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Lake County, Ohio - Common Pleas Court General Division

Stalking

    Welcome to Lake County, Ohio - General Division Courts Stalking

    STALKING CIVIL PROTECTION ORDERS


    For explanation of different kinds of protection orders please see 
    The Supreme Court of Ohio's "Protection Orders Overview Card"


    The court's magistrates adjudicate stalking civil protection cases for the court.
     Their office telephone is (440) 350-2608.

    Section 2903.211 (Menacing by Stalking) of the Ohio Revised Code says that:

    (A) No person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person or cause mental distress to the other person.

    (B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of menacing by stalking, a misdemeanor of the first degree.  If the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a violation of this section involving the same person who is the victim of the current offense, menacing by stalking is a felony of the fifth degree.

    (C) As used in this section:

    (1) "Pattern of conduct" means two or more actions or incidents closely related in time, whether or not there has been a prior conviction based on any of those actions or incidents.

    (2) "Mental distress" means any mental illness or condition that involves some temporary substantial incapacity or mental illness or condition that would normally require psychiatric treatment.

    There are cases in which the stalking behavior lasts for many years and never turns violent but there are many cases that turn deadly quickly.

    Signs that are indicators of stalking:

    1. Persistent, harassing phone calls or visits, sending you mail or gifts despite the stalker being told that you don't want any contact with them.

    2. Waiting outside your home or workplace to simply watch your activity or to follow you.

    3. Threats, whether verbal, written, or relayed to a third party.


    Definitions you need to know

    Petitioner: The petitioner is the person asking the court for protection in the petition for a SCPO.

    Respondent: The respondent is the offender and the person against whom the petition for a SCPO is filed.

    If you are a victim of menacing by stalking you may apply for a SCPO if:

    1.      You are a resident of Lake County; and,

    2.      If you are not currently living with the respondent.


    Procedures for Obtaining a Stalking Civil Protection Order

    To obtain a SCPO you will need a petition for SCPO, which is available online or  from the Lake County Common Pleas Court Clerk's office.


    Attending the Ex-Parte Hearing

    You must complete the petition for a SCPO and attend an ex-parte hearing where a judge or magistrate will listen to your testimony. You must tell the judge or magistrate what the respondent did to make you fear that you (or your family) may be in danger.

    If the judge or magistrate determines that you or your family are in danger, he or she will issue an Ex-Parte Temporary SCPO and will set a second hearing date (full hearing) within ten court days, to give the respondent a chance to be heard.  You must appear at the full hearing.  Failure to do so may result in your ex-parte order being dismissed.

    The respondent is not "required" to attend the full hearing but must be served with notice of this hearing to respond to the petitioner's allegations of threat, as relayed in the petition and by testimony at the ex-parte hearing.

    If the respondent does not show up at the full hearing, you can still obtain a final SCPO, which can remain in effect for up to five years.  However, if the respondent is not served with the Ex-Parte SCPO Order before the date of the full hearing, the court will postpone the hearing until another date so the respondent can be served.  If this happens, the law requires that the Ex-Parte SCPO remain in effect until the full hearing is held.  If you do not show up at the rescheduled full hearing, your Ex-Parte SCPO may be dismissed.


    Attending the Full Hearing

    At the full hearing, you must tell your story again, with more detail.  Bring with you any witnesses, photographs, tapes, police reports or other evidence that will help you prove that the respondent injured you, attempted to injure you or threatened you (or your family).  You may also call the respondent as a witness to prove your case.

    The respondent may also present evidence and may call you as a witness and ask you questions.

    After all testimony has been given and all evidence presented, the judge or magistrate will decide whether you are entitled to a full hearing SCPO, which is a final appealable order that will remain in effect for five years, unless the court sets a different expiration date.

    By law, the court may not issue any orders against you unless the respondent has filed a separate action against you.


    Victim's Advocate

    Ohio law permits you to have a victim advocate with you at all times in court during protection order proceedings.  Contact the Lake County Prosecuting Attorney's office for advocate information.

    In addition to the ex-parte hearing and full hearing in the Common Pleas Court, you should attend all hearings as requested by the prosecutor and the court in any criminal case filed against the respondent.

    You do not have to obtain a SCPO before filing criminal charges for menacing by stalking in a criminal court.

    Tell the Common Pleas Court about any pending criminal cases.  Tell the Criminal Court about any pending Common Pleas Civil Court case.

    Because any temporary protection order (TPO) issued by a criminal court expires when the case is over (dismissal, plea, conviction), it maybe important to ask the Common Pleas Court for a SCPO even if a criminal court has issued a TPO. A TPO also expires when an SCPO is issued.

    Violation of a SCPO is a crime in Ohio.  If the respondent violates the SCPO, contact the police.  The respondent can be arrested if still in the area when police arrive. If the respondent is not arrested, make a police report and contact the prosecutor’s office.  You may then complete a form (motion for contempt) that is available from the clerk of court’s office, to file a contempt for violation action against the respondent.

    It will then be necessary for you to attend a contempt hearing where you must give testimony and present evidence regarding the violation of your SCPO.  Your failure to attend the contempt hearing may result in the contempt motion being dismissed.


    How do I get a SCPO?

    You must come in person to the Clerk of the Common Pleas Court, located in West Annex of the Lake County Courthouse, 25 N. Park Place, Painesville, Ohio.  The entire process of filling out the petition, having an ex-parte hearing, and processing the order will likely take at least an hour.


    Why get a SCPO?

    A SCPO may be very helpful if you are a victim of stalking.  A SCPO may stop the respondent from following and/or threatening you by ordering the respondent to stay away from you for up to five years. A SCPO lets the respondent know just how serious you are about wanting his or her behavior to change.


    Is there any cost involved in filing a petition for an SCPO?

    No.


    Will I need an attorney?

    No, but you will usually be better off having legal representation if the respondent is represented by an attorney.


    Is a court hearing with the respondent in attendance necessary?

    Yes.  You must be present at the full hearing or your temporary order may be dismissed.  If your personal safety after the hearing is a concern, there are sheriff's deputies available to escort you to your car.


    Will I need witnesses or evidence to prove my case?

    Yes, if available.


    May I use tape recordings as evidence?

    Tape recordings may or may not be used as evidence at the discretion of the court.


    What does it mean to be served with protection order papers?

    Initially, service means that the sheriff or other law enforcement agency gives a copy to the respondent personally.  Any ex-parte SCPO issued by the court must be served on the respondent before a full hearing.  Without service on the respondent, the court cannot hold a full hearing.


    What happens if the respondent hides, moves or otherwise avoids service?

    If the respondent cannot be served by a law enforcement official, the clerk at your instruction will attempt to serve them by certified mail. 


    Can the respondent be arrested before being served with the SCPO?

    No.  The respondent cannot be arrested for violation of the order or have a motion for contempt filed against them until they have been served with a copy of the order.


    Can I serve the respondent with a copy of the SCPO myself?

    No.  A law enforcement official or an officer of the court must serve the SCPO.


    Can I appeal a magistrate's decision?

    Yes.  Any appeal or objection of a magistrate's decision must be filed within a specific number of days of the court's file stamped date on the order.   A transcript of the hearing, from which the appeal is being filed, is usually required by the judge in order to review the decision made by the magistrate at the previous hearing.  The cost of the transcript will be the responsibility of the person filing the appeal.  The judge, upon a filed motion, may allow you to submit an audio recording in place of the transcript


    How can I get a transcript of a hearing and how much will it cost?

    Contact the Official Court Reporter of the Common Pleas Judge that held your hearing.


    Instructions for Completing the SCPO Petition

    These instructions are intended to assist you in preparing the petition for a Stalking Civil Protection Order (SCPO), which can only be heard by the Common Pleas Court in your county.  Throughout the petition you are called "petitioner" and the person who you are filing this against (the alleged stalker) is called "respondent."


    Some hints before you begin

    • Type or print ONLY on the petition.
    • Write your name on the petition the way it appears on your signature.
    • Write your name and respondent's name the same way throughout the petition.
    • Fill out the petition as completely and accurately as possible.
    • If you have any questions about completing the petition, ask for assistance.


    Filling out the petition

    • On the front page, leave the "Case No." and "Judge" lines blank. The office will fill in this information.
    • On the top left-hand side of the front page, fill in the requested information about yourself. If you do not want your present address to be known, write "confidential" in the space for your address, but list an address where you can receive notices from the court.
    • In addition, on the top left-hand side of the front page, fill in the requested information about respondent as best you can. You may use respondent's work address if you do not know respondent's home address.  If you do not know respondent's date of birth leave that line blank. Do not attempt to obtain this information unless it is safe to do so.
    • At item 1 on the application, if you are filing the petition on behalf of yourself, mark the first box.
    • At item 2, if you are filing the petition on behalf of a family or household member, mark the box and fill in their name(s) and the other information requested in the chart. You may attach additional pages if necessary.
    • At item 3, state the date(s) of the incident(s) that brought you to file the petition and provide a brief description of what happened that caused you to believe that the respondent will cause physical harm or mental distress to you or another family member.  Note: It is NOT required that respondent be related to you or the other family members in any way.  If you are aware of any prior convictions of the respondent for menacing by stalking, list what information you know about those convictions. You may attach additional pages if necessary to complete your description.
    • At item 4, indicate the action you want the court to take by marking the boxes next to the numbered paragraphs that apply to your situation.
    • At item 4(g), write any special court orders you believe would help ensure the safety and protection of you and your family or household members.
    • At item 5, be sure to mark the box next to item 5 if you need an emergency ("ex parte") protection order.
    • At item 9, list relevant present or past court cases or investigations that involve respondent.   Write the case name, the court, the case number and the outcome of the case, if known. You may attach additional pages if necessary.


    Signing the Petition

    Try to fill out the petition before you go the courthouse. DO NOT sign the petition unless you are in front of a notary public.


    Filing the Petition

    There is no filing fee for a SCPO petition.

    Stalking and Sexually Oriented Offenses Protection Order Forms may be downloaded in PDF format here.
    Domestic Violence Protection Order Forms may be downloaded in PDF format here.

    The freely available Adobe Acrobat reader is required to view and print PDF files.