Civil Stalking Fact Sheet: What you should know about Civil Stalking and Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Orders

What is a Civil Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order?

It is much like a domestic violence Civil Protection Order. These orders can protect victims even if they are not a family or household member of the abuser. Victims who have been threatened with physical harm or mental distress by an abuser more than once recently can seek a Civil Stalking Protection Order (CSPO). Victims of a sexual offense can seek a Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order after the first threat.

In this fact sheet they will both be referred to as CSPOs.

How can I obtain a CSPO?

A victim can file a petition with the court of common pleas general division (not domestic relations).  If the stalker is under 18 years old, the petition must be filed in juvenile court. The petition must be filed in the county where the victim lives. Protection order forms are available from the clerk of the common pleas court. There is no filing fee.

Can I get immediate protection?

You can ask the court to issue an ex parte (immediate) protection order before the full hearing. You will have to meet with the judge or magistrate to testify. The judge will issue an ex parte protection order you are in an immediate and present danger. "Immediate and present danger" exists if either the stalker has threatened bodily harm or has been convicted of menacing by stalking or a sexually oriented offense.

What happens once I get an ex parte CSPO?

The court will schedule a full hearing within 10 days. The petition must be delivered by the sheriff to the stalker. At the hearing, you and your stalker can present testimony, witnesses and other evidence to prove or disprove the stalking. If the judge believes that the stalking occurred and you are in danger, the judge will issue a Full Hearing CSPC. This order should be delivered to the stalker on the same day it is issued. It is a valid order which police and sheriff’s departments must enforce.

How can a CSPO protect me?

All CSPOs prohibit the stalker or sexual offender from harming, threatening, following, harassing, contacting, or forcing sexual relations on the victim. A CSPO can also:

  • require the stalker or sexual offender to stay away from you;
  • prohibit the stalker or sexual offender from shutting off your utilities, canceling insurance or health benefits, or interfering with your phone service or mail delivery; and
  • prohibit the stalker from removing or harming your property or pets.

A CSPO may contain other terms to protect you including:

  • prohibit the stalker or sexual offender from entering your residence, school, business, or place of employment or that of your family or household;
  • prohibit the stalker from possessing firearms or other deadly weapons; and
  • that it cannot be waived or nullified just because you invite or consent to the stalker entering your residence, school, business, or place of employment.

However, a CSPO, unlike a domestic violence CPO, cannot include orders for spousal or child support, custody, visitation, personal property or motor vehicles.

How long is my CSPO valid?

A CSPO will remain valid until the date listed in the order, up to five years. You can seek an extension by filing a motion before it ends.

What are the penalties for violating a CPO or CSPO?

The penalties are the same for violating a CPO or a CSPO. A first conviction is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000. A second or additional conviction is a felony of the fifth degree, punishable by a mandatory prison term of six to twelve months, and/or a fine up to $2,500.

Is a CPO or a CSPO issued in one county enforceable in other counties or states?

Yes. If a victim flees, law enforcement and courts in the new county must enforce the protection order.

A victim can register a protection order in the new county by filing a certified copy of the protection order with the municipal court (for criminal orders) or the court of common pleas (for civil orders) in the new county. By registering your CPO or CSPO, you put local law enforcement on notice that the order exists. However, law enforcement must enforce a CPO or CSPO whether it is registered or not.

If I request a CSPO, can my stalker or sexual abuser also obtain a protection order against me?

No, unless:

  • the stalker or sexual offender files a separate petition at least 48 hours before the full hearing; and
  • the stalker or sexual offender presents evidence that convinces the judge that you were also a stalker or sexual offender.

Otherwise, the court has no authority to issue a mutual protection order against you.

Can a victim advocate (non-attorney) accompany me to all the hearings?

Yes. However, in most courts a non-attorney victim advocate cannot present arguments or evidence (act like an attorney) at the hearing. The victim, if she is not represented by an attorney, must present her own case to the court.

This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice. Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated June 2012. CE-89-F250-CLAS