Who May Obtain a Protective Order?
What should you do if you are being harassed, threatened, intimidated or frightened by the actions of a parent, a student, a co-worker, or a member of the public? One option is to get a protective order against that individual. Indiana law is very specific on who can obtain a protective order.
Pursuant to Indiana Code 34-26-5-2(a), a person who is or has been a victim of domestic or family violence may file for a petition for a protective order against: (1) a family member or household member who commits an act of domestic or family violence; or (2) a person who has committed stalking under Ind. Code 35-45-10-5 or a sex offense under Ind. Code 35-42-4 against the person filing the petition (the “petitioner”). Domestic violence includes stalking, whether or not the stalking was committed by a family or household member.[i] This review looks at non-family and non-sex offense situations where an individual must demonstrate that he or she is the victim of stalking.
“Stalking” is defined as “a knowing or an intentional course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another person that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened.”[ii] “Harassment” means “conduct directed toward a victim that includes but is not limited to repeated or continuing impermissible contact that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress.”[iii]
The term “repeated” in Indiana’s anti-stalking law means “more than once.”[iv] Further, “continuing” is commonly defined as “uninterrupted; persisting,” and includes “not just current, but future activity.”[v]
In a case involving Seymour Community Schools, on the first day of the 2017 school year, S.B. (a parent of an enrolled student) stood on a public sidewalk immediately adjacent to Seymour Middle School and held a sign that read, “WE PROTECT PEDOPHILES.” The parent also had a handgun holstered on his right hip which he was licensed to carry. The day before his protest, the parent had called the Seymour Police Department and informed officers that he would be protesting on the first day of school and that he might have a weapon. As a result, multiple officers were present at the point of the protest.[vi]
The school superintendent approached the parent and asked what the protest was about, to which the parent responded it was about a former teacher who had molested his daughter. The superintendent then asked the parent to put his gun in his car, but the parent declined. The parent then asked the superintendent how he would feel if he brought his AK-47 and then said he would be back that afternoon at the High School. The superintendent then filed for a protective order against the parent which the trial court granted.[vii]
In upholding the trial court’s decision that the parent had committed stalking, the Indiana Court of Appeals found:
S.B. had committed stalking by engaging in a course of conduct that involved continuing harassment. S.B. appeared at the Seymour Middle School with a visible firearm. A number of parents who had arrived to drop off their children for the first day of school were concerned about S.B. and at least one parent was demonstrably upset about S.B. having a visible firearm so near the school. When [the superintendent] asked S.B. to place the firearm in S.B.’s vehicle, S.B. refused, and S.B. then became “obviously upset,” “distressed,” and “angry.” Rather than remove his firearm, S.B. instead alluded to a concealed weapon on his person, and he further suggested that he would go to the Seymour High School later that same day with an AK-47. Those facts support the trial court’s finding that S.B. was engaged in a course of conduct involving continuing harassment. [viii]
So, if you are being harassed by another person that causes you to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened, and the harassment (or threat of further harassment) occurs on more than one occasion, you may be entitled to obtain a protective order that could prevent that person from contacting you, or coming to your residence or place of business, among other things. Upon completion of a sworn statement that is free of charge from your local clerk of court, a judge will review and rule upon your petition. Any violation of the protective order could lead to the arrest of the person harassing or threatening you.
[i] Ind. Code 34-6-2-34.5.
[ii] Ind. Code 35-45-10-1.
[iii] Ind. Code 35-45-10-2.
[iv] S.B. v. Seymour Community Schools, 97 N.E.3d 288, 295 (Ind. Ct. App. 2018).
[vi] Id. at 291.
[vii] Id. at 291-292.
[viii] Id. at 295-296.
Author Eric M. Hylton
Eric Hylton’s practice primarily involves representing employers and employees in labor and employment matters. His primary focus is on labor and employment issues affecting teachers throughout the State of Indiana. In addition, he represents both employers and employees in cases pending before State and Federal Courts, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. Eric also advises employers and employees concerning various employment issues such as employee handbooks, employment agreements, covenants not to compete, wrongful termination, collective bargaining, labor arbitration, discrimination, harassment, wage and hour matters, unemployment compensation and workers compensation.
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Posted on Nov. 01, 2018 by Eric M. Hylton