In California, a court may grant a temporary Restraining Order (TRO) upon filing of a petition with the Court, with or without notice, if the plaintiff shows reasonable proof of harassment by someone (the defendant), and that he or she will suffer great or irreparable harm if the TRO is not granted.
What is “Harassment”?
• “Harassment” means unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose. CCP §527.6(b).
• “Unlawful violence” is any assault, battery, or stalking, but does not include lawful acts of self-defense or defense of others. CCP §527.6(b)(1).
• “Credible threat of violence” is a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear of his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, and that serves no legitimate purpose. CCP §527.6(b)(2). The intent requirement for a true threat is that the defendant intentionally or knowingly communicates the threat; it is not necessary that the defendant intends to, or is able to carry out the threat.
“Course of conduct” is a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. CCP §527.6(b)(3) The Courts have ruled that a single incident of harassment is insufficient in most cases unless the defendant’s actions involve verbal abuse amounting to credible threat of violence. It includes following or stalking an individual, making harassing telephone calls, or sending harassing correspondence by any means including mail, fax, or e-mail.
The course of conduct must by its nature cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the plaintiff.
Once a TRO is granted, a willful violation of the order can constitute a criminal offense punishable by jail or fine.