There are at least an estimated million restraining orders in the U.S. at any time. Harassment Restraining Orders are serious business. They can have an enormous impact on the lives of everyone involved.
What is a Harassment Restraining Order?
A Harassment Restraining Order (HRO) is an order signed by a judicial officer that orders someone to stop harassing you, or you to stop harassing someone else. If you are the alleged harasser, you must have no contact, unless allowed in the court order. It is not a criminal proceeding and takes place in civil court. However, there may be criminal sanctions for violating an order. If you have been the victim of a single incident of physical or sexual assault, or if there have been repeated intrusive or unwanted acts against you, you may obtain a harassment restraining order.
Under the statute, harassment may be:
A single incident of physical assault;
A single incident of sexual assault;
A single incident of stalking;
A single incident of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images;
Targeted residential picketing; and
A pattern of attending public events after being notified that the actor’s presence at the event is harassing to another.
The most frequently used ground for obtaining a restraining order is “Repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a substantial adverse effect or are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security, or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target.”
Types of Restraining Orders
There are three types of restraining orders in Minnesota. These are:
- An Order for Protection (OFP) This order is for the protection of someone who has suffered abuse from a family member or someone who lives in the house. Violation of an OFP is a criminal offense.
- A Harassment Restraining Order (HRO) This type of order is to protect someone from harassment. They do not have to be related. Violation of an HRO is a criminal offense.
- A Domestic Abuse No Contact Order (DANCO) A prosecutor, rather than a victim, petitions the court for this order. Violation is a criminal offense.
These orders may be temporary or final. A temporary order remains in effect until the court holds a hearing on the final restraining order. The harasser does not have to be present in court, provided the judge reasonably believes that the respondent has harassed the accuser. If a single incident is the basis for the petition, it must state that there is an immediate and present danger of harassment.
Final restraining orders usually are in effect for up to two years. However, if the court has issued two or more previous restraining orders against the same respondent, or the respondent has violated a restraining order two or more times, the HRO can be issued for up to 50 years.
Who may obtain a Harassment Restraining Order?
Anyone who is a victim of harassment can file for an HRO. Both parties may be either a man or a woman. It does not matter what type of relationship they have.
What is the process for getting a Harassment Restraining Order?
The harassment restraining order process begins with filing two documents:
- A petition, which alleges that a person has engaged in harassment and asks for relief.
- An affidavit, which supports the allegations of harassment.
The paperwork is filed in the district court in the county where either party lives, or where the harassment took place. A judge may decide to issue an ex parte temporary order on the day the paperwork is filed. If that is the case, the temporary order will remain in effect until there is a hearing on a final restraining order. The respondent must be properly served with the petition and any temporary restraining order.
If either the respondent or the petitioner wants to request a hearing, he or she must request the hearing within 20 days of service of the petition. If the respondent requests a hearing, the petitioner will get notice of the hearing date in the mail at least five days before the hearing.
Serving the Harassment Restraining Order
Service means that the legal paperwork is delivered to the respondent. A law enforcement officer, a corrections officer, or an employee of a jail or correctional facility may personally serve the papers. In some cases, the officer may serve a short-form notification, which sets forth the facts and states that the order is legally enforceable. If the respondent avoids service, the judge may allow service by publication. This means that notice is published in a newspaper and a copy sent to the respondent. Once the papers have been properly served, the restraining order is enforceable.
Defending against a Minnesota Harassment Restraining Order
If a person petitions a court to issue a restraining order against you are entitled to be notified of the request, to have a court hearing, and to defend yourself. Once someone has started the process, there are three possible options. First, the court may deny the petition. Second, the court may temporarily deny the restraining order but order a hearing on the matter. Third, the court may grant a temporary restraining order and then order that a hearing take place or leave it up to the respondent if they would like a hearing.
Under Minnesota law, you have the right to challenge a restraining order at an evidentiary hearing. If served with a restraining order, it is important to request a hearing in a timely manner, unless the court has already scheduled one. It is your chance to respond and submit any additional relevant information. After hearing evidence from both sides, the judge will decide whether or not to issue the order and the length of the order. Once a restraining order is entered, you can be charged with a crime if the protected party accuses you of violating the order.
Violations of a Harassment Restraining Order
If a harassment restraining order has been issued against you, there are a number of serious, long-lasting implications. Violating the order may result in criminal penalties ranging from gross misdemeanor to felony, depending on a number of factors. Penalties may depend on circumstances such as the act committed, age of the victim, and the use of a weapon. Penalties include fines, incarceration, and restricted contact with certain persons.
Responding to and contesting a harassment restraining order can be a complicated process. To learn more about your legal options, consult an experienced Minnesota criminal defense as soon as possible. For more information, call Judith Samson, Attorney at Law, at612-333-8001 or contact us online.
Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.