If someone is harassing, threatening, stalking or abusing you, South Carolina law provides certain protections. The measures you take will depend on both the nature and severity of the unwanted attention and on the determination of the offender.
Many victims consider a restraining order as a first measure of protection. These orders can be effective, but it is important to understand what they can and cannot do.
Harassment and stalking
Harassment is a pattern, meaning at least two recorded incidents, of “intentional, substantial, and unreasonable intrusion” into your life. This may include anything from following you around to continuing to contact you after you have made clear that the contact was unwanted. In contrast, stalking causes you to fear for the well-being of yourself or a family member. Stalking becomes aggravated when it erupts into actual violence.
You are a candidate for a restraining order if you can show that you have been a victim of either of these behaviors.
Violating a restraining order in South Carolina is a criminal offense. A first offense is a misdemeanor and can result in jail time and fines. Punishments increase with each incident, but that is hardly welcome news for a victim.
In short, a protective order is only as strong as the offender’s desire to avoid fines and stay out of jail. These measures work in many cases, but they only serve to aggravate the offender’s activity in others. Also, they are by nature temporary; while you can renew them, this process is not sustainable if you have reason to believe the behavior will be ongoing.
If you believe a restraining order will not be enough to stop your harasser, you may consider filing criminal charges. This can sometimes result in jail time without the risk of another incident. The fines and length of jail time will depend on the severity of the offense, any prior convictions and whether or not a restraining order was in place at the time of the incident.
It is important to note that if the offender is a member of your family, you may need to follow a different legal process. Research domestic violence law to find answers on how to get help. Regardless of the action you take, be sure to collect and provide any evidence you can. Photographs, witnesses, medical reports, phone records and any other documents will only help your case.