Stalking Orders in Oregon
by Christopher J. Bergstrom (with contribution from Myah Kehoe)
Oregon’s stalking orders can be a valuable tool in providing protection from unwanted contact and harassment. This article is written to better illustrate the basics of the Stalking Order and the extent of protection it affords.
Who is Eligible? Relationship between the parties
Unlike the FAPA Restraining Order (please see our other article: Restraining Orders, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Assault for more information), Stalking Orders do not require that there be a “qualifying relationship” between the parties. That means that the abuser/stalker can be a family member, roommate, intimate partner, etc. but you can get the order against anyone, including a stranger, whether or not there is any type of relationship.
Under the Stalking Order statute the basic elements need to be satisfied by the Petitioner (the person asking for the stalking order):
1. Unwanted contact – Within the two years before the request for the order, the Respondent (who the stalking order is against) engaged in repeated and unwanted contact with the petitioner or a member of the petitioner’s immediate family or household. The petitioner must show through testimony and other appropriate evidence that the contact was subjectively unwanted.
2. Objectively alarmed/coerced – The court will look to whether it is objectively reasonable for that person to be alarmed or coerced by the contacts. One way to think of the objective standard is to ask what a person of average intelligence would consider under the particular circumstance. In making this determination the judge will look to the totality of the circumstances. To help provide some guidance, Oregon statute defines “alarm” as causing apprehension or fear resulting from the perception of danger. “Coercion” means to restrain, compel, or dominate by force or threat. While the court will look objectively to make these determinations, it is the petitioner’s responsibility to provide evidence that they were personally (subjectively) alarmed or coerced by the respondent’s contact.
3. The contact causes reasonable apprehension – Finally, the court will look to whether the repeated contact places the petitioner in reasonable apprehension about for his or her personal safety. It is important to note here that the court is only considering apprehension as it relates to one’s physical safety. While emotional abuse is traumatic and often relevant, to meet the statutory requirement here, the apprehension must be supported by evidence concerning the petitioner’s physical safety.
Standard of proof – the petitioner must prove each element of the Stalking Order by a preponderance of evidence.
Violating a Stalking Order is a crime
Once a Stalking Order is obtained, a respondent who subsequently violates the order is subject to mandatory arrest. Violating a stalking protective order is a Class A Misdemeanor in Oregon. However, if the violator has a prior conviction for stalking or for violating a stalking protective order then it becomes a Class C Felony.
Expiration of a Stalking Order
Stalking Orders do not expire; they are permanent. This means that you do not have to renew the order at any time and they will only terminate upon the death of one of the parties. Please note that this is different from restraining orders, which require that the petitioner renew the order on a yearly basis (prior to its expiration) for it to remain in place.
What a Stalking Order does not provide – As is true with restraining orders, it is important that a person not completely rely on a stalking order for protection. One should not assume that because they have obtained a court order that they are safe from his or her abuser. It is important to use these orders as part of a larger “safety plan”. Refer to the resources provided on this website to contact any of the organizations to find out more about “safety planning”.
Our firm is dedicated to taking into account the implications of abuse, legal and otherwise, on survivors. While our job as lawyers is to provide you with legal advice, we will always be willing to help facilitate survivors in ways to empower themselves and begin to recover from a life of abuse.