Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Enforcing a Restraining Order

Question: I obtained a civil harassment restraining order, but the police won't respond when I call to report violations. What can I do about this?

Answer: I recently covered the topic of making the decision to get a harassment restraining order. Click here to read that article. A restraining order does no good unless you know how to enforce it.

Although law enforcement generally does a good job of enforcing civil harassment restraining orders in California, victims of harassment will sometimes encounter officers that are still reluctant to take a crime report. If the victim cannot convince the police to take a report and enforce the restraining order, the victim can initiate a civil contempt proceeding against the perpetrator.

Under California Code of Civil Procedure §§ 1218 & 1219, you may file for civil contempt for a violation of the harassment restraining order. The abuser is in "civil contempt" if he or she does anything that violates the terms of the harassment restraining order. If the court finds that the defendant violated the restraining order, the judge court sentence the defendant up to 5 days in jail and fine of up to $1000 per violation. The judge can also order the defendant to pay the legal fees incurred by the victim in bringing the contempt charges.

The ability to file contempt can empower the victim to prevent harassment when the police refuse to act. However, it is not without risks. The victim must prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt just like a prosecutor and the defendant has the same rights as in a criminal case such as the right not to testify and the right to court-appointed counsel if the defendant cannot afford an attorney. Nonetheless, it can be a powerful tool for the victim to fight back and prevent further harassment.

If you need assistance in obtaining a harassment restraining or filing civil contempt charges in Southern California, please contact us for a complimentary consultation.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

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