What is a Stalking Protection Order?
A Stalking Protection Order is a court order that protects victims of stalking, harassment, and other unwanted contact.
The state of Oregon has four types of court-issued protective orders:
- Family Abuse Protection Act (FAPA) Order
- Sexual Abuse Protection Order (SAPO)
- Stalking Protection Order (SPO)
- Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities Abuse Prevention Act (EPPDAPA) Retraining Order
ORS §30.866 states that:
- A person may bring a civil action in a circuit court for a court’s stalking protective order or for damages, or both, against a person if:
- The person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly engages in repeated and unwanted contact with the other person or a member of that person’s immediate family or household thereby alarming or coercing the other person;
- It is objectively reasonable for a person in the victim’s situation to have been alarmed or coerced by the contact; and
- The repeated and unwanted contact causes the victim reasonable apprehension regarding the personal safety of the victim or a member of the victim’s immediate family or household
What Constitutes as Stalking?
Under Oregon law, stalking is when:
- A person makes you afraid by engaging in repeated and unwanted contact, or
- A person makes an immediate family (or household) member afraid by engaging in repeated and unwanted contact.
To qualify as stalking, your situation also must meet the following requirements:
- A reasonable person in your situation would have been alarmed or coerced by the contact, and
- The repeated (at least two instances in the last two years) and unwanted contact causes you or a member of your immediate family (or household) to reasonably fear for their physical safety.
Unwanted contact is when a person:
- Comes near you or into your sight.
- Follows you.
- Waits outside your home, workplace, or school.
- Communicates with you in any way such as through mail, email, phone, text messages, or through another person.
- Damages your home, workplace, or school.
- Commits a crime against you.
How and Where To File a Stalking Protection Order
To apply for a Stalking Protective Order, a petition must be filed requesting that a judge grant a stalking order.
A petition for a stalking order must be filed in the courthouse in the county where the stalker lives or where the unwanted contacts took place. A Stalking Protective Order is free.
A person of any age may be eligible for a SPO. If the petitioner is under the age of 18, a parent or guardian can also apply for a protective order on the minor’s behalf.
After a Petition for a Stalking Protection Order is Filed
After the petition for a stalking order has been filed, the court will schedule a hearing so that a judge can review the petition and verify that the petitioner meets the requirements.
This ex parte hearing (meaning the respondent does not get notice of the hearing) will take place the same day the SPO was applied for or the next business day. At the hearing, the judge may ask questions about the petition.
If the petitioner meets the requirements for a stalking order, the judge will grant a temporary SPO.
Serving a Stalking Protection Order
After the ex parte hearing, the court clerk will provide the petitioner with copies of the temporary protective order. The petitioner must bring two copies of the protective order to the sheriff’s office and have them complete service. The sheriff’s office will attempt to serve the respondent that day or the next day.
Alternatively, any adult over the age of 18 (other than the petitioner) may serve the respondent.
The Contested Hearing
If the judge grants a temporary stalking order at the ex parte hearing, the judge will automatically set a contested hearing date. At the contested hearing, both the petitioner and the respondent will have an opportunity to present evidence and tell their side of the story. At the end of the hearing, the judge will either dismiss the stalking order or grant a permanent SPO.
If the petitioner fails to show up to the contested hearing, the stalking order may be dismissed. If the respondent fails to show up to the contested hearing, the judge can issue a warrant for their arrest, continue the temporary talking order and set another contested hearing, or grant a permanent SPO.
False or Frivolous Stalking Protection Orders
A Stalking Protection Order is far more serious than a restraining order, one reason being that they are permanent until the petitioner opts to terminate the protection order.
This is why it is very important that courts only issue a protection order against someone when it is truly warranted. There are many cases of false or frivolous Stalking Protection Orders that are clearly aimed at gaining the advantage in custody cases, revenge towards an ex or neighbor, or based off of behavior that is protected by free speech.
Free speech under the Oregon and Federal Constitutions provides a defense in many cases and the law continues to evolve when the contact involves communication.
It is very important to understand the collateral consequences regarding these matters, including the right to bear arms, which can be adversely affected in a multitude of scenarios.