When does “Harassment” get you a restraining order?

Wisconsin has defined harassment in Wis. Stat. §813.125(1) as any of the following: “(a) Striking, shoving, kicking or otherwise subjecting another person to physical contact; engaging in an act that would constitute abuse under §48.02(1), sexual assault under §940.225, or staking under §940.32; or attempting or threatening to do the same. (b) Engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts which harass or intimidate another person and which serve no legitimate purpose.”  (emphasis added)  When needing to file a restraining order in Wisconsin, the contact found in paragraph (a) will normally result in criminal charges and the granting of a restraining order is a slam dunk.  Those elements are rather straight forward and leave no real room for interpretation by the Court.  This is the same conduct that will get you a domestic abuse restraining order if there is a relationship between the parties. However, realistically, it is the conduct found in paragraph (b) that often results in the filing of a Harassment Restraining Order and the assistance of the Court in making the determination as to whether or not the assailant’s conduct reaches that threshold definition of harassment.  All too often these days, the harassment is done via telephone, texting or Facebook.  The Court has had to become an expert on deciphering text messages, Facebook accounts and incoming and outgoing calls from unidentified numbers. It is imperative for the victim to get the assistance of the phone company in providing records for the courts to review or printing of Facebook pages as evidence.  If it is verbal harassment, witnesses need to come to court with you.  The tone of the conversation is often a matter of interpretation, so it is important for the courts to hear from a “neutral third party” as each party will obviously interpret the conversation to support their position.  Even with that though, it can sometimes be difficult for the Court to determine how much contact is too much contact and what conduct is harassment.  What then is harassment? Ultimately the Court has to find that the assailant engaged in conduct with the INTENT to harass or intimidate the victim.  If the parties have children in common, or other obligations that require some amount of interaction the Court is going to have a harder time finding harassment, unless the nature of the conversation is harassing or the conduct is such that it is not at all related to any legitimate purpose.  Five emails or texts a day may not be harassment if they are pertaining to children, the same amount of emails or texts about your personal life or what that person thinks of you. If you feel that you are being harassed and want to file a restraining order.  Sit down with an attorney, go over your facts and let us help evaluate your case.  It is always helpful to know what the Court is looking for before you waste the time and money of filing the paperwork.