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What Is the Harassment Process in Wisconsin?

by | Dec 21, 2022

Harassment can come in many forms. While this is true, we are discussing situations involving a spouse, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, or someone else you have a close relationship with. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you are being harassed, stalked, or threatened, you may want to take legal action. However, before pursuing any type of legal remedy, there are a few things to know. 

A good way to know your rights and ensure they are protected is to contact an experienced attorney. We have the know-how, experience, and expertise to help you with this legal matter. 

Here you can learn more about getting a restraining order and the process that you must follow to get a court-ordered injunction. 

Prerequisites for a Harassment Injunction

You will find several options to consider when it comes to acquiring action against someone who is harassing you. One option is the harassment injunction. 

While this does not provide an instant solution to your issues, it can provide some legal protections that authorities can enforce. 

You may qualify for a harassment injunction if the actions and behavior of the person you seek protection from fall into one or both categories outlined in Wisconsin Statute section 813.125(1). 

These categories include the following: 

  • Kicking, shoving, striking, or subjecting another person to some type of violent physical conduct. It includes an act that constitutes abuse based on Wisconsin Statute section 48.02(1), or that is considered sexual assault or stalking. It also includes someone who attempts to do these things or threatens them. 
  • Engaging in conduct or repeated acts that intimidate or harass another person and do not have a legitimate purpose. 

Acquiring a Civil Harassment Injunction in Wisconsin

The process that you must follow to obtain a civil harassment injunction is described here. 

Apply for the Temporary Restraining Order 

When seeking an injunction in Wisconsin, the first step is to acquire a TRO (temporary restraining order). The forms needed to do this can be found and filled out on the Wisconsin Court System website (wicourts.gov). 

To complete the request for the temporary restraining order, you (who from this point is referred to as the petitioner) must have specific information about the person they are alleging is harassing them (who from this point is referred to as the respondent). 

While this is true, the petitioner may not know or have access to all the information needed. The information required to fill out these forms includes the following:

  • Respondent’s name
  • Respondent’s address
  • Respondent’s gender
  • Respondent’s birthdate
  • Respondent’s height
  • Respondent’s weight
  • Respondent’s hair color
  • Respondent’s eye color

When the respondent is accused of threatening the petitioner using a weapon (or with a weapon), the type of weapon in question and its location (if known) need to be identified. If there is a situation where the actions or conduct of the respondent has escalated to a point where law enforcement must be involved and criminal charges or citations are issued, the case number must be added to the documents requesting the temporary restraining order. Additionally, the person who is filling out the paperwork must indicate if there has been a no-contact order issued. 

Once this information is complete, you must complete your sworn statement of all the facts related to the situation. In your own words, you must include what happened, when, and where the harassment occurred. In this statement, you must also list who did what to someone else. 

The statement that you create needs to be signed in the presence of a notary. 

Remember, there are only two lines for you to write this description. While this is true, you can include additional pages with your petition for any information you need to add. As the petitioner, you need to make sure you are as specific as possible and include as many details as possible about what happened. 

The Court Determines if a Temporary Restraining Order Will be Issued

The judge or commissioner will focus on the grounds when deciding if a temporary restraining order should be issued. There must be reasonable grounds to believe that a respondent has engaged in some type of harassment intending to intimidate or harass the petitioner. 

If your statements are too general, they will not meet the statutory requirements. The court will review your petition and determine if a temporary restraining order should be issued. This will only happen if the facts have met the burden of proof. 

The respondent must not be notified before the court issues the temporary restraining order. 

The next factor is remedies. In this situation, the court can provide remedies in the situation before the scheduled hearing to determine the outcome of the restraining order request. A few orders can be issued by the court based on the situation, along with the ones already listed on the TRO documents. These include the following:

  • The court can order the respondent to avoid contacting or having someone other than the person’s lawyer or a law enforcement officer contact the petitioner without written consent from the petitioner. 
  • The court may order that the respondent avoid going to the petitioner’s home or residence or any other location they are occupying. This includes current and future businesses and residences. 
  • If part of the harassment the petitioner is dealing with involves threats with firearms, the court may order that the respondent surrenders their firearms to the county sheriff where they reside. 
  • If the parties currently live together, the court may order that, after being requested, a law enforcement officer escorts the petitioner to put them in possession of the residence. 

Some harassment or abuse victims are hesitant to leave their homes if they must leave their pets behind. Because of this, the Wisconsin statute has been amended, and now the court order includes rules that state the respondent cannot mistreat, damage, harm, or hide household pets and that a friend or family member can retrieve the animal for the petitioner. 

The Temporary Restraining Order is Filed with the Clerk of Court’s Office

After you are granted a temporary restraining order, the petitioner has to file it with the clerk of the court office. While there will be a fee that must be paid to file this harassment injunction, it may be waived if the court discovers that the conduct they are accused of alleged the following:

  • It is similar or the same actions that Wisconsin statutes have prohibited
  • It is an intentional infliction of illness, injury, or physical pain
  • It is an intentional impairment or physical condition
  • It is a violation of Wisconsin Statutes section 904.225(1), (2), or (3) or 943.01 that involves property that belongs to the person
  • It is a threat of engaging in any of the conduct or actions mentioned above

Serve the Respondent with the Temporary Restraining Order 

Once the documents are filed, the petitioner serves the respondent a copy of the temporary restraining order. It can be done by the county sheriff’s department where the respondent lives, or a private process server can handle it. 

If the petitioner requests there be a restriction order for firearms, then the respondent must also be served with the orders and notices outlined in Wisconsin Statutes. 

The petitioner must show due diligence to get a copy of the TRO to the respondent. If they have done this, but have been unsuccessful, then the petitioner has the right to request an extension of 14 days for the order. It is required that the petitioner file an affidavit with the court to notice. When this is done, the information must include the names of both the petitioner and respondent, the notice that the TRO was issued, and the time, place, and date of the hearing. 

Attend the Scheduled Permanent Injunction Hearing

It is required that the hearing for the permanent injunction is filed within 14 days of the TRO being issued. During the injunction hearing, the petitioner can present witnesses and evidence supporting their claims. The rules of evidence will apply during this hearing. 

While witnesses have to be available to be cross-examined, some courts allow this testimony to be given over the phone or by way of video conferencing. 

During this hearing, the respondent can present their case, too. While the respondent may want to request that certain restrictions be placed on the petitioner, this cannot be done at the hearing for the other party’s request for an injunction. The respondent would be required to file their own request for a temporary restraining order. 

Hire an Attorney for Help with the Legal Process

As you can see, there are multiple steps in the process of getting an injunction. In many situations, it is in your best interest to hire and use the services of an attorney. Doing this will help you get the best possible outcome for your situation. 

We have years of experience helping those who need this type of injunction. Contact our office to schedule an initial consultation. 

Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

Criminal Defense | Family Law

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