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The law in MN Statute §609.748 allows a person who is being “harassed” to request a Harassment Restraining Order from the court. However, there are other practical steps to take before asking the Court for this protection. While these steps may or may not take care of the problem completely, the judge will want to know what steps have been taken to resolve the issues before asking the court to get involved.
Learn more about steps to take in Protection from Harassing Behavior.
A victim does not have to report the harassment to the police to ask for a court order. Depending on the facts, there may be a filing fee to start a harassment case, which may be waived if you qualify based on low-income for a fee waiver (IFP).
What to Do if You Are Being Harassed
If a person is being harassed by another person by a single act of physical or sexual assault, or repeated intrusive or unwanted acts, words or gestures intended to negatively affect the safety, security or privacy of that person, the person being harassed may file for a restraining order in Harassment Court.
Issues that CANNOT be handled in Harassment Court include:
- custody and visitation of minor children (handled in Family Court);
If the relationship between the person being harassed and the harasser is:
- a blood relative;
- live together now, or have lived together in the past;
- have a child together or are pregnant together; or
- are or were involved in a romantic or sexual relationship
AND the harassment includes: physical harm; threats of physical harm; forced sexual contact; or any sexual contact with a minor, then the person being harassed may able to ask for an Order for Protection.
The person being harassed should talk with an advocate or the Domestic Abuse Service Center about the possibility of getting an Order for Protection, which may offer more legal protections for the victim.
Learn more about the requirements of an Order for Protection v. Harassment Restraining Order.
How to Ask for a Harassment Order in Hennepin County
If you live in Hennepin County and want to ask for a Harassment Restraining Order, pllease go to the 4th Dist. Self-Help Center or talk with a lawyer to start the process.
Harassment Court Forms
The person filing for the restraining order is called the "Petitioner." The other party against whom the order is being filed is called the "Respondent." The petitioner must know the correct names of the respondent(s) for the case to proceed. A parent or guardian may file for a harassment order on behalf of a minor child.
When filling out the forms, the petitioner must list the repeated acts that he or she believes are harassment. When finished filling out the forms, the petitioner must sign an oath stating the facts in the form are true. A Court Clerk or Notary Public must witness this signature. The papers will then be taken to a judge for review.
If the judge signs the papers, the papers must get filed with the District Court and then copies must be personally served on the respondent(s). Depending on the facts of the case, there may be a filing fee to file the harassment case, which may be waived if you qualify based on low-income for a fee waiver (IFP). The filing fee may also be waived under certain circumstances such as when the petitioner has a police report with him or her, or if the facts of the case meet the definition of criminal harassment under MN Statute § 609.749, subd. 2 or 3.
If the judge grants an order, the petitioner will receive a temporary order that tells the respondent not to harass the petitioner. A harassment hearing is no longer required. However, petitioner has the option to request a harassment hearing before a judge within 45 days of filing the restraining order. The respondent also has the option to request a harassment hearing within 45 days of being served with a copy of the order. If the parties do not request a hearing, the temporary harassment order will stay in effect for up to two years from the date it was signed by the judge.
When a Hearing is Requested
The court will notify the parties by mail at least five (5) days before the hearing if a hearing has been requested. A "Referee" is the judicial officer who hears the case at the initial hearing. Parties must be in the harassment courtroom at least 15 minutes before the scheduled hearing time. If the petitioner does not appear, the temporary restraining order will be cancelled. If the respondent does not appear and was served with an order, the petitioner will receive a restraining order against the respondent. If the case involves a minor child, the parent or guardian and the minor child (if age 11 years or older) must be present at the hearing.
The parties may have a lawyer or advocate with them at the hearing, but it is not required. Most people do not have a lawyer with them. The parties should not bring evidence or witnesses to the initial hearing.
At the initial hearing the referee may refer the parties to a trained mediator who will try to help the parties resolve the dispute by reaching an agreement or "settlement."
The focus of the hearing or mediation will be on how to best resolve the dispute, and will NOT focus on past actions or the acts alleged in the petition. 80% of harassment cases are resolved at the initial hearing, usually because the parties reach an agreement. Orders based on the agreement may be given to the parties before they leave the courtroom.
If the parties agree to some type of restraining order, it usually means they will not be allowed to have contact with or harass each other for a period of a few months up to two years.
Any order issued by the Harassment Court is a civil order. Agreeing to a harassment order does NOT result in a criminal record. However, if a restraining order is violated, the victim may call the police. If the police find there is probable cause to believe the order has been violated and make an arrest, the person violating the order may be subject to criminal penalties.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement at the Harassment hearing, the temporary restraining order is continued and an evidentiary hearing is scheduled for a future date before a judge. Witnesses and evidence are presented at this next hearing. Before the evidentiary hearing, the possibility of a settlement may again be raised. If a settlement is not reached, the judge will consider the testimony of the parties and witnesses and any other evidence presented. The judge may make a finding of harassment and decide whether or not a restraining order should be issued. If a restraining order is violated the person being harassed may call the police to get the order enforced.
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