Restraining Order

Anti-Stalking Orders in D.C.

An Anti-Stalking Order (ASO) in Washington D.C. is a court order directing a person to refrain from following, monitoring, placing under surveillance, threatening, interfering with or otherwise harassing another person.  Valid for up to 2 years, with the possibility of being renewed in one-year increments, the order is enforceable by criminal sanctions in the case of non-compliance.

For an attorney/lawyer with extensive experience litigating ASOs in D.C., representing both petitioners and respondents, please contact Jamison Koehler at 202-549-2374 or

The answers to the following frequently asked questions are provided below.  

What is stalking in D.C.?
What is an anti-stalking order in D.C.?
What is a temporary protection order?
How do I obtain an anti-stalking order?
How do I serve notice of the anti-stalking order on the other party?
What happens at the initial hearing?
Will I need a lawyer to represent me?
Can I force the other party to pay for my lawyer?
How much does it cost to get an anti-stalking order?
How long does an anti-stalking order remain in effect?

What is stalking in D.C.?

“Stalking” is defined generally as the following of another person by stealth. Alternatively, it can be the following or loitering near the other person, often surreptitiously, with the purpose of annoying or harassing him/her.

In order to secure a conviction for stalking in D.C., the government must first prove that the defendant engaged in a “course of conduct directed at a specific individual.”  Such a “course of conduct” could include following, monitoring, placing under surveillance, threatening or interfering with someone, either directly or through a third party.  “Course of action” is defined as occurring on two or more occasions, with each 24-hour period serving as a separate occasion.  

Second, the government must prove either that the defendant intended to cause the person to fear for his/her safety or the safety of another person or to feel seriously alarmed, disturbed or frightened or to suffer emotional distress or that the defendant knew or should have known would cause any one of these reactions.

In Mashaud v. Boone, 295 A.3d 1139 (D.C. 2023), the D.C. Court of Appeals narrowed the scope of the District’s stalking statute. Specifically, the Court clarified that any content-based speech restrictions under the statute apply only to those narrow categories that are not protected by the First Amendment: threats, obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement and speech integral to criminal conduct.

In this particular case, a D.C. court issued a civil protection order after the respondent emailed the petitioner’s place of work, contacted the petitioner’s family and friends of Facebook, and published a blog that detailed the petitioner’s affair with the respondent’s wife.

The petitioner was justified in feeling serious emotional distress, and the respondent knew or should have known that his actions would have this effect. At the same time, the respondent did not threaten or defame the petitioner. His speech did not incite criminal conduct. Nor was it obscene or fraudulent. Therefore, his conduct did not qualify as stalking for purposes of the statute.

What is an anti-stalking order (ASO) in D.C.?

Also known as a restraining or stay-away order, an ASO is a court order directing a person to refrain from stalking another person.  Based on the new law that took effect in April 2021, ASOs can last for two years, with renewal in one-year increments possible upon a finding of good cause.  A person who violates the order can be charged with a criminal offense.  The maximum penalty for violating an ASO or for being held in contempt of court is 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.  

The “petitioner” is the person requesting the order.  The “respondent” is the target of the order.   In cases in which the respondent also requests an ASO against the petitioner, the respondent becomes known as the “cross-petitioner.”

The typical ASO orders the respondent “not to commit or threaten to commit any crimes” against the petitioner and his/her friends and family.  It can require the respondent to “stay away from” specified persons and places; to participate in psychiatric, medical treatment or counseling programs; to relinquish possession or use of property; and to relinquish possession of any firearms. 

D.C. Superior Court only has authority to issue such orders in cases in which (1) the petitioner lives, works or attends school in D.C., (2) the petitioner is under the legal custody of a D.C. governmental agency, or (3) the underlying offense occurred in the District.   

What is a Temporary Protection Order (TPO)?

The initial request for an ASO will be heard by a judge at an ex parte hearing (that is, a hearing at which only one party is heard).  If the judge finds at that time that the petitioner is in danger of immediate harm, the court can issue a temporary protection order (TPO).  Violation of the TPO, once properly served, can also result in criminal charges.  

How do I obtain an ASO?

Requests for an ASO can be made in person at the Domestic Violence Intake Center (DVIC) at D.C. Superior Court, 500 Indiana Avenue, NW.  ASOs can also be requested remotely.  

How do I serve notice of the ASO on the other party?

The respondent must be served with a copy of the petition, the notice of hearing, and an order to appear.  The petitioner is not permitted to serve the petition him- or herself.   The documents can be served by anyone who is at least 18 years old and is not mentioned in the petition.  Contrary to popular perception, valid service does not require the respondent to accept the papers or to read them. 

What happens at the initial hearing?

CPO hearings are held in courtroom 113 or 114 of D.C. Superior Court.  Although the subpoena will require you to arrive at 8:30 am to check in, the judge usually does not take the bench until after 9:00 am.  Petitioners should sit on the left side of the courtroom; respondents on the right.  You should avoid any contact with the other party, including eye contact.  

Both parties will meet separately with an “attorney negotiator” before appearing before the judge.  The role of the attorney negotiator is to see if the parties would be willing to agree to some type of resolution short of a full hearing.  You should be aware that the attorney negotiator is not your lawyer and cannot give you legal advice.

If the petitioner is not present at the time the case is called, the petition will be dismissed.  If the respondent is not present, the court will issue the ASO by default. 

Will I need a lawyer to represent me?

Unable to afford a lawyer, most parties will appear pro se.  That is, they will represent themselves.   Such cases are usually resolved that day.  Although the judge can be expected to step in to protect the interests of both parties, this is no substitute for experienced counsel, both to advise you during the process and, if necessary, to contest the ASO at a hearing.  The rules of evidence are complicated and, in many cases, counterintuitive.  The rules for admitting exhibits, for example, can be complicated. So too are the rules that prohibit the introduction of hearsay evidence

Can I force the other party to pay for my lawyer?

Parties to a legal matter in the U.S. are typically required to cover their own legal fees.  This is the so-called “American Rule.”  At the same time, the statute governing ASOs in D.C. specifically provides for the assessment of attorney fees for a Petitioner who is successful in obtaining a protective order.  A prevailing Respondent must show that the Petitioner acted “in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons” in connection with the litigation. The purpose of this “bad faith” exception is to “punish those who have abused the judicial process and to deter those who would do so in the future.”  

How much does it cost to get an ASO?

There are no court filing or other costs associated with seeking an ASO in D.C.

How long does an ASO remain in effect?

An ASO can remain in effect for two years.  It can be extended for good cause show in one-year increments.  

Last updated:  September 7, 2023