Anti-harassment protection orders are used to protect an individual from unlawful harassment. Individuals who feel like they are being harassed can file for a civil protection order in court. When someone is served with a notice that they are the subject of an anti-harassment protection order, he or she has to respond to the hearing notice or the protection order might go into place against them by default.
In some cases, the person who was allegedly the harasser may not have been notified of the anti-harassment protection order hearing and only finds out about the restrictions after being accused of violating a protective order.
Violating a protection order can be a criminal offense and contempt of court, resulting in fines, fees, arrests, court dates and possible jail time.
Anti-Harassment Protection Orders in Washington
Civil anti-harassment orders are supposed to provide a speedy way to prevent unwanted contact between the victim and perpetrator of personal harassment, including repeated invasions of privacy and a pattern of harassment, “designed to coerce, intimidate, or humiliate the victim.”
What is considered “unlawful harassment” in Washington?
Under Washington law, unlawful harassment is a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person, serves no legitimate or lawful purpose, and which seriously:
- Harasses; or
- Is detrimental to such person.
The ongoing acts of harassment “shall be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and shall actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner.”
Emergency Protection Orders Without the Respondent
When the victim alleges the need for an immediate protection order, the court may issue a temporary ex parte protection order. The victim needs to explain to the court why he or she needs immediate protection. This generally requires a showing that the petitioner is facing irreparable harm if the protection order is not granted. The temporary protection order will generally last until the protection order hearing and can be extended by the court.
Prohibited Actions and Contact in a Protection Order
An anti-harassment protection order prohibits the respondent from contacting the petitioner, including physical contact and electronic contact, like email, text messages, or social media. The order may also require staying a certain minimum distance away from the petitioner's home, school, or workplace. The order will also prevent the Respondent from contacting the petitioner through third parties.
Responding to a Notice for an Anti-Harassment Protection Hearing
When served with a notice that someone is seeking a protection order against harassment, many respondents are shocked and do not know how to respond. It may come out of the blue, seem like a mistake, or a total misunderstanding. Unfortunately, it is up to the respondent to deal with the anti-harassment hearing or he or she will be subject to a civil protection order restricting them from contacting a person or going to or near certain locations.
It is not advisable to try and contact the person who is filing for the protection order. Even if you think you can clear things up with an explanation that you did not threaten the person, never intended to harass them, or would never harm them, you should deal with the issue in court. Talk to a lawyer who has represented people facing accusations of harassment and protection orders to make sure you have the evidence necessary to defend your reputation in court.
Do not ignore the hearing notice. Failure to respond to the hearing may result in an order being issued without you having the chance to present a defense. If you cannot attend the hearing because of the date and time, or because you will be out of town, contact the court for a change of the hearing date. Your lawyer can also address the court on your behalf to reschedule the hearing or represent you if you cannot attend. Be aware that even with a good reason for absence, the court might not reschedule the hearing.
Filing for a Protection Order in Washington
Filing for a protection order in Washington is a civil court process. The specific court to file for protection may depend on whether it is related to an existing court action, the relationship with the harasser, the location of the parties and the age of the respondent.
Under RCW 10.14.040, a petition for a protection order shall allege the existence of harassment and be accompanied by an affidavit made under oath stating the specific facts and circumstances from which relief is sought.
There is a filing fee for an anti-harassment protection order, plus additional costs for copies and serving the documents on the respondent. However, there may be exceptions where there is an existing case number or if the petitioner is unable to afford a filing fee.
After filing the proper forms, a hearing date will be set within 14 days. The respondent is to be personally served notice of the hearing. If the respondent cannot be located or personally served, the court may extend the hearing date to allow for alternative service. A respondent must be served 5 days before the hearing.
During the hearing, the court will hear from the petitioner and respondent, take testimony and evidence and decide whether to grant the anti-harassment order. Most anti-harassment protection orders are granted for 1-year but can the orders can be extended.
Harassment Protection Order Lawyers in Seattle and King County
At Burke Brown Attorneys, PLLC, we help petitioners, respondents, and their families with anti-harassment protection orders. If you are accused of harassment or looking to file for protection in King County, call us today at (206) 933-2414 or contact us online.