In the California legal system, a person gets a civil harassment restraining order to prevent someone that he/she is not in a close relationship with from harassing, abusing, stalking, or threatening him/her. Examples of people “not in a close relationship” include neighbors, roommates, and non-dating friends. Restraining orders are also referred to as protective orders under the law.
Civil harassment restraining orders ultimately protect a person from harm and threats of harm from someone else. A permanent order can remain in effect for up to five years. A temporary restraining order, though, normally only last for a few weeks.
These types of protective orders are often compared to domestic violence restraining orders. These differ from a civil restraining order in that they protect people from someone they are in a close relationship with. Other types of restraining orders in California include:
A violation of PC 273.6 is punishable by:
- custody in the county jail for up to one year, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What is a civil harassment restraining order?
- 2. What can the court order do?
- 3. How long does the order last?
- 4. Are there other types of restraining orders in California?
- 5. How does a person get one?
- 6. What happens if a person violates a civil harassment restraining order?
1. What is a civil harassment restraining order?
In general, a protective order protects someone from threats and abuse by another party.
In more detail, a person can ask for a civil harassment restraining order if:
- he/she is being harassed, stalked, abused, or threatened by someone else, and
- the person is not in a close relationship with that party.1
Note that the party that is protected by these orders is known as the “protected person.” The other party that is specified in the order (e.g., the abuser) is known as the “restrained person.”
For the purposes of this order, a “close relationship” means that two parties are:
- domestic partners,
- dating or used to date,
- have a child together,
- live together, or
- are family members or in-laws.2
This means that those not in a close relationship are any two parties not in a relationship mentioned above. For example, in a civil restraining order, a person can seek to restrain a:
- friend, or
- distant family member (e.g. an aunt/uncle, nephew/niece, or cousin).3
California law defines “harassment” as any:
- unlawful violence (e.g., an assault or sexual assault),
- credible threats of violence (or, statements that would put a reasonable person in fear of himself/herself or an immediate family member), or
- conduct that annoys or harasses a protected party.4
2. What can the court order do?
The language in a protective order typically prevents a restrained party from doing certain acts in relation to a protected party.
For example, a restraining order may state that the restrained party cannot:
- contact the protected party (either in-person contact or communication via phone, e-mail, or regular mail),
- visit or come into close contact with a protected party’s child or family members, or
- get near a protected party’s place of work or school.5
The language of most restraining orders also prohibits a restrained person from owning, possessing, or buying a firearm for the duration of the order.
A person that violates these prohibitions can face criminal charges per Penal Code 29825 PC.
3. How long does the order last?
A civil harassment restraining order can remain in effect for up to five years from the court date or court hearing date upon which the order was issued.6
Some orders, like a temporary restraining order, or “TRO,” (see Section 5), may last only a few months. Temporary orders are usually granted prior to a permanent civil restraining order.7
Further, some restraining orders can last for only several days. For example, an emergency protective order, or “EPO,” lasts up to seven days.
An EPO is a type of protective order that a law enforcement officer and police officers can issue when responding to a domestic violence call. They can issue the order if:
- they believe a person requires immediate protection from another person, and
- they contact a judge and get approval for the order from the Superior Court of California.8
4. Are there other types of restraining orders in California?
In addition to civil harassment restraining orders, there are three other types of protective orders in California.
- domestic violence restraining orders,
- elder or dependent adult abuse restraining orders, and
- workplace violence restraining orders.
A person can ask for a domestic violence restraining order if:
- the restrained party has abused the person, and
- the person has a close relationship with the restrained party.9
A person can ask for an elder abuse or dependent abuse restraining order if:
- the person is 65 years of age or older (or is between 18 and 64 years of age with certain mental and physical disabilities), and
- the person is a victim of abuse, neglect, physical injury, or deprivation by a caregiver.10
A person can ask for a workplace violence restraining order if:
- the person is an employer, and
- the person wishes to protect an employee from a credible threat of violence, immediate danger, or abuse at the workplace.11
5. How does a person get one?
A person starts the process of getting a protective order by going to the California courts and completing the necessary court forms. These include:
- restraining order forms,
- applicable judicial council forms, and
- the CLETS-001 form, which contains confidential CLETS information.12
For questions on forms, interested parties can visit the court’s clerk’s office or a California court self-help center.
After completing all requisite forms, the person files them with the court clerk and has to pay court fees, including a filing fee (unless a fee waiver applies).
A judge then reviews the forms and decides whether or not to issue a temporary restraining order. If issued, the order will usually last for 21 days.13
Following the issuance of the TRO, the court holds a court hearing to determine whether or not it should issue a permanent restraining order. Prior to this hearing, a “notice of court hearing” must be given to the restrained party via a process server.14 “Proof of service,” or “proof of personal service” in the court case must be given to the court.
Evidence is presented at the hearing (e.g., police reports) by both the party seeking protection and the potential restrained person. The judge will issue a permanent civil restraining order if the evidence shows that the protected party deserves protection from the restrained party.
The order then remains in effect for five years.15
6. What happens if a person violates a civil harassment restraining order?
A person commits a crime under Penal Code 273.6 PC if he/she violates the terms of a restraining order.
A prosecutor must prove the following to convict a person under this law:
- a court lawfully issued a protective order,16
- the defendant had knowledge of the court order,
- the defendant was able to follow the court order, and
- the accused violated the court order on purpose.17
A violation of a protective order is charged as a misdemeanor in most cases.
The offense is punishable by:
- imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.18
Note though that this offense becomes a wobbler if:
- it is an accused’s second conviction for the offense, and
- the violation came with an act of violence.19
A wobbler is a crime that a prosecutor can charge as either:
- a misdemeanor, or
- a felony.
If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:
- custody in state prison for up to three years, and/or
- a maximum fine of $10,000.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We provide free consultations and legal advice that you can trust.
- See California Courts website, civil harassment restraining orders. See also California Code of Civil Procedure 527.6 CCP.
- See same.
- See same.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 527.6b3 CCP.
- See California Courts website, civil harassment restraining orders.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 527.6 CCP.
- See same.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 646.91 CCP.
- See California Courts website, domestic violence restraining orders.
- See California Courts website, elder or dependent adult abuse restraining order.
- See California Courts website, workplace violence restraining order.
- See California Courts website, 2020 California Rules of Court.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 527.6f CCP.
- See same.
- See same.
- People v. Gonzalez (1996) 12 Cal.4th 804; and, In re Berry (1968) 68 Cal.2d 13.
- CALCRIM No. 2701 — Violation of Court Order, Protective Order, or Stay Away. Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition).
- California Penal Code 273.6 PC.
- See same.