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  • Civil Harassment Restraining Order: Attorney Insights

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    Are you confused and scared after being served with a civil harassment restraining order (CHRO)? You’re not alone. You likely have questions about your rights and your future. 

    This legal situation can be stressful, but the attorneys of New Mexico Criminal Law Offices offer clear information and solid legal representation that can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. Let’s look at what civil harassment restraining orders are and what you can do about them.

    What Is a Civil Harassment Restraining Order?

    A civil harassment restraining order is a court order that protects individuals from a course of conduct intended to annoy, seriously alarm, or terrorize them. This can include various harassing behaviors, such as:

    • Unwanted phone calls, texts, or emails;
    • Following or stalking;
    • Verbal threats;
    • Property damage; or
    • Online harassment, including social media posts.

    The primary goal of a CHRO is to prevent further harm by legally prohibiting the harasser from contacting or approaching the victim. CHROs are granted to individuals who lack a romantic or familial relationship, such as distant people like neighbors or strangers.

    National Legal Framework

    While civil harassment restraining orders fall under state jurisdiction, the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) establishes some national guidelines. For example, VAWA includes provisions for protection orders for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. These federal laws work in conjunction with state laws to provide comprehensive protection for victims of harassment and abuse. While each state has its own laws regarding CHROs, there are some commonalities across states.

    Requirements for a CHRO

    Generally, a petitioner must show that they have experienced harassment, which is defined as a pattern of behavior causing significant emotional distress and serving no legitimate purpose. This conduct can include physical violence, threats, stalking, or persistent unwanted contact.

    When the court grants a restraining order for harassment, it typically includes provisions that prohibit the harasser from:

    • Contacting the victim directly or indirectly;
    • Coming within a certain distance of the victim’s home, workplace, or school; or
    • Possessing firearms or other weapons.

    Violating a restraining order for harassment can have serious consequences, including criminal charges and jail time.

    Can You Get a Restraining Order for Social Media Harassment?

    With the rise of digital communication, many wonder if you can get a restraining order for social media harassment. Social media harassment falls under the broader category of harassment. It can include actions like cyberstalking, online threats, and persistent unwanted messages. Courts recognize the impact of cyber harassment and can issue restraining orders that specifically address online behavior.

    FAQs on Civil Harassment Restraining Orders

    What Should I Do If I Am Served with a CHRO?

    Do not ignore it. If you are served with a CHRO, it’s essential to take it seriously and understand the restrictions it places on you. Carefully reading the order will help you understand what behaviors are prohibited. It’s also critical to consult with an attorney immediately to discuss your options and next steps.

    How Do I Fight a CHRO?

    You have the right to appear in court and contest the order. It is crucial to gather evidence demonstrating the accusations are false or exaggerated. This could include witness statements, communication records (texts, emails), or proof of alibi. An experienced attorney can help build your case, effectively present your side of the story, and navigate the legal complexities of contesting a CHRO.

    Can I Contact the Person Who Filed the CHRO?

    No. A core purpose of a CHRO is to prevent contact. Any contact, even if well-intentioned, will likely be a violation. 

    How Do I Prove I Haven’t Violated a CHRO?

    If you believe you haven’t violated the order, maintain detailed records of your activities to demonstrate you complied with the restrictions. This can include receipts, work schedules, or witness testimonies. An attorney can advise you on how to present this evidence in court.

    How Long Does a CHRO Last?

    The duration varies depending on the specific case and the judge’s decision. Typically, it ranges from one to five years.

    Can a CHRO Be Modified or Lifted?

    In some cases, a CHRO can be modified to change restrictions or even lifted entirely. However, this requires a court hearing and the presentation of evidence that convinces the judge that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred that warrants lifting the order.

    How Does a Civil Harassment Restraining Order Affect My Record?

    While a restraining order is a civil matter, violations can lead to criminal charges and impact your criminal record. Additionally, a restraining order may appear in background checks and affect employment opportunities.

    Served with a CHRO? Contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

    The skilled attorneys at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices have extensive experience handling such cases. We understand the complexities and will work tirelessly to achieve your best possible outcome. 

    Our track record speaks for itself. We have successfully defended dozens of individuals facing CHROs, ensuring their rights and reputations are protected, and their voices are heard. 

    Contact NMCLO today for a confidential consultation.