Dear PoPville – Help in Filing a Restraining Order

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“Dear PoPville,

I am trying to find information on obtaining (I think it’s called) a Civil Harassment Restraining Order in DC, but I can’t seem to find a direct answer anywhere online.

Everything seems to focus on abuse victims, but this is not a situation of domestic abuse or physical stalking. My situation involves cyber stalking, slander, harassment and minor threats from someone who is unstable and who lives in close proximity to me. Is this grounds for a restraining order? How do I go about getting one?”

14 Comment

  • Perhaps go to your local police station directly. They might be surly, but they’ll give you info on how to proceed further.

  • Maybe contacting the police would help.

  • It’s referred to as a Civil Protection Order in DC. If you go to DC Superior Courthouse, 4th floor, Domestic Violence Unit,they will give you paperwork to fill out, and you will see a judge that day for a temporary protection order (lasts 14 days until another hearing for a Civil Protection Order, which lasts 1 year). It does not matter that it’s not technically DV, they are threatening you and have the ability to carry it out.

  • On the Superior Court’s web site look at the rules of Civil Procedure (under the Civil Division tab) and Rule 65 which is the rule covering injunctions. I”ve only done one of these, but as I recall, the clerk’s office (5th Floor of the courthouse) has a form. If there is imminent danger of harm, they will place it on the emergency calendar. Good luck.

  • I would go to the Clerk’s office on the 5th Floor like DCRat said. If it isn’t hectic and you’re nice to them they’ll walk you through the steps to filing and help you with the paper work.

  • That’s not going to help you with slander and ways that the person would be making you miserable by being in touch with people other than you directly. If slander is an issue, you have to consider a lawsuit, although that would create a new legal relationship between the two of you — a court challenge, court dates, settlement talks, that sort of thing — which could be exactly what this person would want, if only because it puts the stalker and stalked in an ongoing relationship that is even more real than before.

    • Actually the Protective orders do prohibit the offender from speaking about you or trying to communicate things about you to people you both know. At least in Virginia, it extends to no contact with your family too, etc.

  • If you want a Civil Protection Order/Temporary Protection Order you can do the following:

    1a) File a report with MPD. If they’re issuing threats to you, there’s three statutes they fall within:

    1) Threats to Do Bodily Harm (DC Code 22-407) (i.e. I’m going to come down there and kick your ass)
    2) Threats in a Menacing Manner (DC Code 22-404) (i.e. When that person sees you they make a throat-cutting gesture)
    3) Felony Threats (DC Code 22-1810) (i.e. I’m going to come to your house, break down the door and kill you)

    If you file the report, you need to articulate that you feel actual fear that that the person has the ability to carry out the threats. If a second grader threatens to beat me up, that’s not a crime because he doesn’t have the ability to carry out the threat.

    I’m not going to summarize the stalking statute (it’s in 22-3133), but the OP can look up the conditions. For someone to file a report for stalking one needs to be able to articulate a series of acts (extending more than a 24 hour period). If it’s online, then there should be a paper trail with timestamps.

    When you go to file a report, please have something on paper, preferably on hand, that has the person’s name on it so it points directly to them. Like it or not, someone’s online handle isn’t going to cut it and MPD Detectives don’t have the time or resources to subpoena ISPs for a case like this when they have caseloads of dozens or hundreds of crimes. If there’s an e-mail with their name, that will help.

    1b) Take the report and/or go directly down to the D.C. Superior Court House at 500 Indiana Avenue NW. Most CPOs/TPOs are domestic in nature, so your first stop, even though this isn’t a domestic case, is the 4th floor at the Domestic Violence Intake Center. They can assist you with the paperwork. Here’s a link:

    2) If you are granted a CPO/TPO, it needs to be served on the person to take effect. If you know where the person lives, call 911 and ask for assistance in serving CPO paperwork. Don’t go to the house directly. Depending on the call load, we’ll be there when we get assigned the run.

    3) Once its served, return the Notice of Service back down to the courthouse. It serves as a record that its been served so that the respondent can’t say that they weren’t served if they violate it.

    4) Once the CPO/TPO is served and it gets violated, call 911 or go to a station with proof and ask to file a report for Violation of a CPO/Contempt of Court.

  • Domestic Violence Intake Center (4th floor, DC Superior Court, 500 Indiana Ave) can walk you through the releatively easy process of obtaining a protection order against someone who is causing you fear of physical harm (e..g: stalking, threats of violence, etc.).

    If it’s something more minor, but still stalking or harassing, call 911 and get the officers to take a stalking report and it will be investigated as criminal behavior if it meets the elements of a crime.

    If it doesn’t fit into one of those two, you’ll need to file (i.e.: lawsuit) for an injunction prohibiting actions. Keep in mind that most speech is protected under 1st amendment, unless it fits into one of the categories above.

  • The OP might also want to read Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear.”

  • You might also try a clinc at one of the area law schools, such as the domestic violence clinic at American University:

  • The offenses the OP lists certainly sound annoying but are do they actually count as criminal activity?

    Before y’all bite my head of for not being sensitive, I’m not saying she/he shouldn’t get help if the situation seems unsafe, just curious what the law really says about this kind of thing.

  • I had a simliar situation, I went down to the DC court and filed for a cpo. I had to show proof of my situation which was harassment/ slander via text and the person was served the order a day later. If they violate that order then you can file a federal case against them (because they broke the cpo). They will have to come to court or through the courthouse you can get a free lawyer and they can make some kind of agreement with the person. This situation sucks, best of luck!

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