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Know the Laws: California

UPDATED January 2, 2017

Civil Harassment Orders

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This civil order provides protection from harassment from someone with whom you do or do not have a relationship.

Basic info

back to topWhat is the legal definition of harassment in California?

For the purposes of getting a civil harassment order, harassment is defined as:

  • Unlawful violence, such as:
    • assault (attempting to cause a violent injury to you)
    • battery (use of force against you) or
    • stalking (repeatedly following or harassing you with the intent to place you in reasonable fear for your safety or your immediate family's safety);*
  • A credible threat of violence (a statement or actions that reasonably place you in fear for your safety, or the safety of your immediate family); or
  • Repeated actions (such as following you, making harassing telephone calls, or sending harassing emails) that seriously alarm, annoy, or harass you, and that serve no legitimate purpose and causes you to be extremely emotionally upset (distressed).**

* Ann.Cal.C.C.P.  § 527.6(b); Ann.Cal.Penal Code §§ 240, 242, 646.9
** Ann.Cal.C.C.P.  § 527.6(b)

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back to topWhat is a civil harassment order (CHO)? How long do they last?

You can get a civil harassment order against someone with whom you are in a relationship, to whom you are related, or against someone with whom you do not have an intimate or familial relationship (such as an acquaintance, co-worker, neighbor, or stranger).  The purpose of a civil harassment order is to stop further abuse and harassment.

In a civil harassment order, a judge can order the harasser to stop harassing you and to stay away from you.  If the judge believes there is a good reason to do so, you may be able to include other family or household members on the order.*  You may receive a temporary order if you show reasonable proof of harassment and that you will suffer great or irreparable harm.**  A temporary order will last until you can have a full court hearing (usually within 21 - 25 days).***   An order after hearing will last up to five years and can be extended for up to an additional five years.  If the order does not have an expiration date on it, this means that it will last for three years from the date it was issued.****

* Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(c)
** Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(d)
*** Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(f)
**** Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(j)

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back to topAm I eligible to file for a civil harassment order?

Any person who has suffered harassment or stalking (as explained here) can apply to the court for a civil harassment order.  It does not matter who the person harassing you is.  It can be a stranger or someone you know.*

* See Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6

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back to topHow can a civil harassment order help me?

A temporary ex parte order or an order issued after a hearing can do any of the following:

  • prohibit the harasser from harassing, intimidating, molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, abusing, and telephoning you (including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls);
  • prohibit the harasser from destroying your personal property or disturbing your peace;
  • prohibit the harasser from contacting you, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise;
  • order the abuser to stay a specified distance away from you;
  • give you exclusive care, possession, or control of any animal that you own, possess, or that lived in your household; and
  • order the respondent to stay away from the animal and to not take, transfer, hide, attack, hit, threaten, harm, or get rid of the animal.*

* Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(a)(6)

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back to topHow does a judge decide whether or not to extend my temporary CHO to a final CHO?

The judge will hold a hearing within 21 to 25 days from when the temporary order was issued to decide whether or not to extend your order.  However, the respondent is entitled to one continuance, for a reasonable period, to respond to the petition.  In addition, either party may request a continuance of the hearing, which the judge can grant if there is "good cause" to do so.  

During this hearing, the harasser can respond to the allegations of harassment that you told the judge to get the temporary order and can try and explain, excuse, justify, or deny the harassment.  The judge will then consider all of the evidence and decide whether or not the harassment actually occurred.  If the judge decides that the harassment did occur, then s/he should grant you a final order, known as an order after hearing.*

* Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(f)-(j),(o),(p)

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Getting the order

back to topWhat are the steps involved with getting a CHO?

The steps to get a civil harassment order are similar to the steps to get a domestic violence restraining order.  If you have any questions, call the clerk of court.  You can find the contact information for your clerk on the CA Courthouse Locations page.

To see the necessary forms to fill out, please visit the California Courts Self Help Center.

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back to topHow much does a civil harassment order cost?

If you are requesting the civil harassment order against a person who was violent, threatened you with violence, stalked you, or acted or spoken in any other way that made you reasonably fear violence, there is no fee for filing or serving the order, for a subpoena related to the case, or to respond to a petition based on these acts.  In other cases, you may have to pay a fee unless you qualify for a fee waiver.*

* Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(x),(y)

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back to topWill the harasser be notified that I am trying to get a civil harassment order against him/her?

Yes.  The harasser must be personally served with a copy of your petition and the temporary restraining order (if there is one) as well as notice of the hearing where the judge will decide whether or not to grant you a final civil harassment order.  The harasser must be served at least 5 days before the hearing unless the judge decides there is good reason to shorten that time.*  Your forms can be personally served by anyone over 18 years of age who is not involved in your case,** such as a friend, a relative, law enforcement or a professional process server.

* Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(m)
** Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 414.10

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back to topI don’t have a lawyer but I am afraid to face the harasser in court by myself. What can I do?

You don’t have to go to court alone.  You can bring a “support person” with you so that you feel safe.  A support person can be a friend, neighbor, church official, family member, or anyone else that you would like to have in court with you to help give you moral support. There is no training or certification necessary to become a support person, so whoever you choose does not need to take any sort of class before attending court with you.  Your support person can go with you to court to get a civil harassment order, and if you don’t have a lawyer, s/he can sit beside you at the table where the lawyer would normally sit.*

* Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(l)

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After the hearing

back to topCan I file to extend my final civil harassment order beyond 5 years?

Yes, you can apply to extend it and you do not have to show any further harassment since the original order was issued.  At any time within the 3 months before the civil harassment order will run out, you can apply for a renewal of up to an additional five years.  To file for a renewal, you must file a new petition for a civil harassment order (you basically take the same steps that you took to get the order that is currently in place) and it is up to the judge to decide whether or not to extend it.*

* Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(j)(1)

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back to topWhat if the harasser owns a gun?

Anyone who has a civil harassment order against him/her cannot legally own, possess, or buy a gun or ammunition.*  If the harasser owns a gun, s/he must either give it to the police or sell it to a licensed gun dealer within 24 hours of the order being granted.**  If the harasser keeps the gun or ammunition in spite of the order, s/he could be guilty of a public offense, which could be punished by imprisonment in a county jail or state prison for up to one year, by a fine up to $1,000, or both.***

* Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(u)(1)
** Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 5.27.6(u)(2)
*** AnnCal.C.C.P. § 527.6(u)(3) & Ann.Cal.Penal Code § 29825(a)

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back to topWhat happens if the harasser violates the order?

A violation of a temporary or final civil harassment order can be a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment in a county jail for up to 1 year, or both.  If the violation results in you being physically injured, the fine can go up to $2,000.*

* Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(t); Ann.Cal.Penal Code § 273.6(a),(b)

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