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how long does a harassment charge stay on your record

Although it can happen without official charges being filed, many individuals wonder, does a harassment order go on your record? The answer is both yes…and no.

Because harassment orders are very similar to protection orders (which can proceed with a restraining order, or be extended as a type of restraining order) they are typically considered public records. In other words, this sort of court-ordered document will usually show up on a level 2 criminal background check. This leads many people to wonder whether a failed background check after starting job tasks can happen. And it’s a legitimate concern, especially if the harassment order is (or was) work related.

Since many states have passed legislation that ensures anyone can look up protection orders, like a sex offender registry (which is designed to prevent crime by making people aware of potentially violent individuals), it’s important to understand the differences between these types of criminal records (like what disqualifies you from a level 2 background check) and how to search for them using official records.

However, accessing ‘protection orders’ is a bit different in every state and some states utilize different terms to explain the same thing, so how can it be done? The following guide provides all the information needed to answer “does a harassment order go on your record,” and delivers step-by-step instructions on how to search these types of orders in any state.

Keep in mind, if the harassment order was “sealed” or “expunged” through court processes, then it is erased from the record. Only certain law agencies will even be able to find it.

Civil Order Vs Criminal Order

Basically, if a civil order is issued for harassment or protection, this will NOT go on a criminal record. It will only appear on someone’s criminal record if that person violates the order.

A criminal protection order, or a criminal harassment order will show up on a background check as part of the criminal record.

Is A Harassment Order The Same As A Restraining Order? (Restraining Order Vs Order Of Protection)

Harassment order, restraining order, and order of protection are terms that are all used interchangeably at times, and different states have different meanings for each.

Although they are all quite similar there are important legal distinctions that separate one from the other, depending on the state where the order occurred. But the end result of all of these is the same, one individual is not allowed to go near another individual, business, piece of property, etc.

The real distinction lies in the time frame relative to the order and whether the order stems from a civil or criminal incident. For example, in some states, protection orders are issued quickly, designed to ensure someone’s safety, and they act as temporary restraining orders. Then, after a hearing, these orders will be transformed into a more lasting lasting restraining order or occasionally dropped for lack of evidence.

Related Reading: How to Find Someone’s Criminal Record Without them Knowing

Restraining Order (aka Harassment Order)

Legally speaking, the main difference between a restraining order and an order of protection is why they are filed. A restraining order is usually the result of a civil case and granted on a temporary basis. One individual will need probable cause to file a restraining order to protect themselves from abuse, violence, threats or other potential harm. This will be filed by an individual and then a judge will decide if the individual is in imminent danger to decide if the restraining order should be granted.

Remember that all states have their own terminology and processes (outlined below), but anyone can find out what shows up on fingerprint background check reports by contacting their state police department.

Order of Protection

On the other hand, an order of protection is usually the result of a criminal case. For example in a domestic abuse case, a judge may decide to file an order of protection in order to protect the alleged victim from their abuser. This will also extend to any witnesses and forbids the individual from having any contact with the defendant.

Although the end result is the same, an order of protection usually lasts the duration of the criminal case, whereas a restraining order will last up to 14 days after first being filed. During this 14-day period, there will be a hearing in front of a judge to decide whether or not the temporary restraining order will become a permanent restraining order.

Also, remember that laws can change frequently, like California background check laws, 2022 saw changes that impact what potential employers can see.

How Do You Search Harassment Orders on Your Record in All 50 States

Individuals who have had a restraining order filed against them will likely wonder “does a harassment order go on your record?” Unless the court documents have been sealed for some reason, all restraining orders are considered public information. Since searching public records is how background checks work, restraining orders will likely show up on the record.

Searching state court records (similar to the way for finding old arrest records) is a relatively easy and straightforward process. Since virtually every state has an online case search system for state court cases, the process can usually be completed in a few minutes.

Searching Harassment Orders

Individuals asking Does a harassment order go on your record will also be wondering how to find harassment order records. Luckily, this can be done fairly easily with the use of state court case search tools. This is also the method that can be used for how to find out if someone has a felony for free, since most searches are free to access, but a report will cost a small amount.

Step 1: Access the State Court website

The first thing to do is access the official state courts website for your specific state. This will have information about how to search the state court case search.

For example, the Montana judicial branch website has a link to search Montana Supreme Court dockets by name or case number.

Step 2: Perform Search

Once the case search tool has been located, simply follow each state’s unique step to perform a search. The case number is usually the best way to perform the search but using the first and last name of an individual should also work. 
Keep in mind that some states may require users to create an account and or pay a small fee to perform searches and obtain results.

Orders of Protection Rules: All 50 State

Each state has its own unique laws and rules regarding orders of protection. This includes when they can be filed, what they permit the individual to do and not do, as well as how long they can be enforced before the order of protection is dropped or renewed.

For example, anyone can fill out a petition to have protection, harassment or restraining order filed. In general, most states grant these temporary orders without much delay.

However, the temporary order must be examined by a court to be changed into a lasting or permanent one.

A state’s legal code contains information on the specific regulations regarding the order of protection laws, which can often be found on the state judiciary website.

How Long Does A Harassment Charge Stay On Your Record

In most states, a harassment charge will stay on your record indefinitely. Just like any other criminal record, most states do not have any laws regarding how long it can show up on a record.

There are several states that are referred to as “seven-year states,” which only allow background checks to show criminal history information going back 7-10 years. (Related reading: How Far Back Do Background Checks Go?)

In short, harassment charges will stay on your record for as long as state law allows, which in most cases is an indefinite amount of time, especially if the order is connected to a recent arrest. What to know how to find recent arrests? Use the same steps outlined above, or follow the steps for finding out do police reports go on your record.

What Happens When There’s a Harassment Order or Restraining Order Violation?

Harassment orders and restraining order violations are very serious matters.

Those wondering “does a harassment order go on your record?” should know by now that the answer is yes, and the same is true for violations of the order. In general, what happens will depend on state law and the manner in which the restraining order was broken.

In most cases, this will be a misdemeanor at the very least, which can be punishable by jail time. More serious violations may result in felony charges.

Related Reading: How long do misdemeanors stay on your record? And: How to find out if someone is a felon.

Restraining orders are a serious matter. Individuals who find themselves on either side of a restraining order should contact an attorney. An attorney will be able to provide a more details about “Does a harassment order go on your record,” with an answer that is specific to local laws and the unique circumstances of the case.