Oklahoma Protective Order Laws: An Update
Updated: May 12, 2022
On May 11, 2022, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a new bill that changes the law on protective orders. This new law makes it easier to file a protective order against a non-relative who lives in the same household as you do.
The previous law on protective orders
Previously, the law said that if you were a victim of “harassment” or “domestic abuse”, you could only file a protective order against someone if
· The defendant was related to you by blood or marriage, or
· You were in a dating relationship with the defendant.
The law defined “harassment” and “domestic abuse” as follows:
· Domestic abuse: “any act of physical harm or the threat of imminent physical harm which is committed by an adult, emancipated minor, or minor child thirteen (13) years of age or older against another adult, emancipated minor or minor child.”
· Harassment: “a knowing and willful course or pattern of conduct … directed at a specific person which seriously alarms or annoys the person, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress and must actually cause substantial distress to the person. ‘Harassment’ shall include, but not be limited to, harassing or obscene telephone calls in violation of Section 1172 of Title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes and fear of death or bodily injury.”
If the defendant wasn’t related to you by blood or marriage, or you weren’t in a dating relationship with the defendant, you could only file a protective order if you were a victim of stalking, rape, forcible sodomy, a sex offense, kidnapping, assault and battery with a deadly weapon, or if you were a member of the immediate family of a first-degree murder victim.
Also, if the defendant wasn’t related to you by blood or marriage, or you weren’t in a dating relationship with the defendant, and you filed the protective order because you were a victim of stalking, you had to first report the stalking incident to the police before you filed for a protective order. Then, when you filed your protective order petition in court, you had to file a copy of the police report.
“Stalking” is defined as
“the willful, malicious, and repeated following or harassment of a person by an adult, emancipated minor, or minor thirteen (13) years of age or older, in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to feel frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested and actually causes the person being followed or harassed to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested. Stalking also means a course of conduct composed of a series of two or more separate acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose or unconsented contact with a person that is initiated or continued without the consent of the individual or in disregard of the expressed desire of the individual that the contact be avoided or discontinued. Unconsented contact or course of conduct includes, but is not limited to:
a. following or appearing within the sight of that individual,
b. approaching or confronting that individual in a public place or on private property,
c. appearing at the workplace or residence of that individual,
d. entering onto or remaining on property owned, leased or occupied by that individual,
e. contacting that individual by telephone,
f. sending mail or electronic communications to that individual, or
g. placing an object on, or delivering an object to, property owned, leased or occupied by that individual”
What led to the law change: The death of Stephen Bernius
In 2021, Stephen Bernius rented a room in his home to Cody O’Bryan. Mr. O’Bryan threatened Mr. Bernius multiple times, and Mr. Bernius filed for a protective order against Mr. O’Bryan. However, the judge denied the protective order, because Mr. Bernius was not related to Mr. O’Bryan by blood or marriage. Also, the judge believed that Mr. Bernius could not show that he was a victim of stalking, rape, forcible sodomy, a sex offense, kidnapping, assault, and battery with a deadly weapon, or a member of the immediate family of a first-degree murder victim.
Two days after the judge denied Mr. Bernius’ protective order petition, Mr. O’Bryan shot and killed Mr. Bernius. This incident revealed a serious deficiency in the protective order law then on the books. Mr. Bernius’ mother contacted her local state representative, and the legislature introduced a new law.
The new law on protective orders in Oklahoma
Under the new law, if you are a victim of “harassment” or “domestic abuse” you may file a protective order against someone if
· The defendant is related to you by blood or marriage, or
· You are, or have been, in a dating relationship with the defendant, or
· The defendant is “living in the same household” as you are.
“Living in the same household” means
a. persons who regularly reside in the same single-dwelling unit,
b. persons who resided in the same single-dwelling unit within the past year, or
c. persons who have individual lease agreements whereby each person has his or her own private bedroom and shares the common areas.
Also, if you are a victim of stalking, and you and the defendant were “living in the same household” within the past year, you don’t have to file a police report before you file the protective order petition.
The remainder of the Oklahoma protective order law remains unchanged. As you can see, the recent change to the protective order law is relatively narrow and applies only to the situation faced by Stephen Bernius.
To see the new law as amended, click here.
Do you have a protective order issue? Contact the Persaud Law Office
The law on protective orders is quite complicated. Also, protective order laws in Oklahoma have changed frequently in recent years. The Persaud Law Office has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in protective order cases. If you need representation in a protective order case, we may be able to help you. Contact us today.
For further information on protective order laws in Oklahoma, read my earlier blog post here.
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