How would you go about getting an order of protection against someone in a different state for harassment and stalking via social media?
I will answer your question based upon the law of the state of Utah, where I practice divorce and family law. And the answer is yes, you obtain a stalking injunction or a protective order against someone in a different state for harassment and stalking via social media.
We’ll start with what factors must be satisfied to obtain a criminal stalking injunction or a civil stalking injunction.
(1) A person is subject to prosecution in this state for an offense which he commits, while either within or outside the state, by his own conduct or that of another for which he is legally accountable, if:
(a) the offense is committed either wholly or partly within the state[.]
So it is possible to commit the crime of stalking in Utah even if the victim does not reside in Utah.
(1)(a) Except as provided in Subsection (1)(b), an individual who believes that the individual is the victim of stalking may file a verified written petition for a civil stalking injunction against the alleged stalker with the district court in the district in which the individual or respondent resides or in which any of the events occurred. A minor with the minor’s parent or guardian may file a petition on the minor’s own behalf, or a parent, guardian, or custodian may file a petition on the minor’s behalf.
So a civil stalking victim may seek a civil stalking injunction against the stalker in the state of Utah, if the stalker resides in Utah or if the act of stalking was committed in Utah.
(2) A person is guilty of stalking who intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person and knows or should know that the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person:
(a) to fear for the person’s own safety or the safety of a third person; or
(b) to suffer other emotional distress.
(3) A person is guilty of stalking who intentionally or knowingly violates:
(a) a stalking injunction issued under Title 78B, Chapter 7, Part 7, Civil Stalking Injunctions; or
(b) a permanent criminal stalking injunction issued under Title 78B, Chapter 7, Part 9, Criminal Stalking Injunctions.
(1) As used in this section:
(a) “Course of conduct” means two or more acts directed at or toward a specific person, including:
(i) acts in which the actor follows, monitors, observes, photographs, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about a person, or interferes with a person’s property:
(A) directly, indirectly, or through any third party; and
(B) by any action, method, device, or means; or
(ii) when the actor engages in any of the following acts or causes someone else to engage in any of these acts:
(A) approaches or confronts a person;
(B) appears at the person’s workplace or contacts the person’s employer or coworkers;
(C) appears at a person’s residence or contacts a person’s neighbors, or enters property owned, leased, or occupied by a person;
(D) sends material by any means to the person or for the purpose of obtaining or
disseminating information about or communicating with the person to a member of the person’s family or household, employer, coworker, friend, or associate of the person;
(E) places an object on or delivers an object to property owned, leased, or occupied by a person, or to the person’s place of employment with the intent that the object be delivered to the person; or
(F) uses a computer, the Internet, text messaging, or any other electronic means to commit an act that is a part of the course of conduct.
If the nature of the activity on social media satisfies the factors necessary to obtain a protective order (as opposed to a stalking injunction), then it is possible to obtain a protective order in response to online harassment and stalking.
Utah has a variety of possible protective orders available, depending upon the victim type:
Title 78B Judicial Code
Chapter 7 Protective Orders and Stalking Injunctions
(a) Any interested person may file a petition for a protective order:
(i) on behalf of a child who is being abused or is in imminent danger of being abused by any individual; or
(ii) on behalf of a child who has been abused by an individual who is not the child’s parent, stepparent, guardian, or custodian.
(1) An individual may seek a protective order if the individual is subjected to, or there is a substantial likelihood the individual will be subjected to:
(a) abuse by a dating partner of the individual; or
(b) dating violence by a dating partner of the individual.
(a) An individual may seek a protective order under this part if the individual has been subjected to sexual violence and is neither a cohabitant nor a dating partner of the respondent.
As used in this part:
(3) “Sexual violence” means the commission or the attempt to commit:
(a) any sexual offense described in Title 76, Chapter 5, Part 4, Sexual Offenses, or Title 76, Chapter 5b, Part 2, Sexual Exploitation;
(b) human trafficking for sexual exploitation under Section 76-5-308; or
(c) aggravated human trafficking for forced sexual exploitation under Section 76-5-310.
(1) Any cohabitant who has been subjected to abuse or domestic violence, or to whom there is a substantial likelihood of abuse or domestic violence, may seek a protective order in accordance with this part, whether or not the cohabitant has left the residence or the premises in an effort to avoid further abuse.
As used in this chapter:
(1) “Abuse” means, except as provided in Section 78B-7-201, intentionally or knowingly causing or attempting to cause another individual physical harm or intentionally or knowingly placing another individual in reasonable fear of imminent physical harm.
If the nature of the social media usage rises to the level of “intentionally or knowingly placing another individual in reasonable fear of imminent physical harm,” then it possibly could qualify the victim for a protective order.