Civil Harassment vs. Domestic Violence
Domestic violence cases involve a special relationship between the parties. The special relationship may be created by:
(1) a family relationship, such as husband and wife; or
(2) cohabitation, i.e., the parties live together.
Civil harassment cases do not involve a special relationship between the parties. A civil harassment complaint may be filed against any person, even if that person is not a spouse or a cohabitant.
Elements of Civil Harassment
The elements of civil harassment vary by state. However, the elements are similar in all states. In California, a person may file a civil harassment complaint if:
(1) the conduct of the person against whom the complaint is filed (the “defendant”) is intentional;
(2) the defendant has done a series of acts (more than one act) that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person filing the complaint (the “complainant”);
(3) the complainant has suffered significant emotional distress; and
(4) the defendant’s conduct is unjustified and is not protected by law.
If the complainant proves that the defendant has engaged in civil harassment, a court may issue a restraining order. The order may prohibit the defendant from:
(1) contacting the complainant in any way;
(2) engaging in further harassment of the complainant; and
(3) coming within close physical proximity of the complainant.
The order may also protect members of the complainant’s family and persons who live with the complainant.