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Stop Harassing Me

Many people think an order of protection will be granted just because someone says “they’re harassing me.” People act surprised - almost offended - when an attorney follows that statement by asking for details on the opposing person’s conduct. The Urban Dictionary uses the terms “irritate” and “annoying” to describe the word harass. However, the everyday usage of the word does not meet the legal standard for obtaining an order of protection based on harassment. The same is true for getting an order of protection based on stalking. So before you threaten getting a restraining order against someone for what you feel is harassment or stalking, check these basic guidelines to see if your threat carries any weight.

To get an order of protection based on Harassment you must show:

  • Some type of household or family member relationship (current or prior)
  • Two or more incidents that would cause a reasonable person substantial emotional distress
    • Substantial emotional distress = something much higher than nervousness, unhappiness or the like that a person is likely to experience in day to day life
    • Reasonable person = typical everyday person; does not take into account any individualized characteristics such as a person with high anxiety, PTSD, etc.
  • The incidents must actually cause you substantial emotional distress

To get an order of protection based on Stalking you must show:

  • Opposing party acted purposely
  • A pattern of conduct of at least two or more incidents
    • Constitutionally protected activity does not count
  • Incidents serve no legitimate purpose
  • Incidents caused you a fear of danger of physical harm
  • Your fear of danger of physical harm was reasonable

Missouri courts say the following types of conduct are NOT enough to get an order of protection based on stalking or harassment:

  • Irritating
  • Annoying
  • Frustrating
  • Insulting
  • Stressful
  • Unpleasant

Other statutory factors are required for obtaining an order of protection. These guidelines are not meant to be exclusive in nature.