Q: I live in a multi-unit apartment complex and have had several issues with one of my neighbors. He harasses me and plays his music loud during all hours of the night. I am scared of him and feel on edge when I am home. I haven’t called the police because he hasn’t committed a crime. I have been told by many of my friends I should get a restraining order. How would I go about obtaining a restraining order?
A: This is a common issue in urban cities due to the fact there is a condensed population coupled with the city having many apartment buildings. It actually can be a crime to play your music too loudly. If the music is played at a volume where it is disturbing your peace it may be a violation of California Penal Code 415 (2), which is defined as any person who maliciously and willfully disturbs another person by loud and unreasonable noise. It should be noted that 415(2) PC is a misdemeanor and you must be desirous of prosecution for the crime and place your neighbor under private person’s arrest. The difficult part is proving that your neighbor is “maliciously and willfully” disturbing your peace.
When you have an issue with your neighbor and you feel you cannot approach him in an attempt to resolve the issue you should call the police. We can respond to your residence and attempt to assist you with solving the problem. If the issues persist, a restraining order may be an option you may wish to consider. You should understand there is a process and you must be patient.
The main reason why it may not be so easy to obtain a restraining order is they severely limit the ability of a person to move around as they choose. The courts are naturally going to be cautious about issuing these orders so that they don’t issue mistaken orders restraining people from going to certain places or being around certain people. On the other hand, restraining orders exist because sometimes a person is so threatening or harassing that it takes a legal mechanism to keep them at a distance. Depending on how threatening or harassing your neighbor has been towards you, you may need one to be able to live in peace.
A restraining order is a court ordered document that can protect individuals from abuse or harassment from another person. In this case, there are two types of restraining orders you need to be aware of, a temporary restraining order and a permanent restraining order. A temporary restraining order (or “TRO”) provides immediate, emergency relief on a short-term basis from a threatening or violent individual. A permanent restraining order makes the temporary restraining order permanent.
When you are ready to start the process of obtaining a restraining order, you must visit your local county court office during their business hours. When at the county court office, ask for the necessary forms to file a restraining order. In this case, you must fill out the CH-100 and CH-120 forms. The court clerk will likely ask you about the nature of your relationship with the person you are seeking the order against. Be sure to fill out the forms completely and sign in the appropriate places. The court clerk will next hand your completed CH-100 and CH-120 forms to a judge who will rule on whether or not the restraining order should go into effect. The judge must make this determination within one business day after the forms have been filed.
The clerk will give you a specific time on the next business day to return to the court office so you can learn the status of the restraining order. If the judge has signed the restraining order, you will receive five copies of a temporary restraining order from the court clerk and it will be valid for three weeks. Make sure to keep one copy of the temporary restraining order with you at all times and provide the other copies to any other individuals involved in the restraining order.
You must have someone serve the person you are seeking protection from with a copy of the temporary restraining order. Anyone over the age of 18, except you, can serve the restraining order. Once the affected person has been served with the temporary restraining order, fill out a “proof of service” form, which you can obtain from the clerk’s office or it is also available on the California Courts website. Make sure to make five copies of this form so you can bring them to court on the hearing date.
If you want the temporary restraining order to become a permanent restraining order, you must go back to the court on the date and time listed on your temporary restraining order where you will attend a hearing. For the hearing you must bring all the copies of the temporary restraining order, copies of the proof of service form and any police or medical reports that may be pertinent to the situation. I would be prepared for the judge to ask you to testify as he/she will ask you direct questions regarding the situation. Finally, the judge will make a ruling to grant the restraining order or not, the judge will sign it if he/she grants it and you will need to file it with the court clerk. After it is filed with the clerk, the restraining order is in effect.
I know the process may sound tedious and cumbersome, but if you truly feel harassed by a neighbor your only recourse may be filing a restraining order. You can find the forms online with instructions at http://www.courts.ca.gov.
This column was prepared Neighborhood Resource Officer Scott McGowan (Beat 6: Montana Avenue to Interstate 10, 20th Street to Centinela Avenue). He can be reached at (424) 200-0686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.