A Civil Harassment Restraining Order (CHRO) is a court order that helps to protect people from violence, threats of violence, serious harassment or stalking. It applies to people outside your immediate family or dating history, such as neighbors and roommates. If you have dated or are related to the person harassing you, you should instead file for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order.
HOW TO OBTAIN A CIVIL HARASSMENT RESTRAINING ORDER (CHRO)
To obtain a CHRO, you must fill out a “Request for Civil Harassment Restraining Orders” (Form CH-100) a “Confidential CLETS Information” (Form CLETS-001), a “Notice of Court Hearing” (Form CH-109), and a “Temporary Restraining Order” (Form CH-110). Here’s a helpful guide from the California courts: https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/ch100info.pdf
Submit the completed forms to the court clerk to give to the judge. The judge will then review the documents and decide whether to grant the TRO.
If your request for a TRO is granted, a hearing will be set, generally for within 21 days unless the court is backlogged (in which case the wait may be longer). You must have a Sheriff’s deputy, private process server, or another individual (someone 18 years or older who is not you) personally serve the restrained person with the TRO and other documents. The restrained party then has the opportunity to respond in writing and the opportunity to appear at the hearing to defend against the allegations. Once the TRO has been personally served on the retrained person, the TRO goes into effect, meaning you are protected until the time of the hearing.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT AT A CIVIL HARASSMENT RESTRAINING ORDER HEARING?
At the hearing, you will have to prove that the restrained party engaged in an ongoing “course of conduct” (which can include but is not limited to stalking, sending emails, calling, etc.), directed at you, which caused you to suffer substantial emotional distress and which would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress. You must also show that the actions of the restrained party served no legitimate purpose.
Alternatively (if there is not a history of a harassing “course of conduct”), you can show that the restrained party made a credible threat of violence or engaged in unlawful violence, and that this threat of violence (or actual violence) seriously alarmed, annoyed, or harassed you, and served no legitimate purpose.
You must prove to the judge that it is “highly probable” events took place in the way you describe them. In order to meet this standard, you can bring a witness or witnesses to your hearing. A witness who observed the harassment is the best evidence. The judge should also have reviewed your written filing by the time of the hearing (i.e., the written request you used to ask for the TRO). Be as detailed as possible in this written request, and list everything in chronological order. Hearsay statements are permitted in this written statement.
Hearsay statements are also allowed in during the hearing, although relying exclusively on hearsay may damage your credibility with the judge.
During the hearing, the judge will give you the opportunity to speak first. The judge may ask you questions to understand the case better. The restrained party will then have an opportunity to speak, and the judge may ask questions of the restrained party. It is important to avoid interrupting the restrained party or the judge. When you testify, speak slowly and clearly so that the court recorder can catch everything you say. Dress well, show up on time and try to maintain a calm demeanor throughout the hearing. The judge will take your demeanor into account when evaluating your credibility.
If you prevail at the hearing, the judge will issue an order prohibiting the restrained party from contacting you, coming near you, coming near your workplace, etc. In most cases, the restrained party will be prohibited from possessing a firearm.
DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY TO OBTAIN A CIVIL HARASSMENT TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER?
Many people are surprised by how quickly the judge decides whether to issue a CHRO. Most hearings are approximately twenty minutes in length. The judge most likely has many CHRO cases to hear on the same morning or afternoon of your hearing. Therefore, the time set aside for you is not a time for a full trial. The CHRO hearing process is meant to be expedited. This is efficient but can also lead to an unfair result if you do not have the opportunity to present your case in the way you would like. The process of seeing the restrained party in court can also be intimidating. The restrained party may lie or exaggerate in order to win. The restrained party may also bring in a witness to lie or exaggerate.
For these reasons, having help from an attorney can make this process less stressful. An experienced attorney will help you present your case in such a way to optimize your chance for success.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM SERVED WITH A CIVIL HARASSMENT TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER?
This is a very serious matter. It is important to become aware of your rights. You have the right to respond in writing to the allegations against you. Here is a helpful guide from the California courts: https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/ch120info.pdf
You have an attorney represent you before, during, and after the hearing. You also have the right to request one continuance. The simplest way to do so (assuming you do not yet have an attorney) is to appear at the first hearing and ask the judge for more time so that you can look for an attorney.
Many people are surprised by how quickly the judge decides whether to issue a CHRO. Most hearings are approximately twenty minutes in length. The judge most likely has many CHRO cases to hear on the same morning or afternoon of your hearing. Therefore, the time set aside for you is not a time for a full trial. The CHRO hearing process is meant to be expedited. This is efficient but can also lead to an unfair result if you do not have the opportunity to present your case in the way you would like. The process of seeing the other party in court can also be intimidating. The person seeking a restraining order may lie or exaggerate in order to win. The person seeking protection may also bring in a witness to lie or exaggerate.
A restraining order can seriously impact your life. Violating the restraining order can subject you to criminal penalties. For these reasons, it is recommended that you hire an attorney to defend you in this process. An experienced attorney will help you present your case in such a way to optimize your chance for success.
CAN I APPEAL THE JUDGE’S DECISION?
Yes. You have sixty days from the date of the judge’s decision to file a Notice of Appeal. The appeals process is complex and it can be very difficult to convince an appellate court to reverse the trial court’s decision. For this reason, it is recommended that you hire an attorney to represent you in the appeals process. Our firm has experience with such appeals.
If circumstances have changed since the time the permanent restraining order was granted, another option would be to ask the trial court judge to modify or terminate the restraining order prior to its expiration date.
CONTACT CASTRO LAW OFFICES FOR A CONSULTATION TODAY
If you need protection from violence, threats of violence, harassment, or stalking, our law firm can help you obtain a Civil Harassment Restraining Order (CHRO). We can also help you defend against a a Civil Harassment Restraining Order (CHRO). Finally, we can help you with the appeal process.