. Our clients hire us because they want trained listeners who are staunch, uncompromising and effective. They want counsel who takes the time to listen and fight vigorously for the right result. Whether acting in our role as counsel, advocate, negotiator or litigator, we have years of experience manipulating, working and fighting to resolve cases with our clients’ best interests in mind.