Restraining orders help protect victims of harassment by establishing legal consequences for people who refuse to leave them alone. In Illinois, these orders are called Orders of Protection. Continued contact after an order of protection has been filed can lead to arrest, fines and jail time. They can be filed in the county in which the victim or harasser lives or where the harassment takes place. In Chicago, petitions are filed in the Cook County Circuit Court.
What Is Harassment?
According to Article 26.5 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS), harassment is an unnecessary act that a perpetrator commits with the intent of causing emotional distress. Laws prohibit harassment over the phone and electronic methods of communications, like email, and other laws prohibit stalking and cyberstalking.
The type of Cook County protection order you’ll need depends on the kind of harassment you’re facing. For instance, 720 ILCS 5/12-7.3, sets forth several types of actions that are considered stalking, including knowingly engaging in a particular course of conduct directed toward a particular person that the perpetrator knows or reasonably should know would cause the victim to fear for her safety or suffer emotional distress.
Read More: How to Handle Harassment From an Ex-Spouse
Who Can Get an Order of Protection?
Orders of protection are used regularly to protect victims of domestic violence, people who are harassed by one of the following:
- Immediate family members.
- Current or former romantic partners.
- Cohabitants, including roommates, or former cohabitants.
- Caretakers, if the victim is disabled.
A special court for domestic violence matters is in Chicago at 555 W. Harrison Street. Victims with children can use the court’s free childcare center while filling out a petition for an order of protection and when meeting with an advocate or a judge. Cook County victims also can make use of online tools or call (312) 325-9200 for help.
Some victims are harassed by people they don't know well or at all. They aren't eligible for an order of protection for relief from domestic violence, but they can file a Petition for Stalking No Contact Order. The paperwork is filed with the Clerk of Court’s office.
Orders of Protection can be sought on an emergency basis or a non-emergency basis.
What Happens After I File for an Emergency Restraining Order in Chicago?
Petitioners can file for an emergency order, which goes into effect as soon as a judge reads and signs the paperwork. At this point, it is illegal for the perpetrator to continue with the harassing behavior directly or indirectly. For instance, this person could not:
- Call the victim.
- Visit the victim.
- Text the victim.
- Email the victim.
- Post about the victim on social media.
- Have a friend contact the victim on the perpetrator’s behalf.
Non-Emergency Orders: Plenary Orders
Regular orders of protection are called plenary orders. These are non-emergency orders that are more permanent than an emergency order. A hearing is scheduled for 14 to 21 days when both parties meet before a judge, who decides whether to grant a plenary order. Plenary orders, which last up to two years, can involve complex provisions based on the evidence presented at the hearing.
Other Forms of Relief
A judge can provide many different types of relief beyond issuing a Cook County protection order.
For instance, a judge might order a perpetrator to:
- Move out of his home.
- Provide child support.
- Pay household bills.
In addition, a judge might order a stalker to:
- Change schools or employers.
- Avoid certain locations.
- Surrender her weapons or concealed carry license.
What Happens at a Hearing for a Cook County Protection Order?
Victims should bring every piece of evidence to the hearing; judges typically do not allow materials to be brought in after the proceedings have begun. Either party may use a lawyer or court advocate. In some cases, it’s appropriate to bring an eyewitness or a notarized witness statement. Both parties will be allowed to tell the judge how the law supports or doesn’t support the order.
- You can seek the state prosecuting attorney's assistance to get a harassment restraining order in criminal court. Use this option if the state is already prosecuting the harasser.
- You can also file for a protective order for one of your minor children, anyone in your household or an incapacitated adult.
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