Does a Harassment Order Go On Your Record?

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Does a harassment order go on your record? If you’ve been served with a harassment order, the preceding question is one of the first you might have. Given how embarrassing these orders tend to be in the short term, it’s perfectly natural to wonder about their long-term effects (if any). We’ll reveal the answer in the article, so keep reading to find out.

Short Answer

Although harassment orders are civil matters (more below), they may still appear on your criminal record. The order may show up because most cases of harassment have a criminal element to them (for example, cases of stalking). However, as we’ll explain later, it may not permanently stay on your record.

Harassment Prevention Orders Explained

A harassment order (also known as an order for protection or restraining order) is a Court directive that legally prevents someone from harassing another person. Commonly, the order may restrict the harasser’s movement concerning the victim of the harassment, prohibiting contact or communication for a specified period.

The following are examples of behavior harassment orders are meant to deter:

  • Stalking
  • Threatening
  • Abusing (usually physical)

Courts occasionally grant harassment orders ex parte, meaning they issue the order against an individual in their absence and without the person’s knowledge. Where this is the case, the subject of the harassment order learns about it when they’re served with the Court papers.

The above implies that most harassment orders seemingly come out of left field, mainly because harassment victims file ex parte motions seeking these orders. By association, the Court hears their case before granting a temporary order.

Who Can Get a Harassment Order?

Almost anyone can seek a harassment order from Court, so long as they claim they’re imminently in fear of bodily harm. So family members, friends, work colleagues, or virtual strangers can seek the order if they’re being harassed.

Types of Harassment Orders

There are four types of harassment orders that victims of harassment can seek in Court:

  1. Civil Harassment: This is the most common type of harassment order. Civil harassment victims seek this order when they’re being continually stalked, assaulted, or harassed by a stranger.
  2. Domestic Violence: Victims seek a domestic violence harassment order when they’re being abused by someone with whom they’re closely connected. The abuser could be a spouse, in-law, parent, child, or sibling. This order can be further divided into three categories: ex parte or temporary, emergency protective, or after hearing.
  3. Workplace Violence: An employer can seek a workplace violence order on behalf of an employee suffering from abuse. However, if the employee seeks a restraining order against their abuser, they’ll seek a civil harassment order instead.
  4. Adult Abuse: This harassment order applies to people over 65 years old and adults who can’t defend themselves (aged between 18 and 64).

What Happens When You’re Served a Harassment Order?

The moment you’re served a harassment order is when it legally comes into effect, meaning henceforth, you’ll have to abide by its directions. Notably, you can’t violate a harassment order if you haven’t been served.

Once the order has been served, it’ll be deemed temporary but will go on your criminal record so that it can be viewed by law enforcement.

Another effect of the harassment order is your mandatory attendance in Court for the harassment order hearing. Until the specified date, the order is temporary and can be revoked at the hearing. However, if you fail to show up on the hearing date, the Court may extend the order’s duration by default.

Also, violating the order is a huge no-no, as you otherwise risk criminal prosecution. Aside from the legal implication, you must also consider that a violation will influence the Court’s decision at the harassment order hearing regarding whether to extend or quash the order.

Usually, the order subsists until the harassment order hearing date, which you’ll find specified on the order. And harassment hearings commonly fall 10 days after the ex parte order was granted.

Are Harassment Orders Equivalent to Criminal Charges?

No. Harassment orders are civil matters, not criminal matters. In civil matters, the outcome of the Court’s deliberations involves rectifying a wrong between parties, whereas, in criminal matters, it may involve punishing a transgression against the State.

The above isn’t to say that harassment victims can’t press criminal charges while simultaneously taking out a harassment order. Also, the police are free to file charges even when a harassment order is in effect.

The Harassment Order Hearing

Harassment order hearings allow the parties to make their case before a Judge. The victim’s attorney usually argues in favor of extending the order, while the respondent’s attorney may argue to have the order quashed. Additionally, both parties may call (and cross-examine) witnesses whose testimonies will help the Judge decide.

After a harassment order hearing, the Court may rule in favor of either party. If the Judge extends the order, they’ll state how long it’ll subsist. Usually, restraining orders can’t be extended for more than one year.

However, if the Court rules in your favor, you can apply to have the order expunged from your record. It’s also a good idea to work with an attorney to get it appropriately expunged, as the record may remain in law enforcement databases even after a favorable harassment order ruling.

How to Not Violate a Harassment Order

As already mentioned, once you receive a harassment order, you’ll need to abide by its directions. But what does that entail? Commonly, you’ll need to refrain from:

  • Approaching the Victim: Some harassment orders specify the distance you should keep from the victim while the order subsists.
  • Contacting the Victim: Don’t contact the victim by email, text, telephone, or mail. Don’t even reach out to them through mutual friends or family.
  • Sharing the Same Space as the Victim: Harassment orders that stem from domestic violence may direct that you stay away from the residence you share with the victim.

Factors That May Prevent a Court From Extending a Harassment Order

While there’s no guarantee that the harassment order against you won’t be extended, you can do some things to lessen the likelihood of that happening.

Hire an Attorney

When you’re served a harassment order, your first action should be to get in touch with an attorney. While respondents can represent themselves at harassment order hearings, it’s not a good idea to do so. For example, you may disclose information that might help the other side’s case while representing yourself.

Attend the Hearing

Additionally, ensure you attend the hearing on the specified date. As mentioned above, your failure to attend the hearing may mean it’ll be extended automatically.

Behave in Court

Your behavior inside the Courtroom is just as crucial as your behavior after service of the order. Decent behavior is more likely to influence the Court’s ruling against extending the order. That means no chewing gum, using your cell phone, or wearing a hat. Additionally, don’t be unruly, dress presentably, and pay attention to your disposition.


Unfortunately, a harassment order will end up on your criminal record when the reason for the order stems from criminal behavior. However, attending the hearing and being on your best behavior while in Court may reduce the likelihood of the order being extended. And if you get a ruling in your favor, you can apply to have the order expunged from your record.