Oklahoma Protective Order Vs. Harassment.
Video Transcribed: What is harassment for the purpose of getting a protective order granted in Oklahoma? I’m Oklahoma attorney James Wirth, and I’m about to answer that question for you. So what is harassment for the purpose of getting a protective order in Oklahoma? Well, luckily enough, it’s defined by statutes. So let me read that to you and then we kind of discuss some of the specifics.
So the statute says, “Harassment means a knowing and willful course or pattern of conduct by a family or household member or an individual who has been or is in a dating relationship with a person, directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms or annoys the person, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress or must actually cause substantial distress to the person.”
All right, so that’s our definition there, and there’s some important parts in there. So the first thing that you want to take note of is it does have a relationship requirement. Like proving domestic abuse for the purpose of protective order, harassment has a relationship component. So it’s not enough to prove the harassment. It’s got to be with the right person giving you the harassment, and it requires a dating relationship or family or household member.
So dating relationship, pretty obvious, somebody that you’ve been in a romantic relationship with. Family member, that includes pretty much any family member, any blood level required or even stepchildren, stepparents can be included as a family member or household member, people that are residing together. So you do have to meet that relationship test. If you don’t, you don’t qualify for a protective order on basis of harassment.
Then requires knowing and willful course or pattern of conduct. So that course or pattern of conduct has been important in various case law decisions that have come out. So that means that one event is not enough for it to be harassment. It has to be multiple events, perhaps over a period of time, a course of conduct.
Some cases have been reversed because it was only one event and did not meet that requirement. However, there was a dissent in that case that said one should be enough. But as the decision stands right now, Oklahoma precedent requires more than one event, a course or a pattern.
Also in the statute, you heard it, says serves no legitimate purpose. So if it is a legitimate purpose, then it is not harassment. So if we’ve got a dad who is asking for visitation with the child, maybe ask for it every day for a week. Okay well, that by some people could be considered to be harassment, keep asking for something, we keeps saying no, and it’s over a course or pattern of conduct because it keeps occurring over and over again, but with legitimate purpose.
That would be the argument that that person would make was that well I want visitation with my child. That’s a legitimate purpose. So it does have to show that there was not for any legitimate purpose.
Okay now, we’ve got the requirement for the effect that it’s having on the person, and it’s two fold. There’s a subjective part and an objective part. We know it’s an objective standard because it uses that reasonable person. That’s something that’s used in the law frequently, meaning an objective standard. And then it also has the much actually cause.
That’s the subjective standard. So the person seeking the protective order must be able to credibly testify and demonstrate that it caused substantial emotional distress. But it’s not enough that it actually caused the person substantial emotional distress because it goes back to the objective standard. Would it have caused a reasonable person under those circumstances to suffer substantial emotional distress?
So if we’ve got somebody who, due to other issues in their life or due to other mental health concerns, it’s easy to cause them severe emotional distress, and this actually does cause them severe emotional distress, that’s not enough. It has to be objective that it would have caused some other person under the same circumstances, a reasonable person, substantial emotional distress.
And if it meets that requirement, both the objective requirement and the subjective requirement, and the other things we talked about, then it sounds like it’s going to be harassment. That said, I should note that courts have a tendency to grant protective orders. Nobody wants to be the judge that denies one, and then something horrible happens to the victim.
So if you are defending one of these, you’ve got to stand up and you’ve got to quote this law and you probably want an attorney advocating for you because the courts do have a tendency to err on the side of caution, rather than maybe scrupulously following the statute. So get representation on that, but don’t take my word for it. Don’t take this general information. Get specific information for your circumstances. Talk to an attorney. If you want to talk to me, call me, 918-932-2800.