Cyberbullying and cyberstalking have become some of the most talked about legal terms in recent decades as online interaction has had the unfortunate consequence of facilitating the ability of individuals to intimidate and harass others. State and federal laws do not always keep up to-the-minute with new technological developments, but Virginia has enacted laws which do address and prohibit cyberstalking. A common question, however, is whether a temporary or permanent restraining order can be obtained in Virginia for forms of online abuse. The answer is, in some cases, yes.
The Protective Order Standard in Virginia
A protective order, may be granted to a person in Virginia which prohibits another person from being in proximity with the grantee of the order or having contact with him or her if the following standards are met:
- There has been an act of violence, force, or a threat; and
- That act results in physical injury; or
- Places a person in “reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury”
Virginia law specifically states that acts that could qualify in meeting the standard for obtaining a protective order include stalking and “any criminal offense that…places one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.”
To the second point of a criminal offense, Virginia does have several criminal laws outlawing types of online abuse, which include:
- Using a computer or computer network to communicate obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious, or indecent language, or make any suggestion or proposal of an obscene nature, or threaten any illegal or immoral act, where there is an intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass another person
- Publishing certain personal information about a person online with the intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass that person
What Online Abuse Qualifies for a Protective Order in Virginia
Thus, putting the above information together, there could be a number of acts of online abuse in Virginia that could qualify as grounds for a restraining order, if the online abuse includes:
- A threat of violence that makes you reasonably afraid of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury
- Use of vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious language where there is an intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass
- The threat of an illegal or immoral act where there is an intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass
- The publication of personal information about you online where there is an intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass
Obtaining a Protective Order for Online Abuse in VA
There are three types of protective orders that can be obtained in Virginia: 1) an emergency protective order, which can granted immediately by a judge or a magistrate without the offender’s knowledge, and will last up to 3 days; 2) a preliminary protective order, which can be granted by a judge after an ex parte hearing, meaning the offender is not present and not aware of the hearing, and will last until a full hearing where the offender is given notice to will be present (up to 15 days); 3) a final protective order, which may be granted at a hearing before a judge at which the offender can attend, and can last up to 2 years.
Work with an experienced Virginia family law attorney who can provide specific guidance and representation in assessing your case and obtaining the protective order you need.
Schedule a Consultation With a Virginia Protective Order Attorney Today
At Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC in Fredericksburg, we will guide through all of your questions regarding obtaining a protective order in Virginia. To schedule a consultation with one of our Virginia attorneys, contact Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC at 540.642.1766.