A civil harassment restraining order (sometimes called a protective order), is an order that a judge can make to protect you from another person. In a civil harassment restraining order, a judge can order a person to not harass, attack, strike, threaten, assault, hit, follow, stalk, destroy personal property, keep under surveillance, block movements or contact you (either directly or indirectly) via telephone, mail e-mail or in person. (Code Civ. Proc. § 527.6.) Additionally, the judge can order that person to physically stay away from you, your home, your job, your vehicle and others who live with you. (Code Civ. Proc. § 527.6.)
Harassment Defined. The following amounts to “harassment” under California law:
- Assault: intentionally attempting to cause harmful or offensive contact. Example: Someone swings a fist at you, or throws an object at you, with the intention of hitting you, but misses.
- Battery: intentional harmful or offensive contact. Example: Someone swings a fist at you, or throws an object at you, with the intention of hitting you, and they are successful.
- Stalking: a series of repeated actions that are meant to put you in fear for your safety, or the safety of your immediate family. Example: Someone continually follows you, watches you, makes repeated and unwanted contact with you (via internet, email, phone, fax or other methods of communication), with the purpose of making you feel scared.
- Credible Threat of Violence: a statement or action that reasonably place you in fear for your safety, or the safety of your immediate family. Example: “If you ever call the cops on me again I’m going to kill you.”
- Harassment: repeated actions that seriously alarm, annoy, or harass you, that serve no legitimate purpose and cause you extreme emotional distress. Example: Getting 50 unwanted and upsetting text messages, emails and/or phone calls from the same person within a week for no reason. [See additional information.]
Who is Protected? Where appropriate, a homeowners can personally seek a restraining order against a neighbor who harasses and threatens them with harm. The statute also considers board members, volunteers, and independent contractors who perform services for an association on association property to be "protected employees." The association, as an employer, may seek an order protecting any board member, committee member, employee, or contractor who has been assaulted, battered, stalked or received credible threats of violence. (Code Civ. Proc. § 527.8.) The board may pay the legal expense with the association's monies.
NOTE: Putting up with criticism is part of the job for association employees and board members. However, directors have a right to privacy. In addition, there comes a point when it becomes abusive and crosses the line into harassment, stalking and threats of violence. When that happens, the board should take immediate action to protect the interests of the association by protecting its officers, directors and employees.
Up to Five Years. Courts may grant a restraining order protecting persons for up to five years, depending on the nature of the threat. (Code Civ. Proc. § 527.6(d).) Workplace violence restraining orders are good for up to three years.
Penalties. The individual making threats can be ordered to cease making telephone calls to, sending correspondence to (including e-mails), talking to or following the affected director, committee member or employee or their immediate family. If the person violates the court's order, he/she can be arrested and charged with a crime. Penalties include jail and/or a fine up to $1000.
More Information. For more information about restraining orders, see the California Courts Guide on Civil Harassment.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.