Restraining Orders in Pop Culture and in Connecticut

Restraining orders are one of the more common legal plot devices in movies and TV shows–often for comedic effect. In the Simpsons, Lisa took one out on Bart. Meadow’s college boyfriend in the Sopranos sought one on her crazy roommate. Sheldon of the Big Bang Theory is subject to at least one. In real life restraining orders are usually not a laughing matter. In Connecticut especially, they are reserved for relief from domestic abuse (for more information, go to my main site). Our law and courts only  allow for restraining orders for people in domestic relationships. Sec. 46b-15 of the Conn. General Statutes provides

(a) Any family or household member, as defined in section 46b-38a, who has been subjected to a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury, stalking or a pattern of threatening, including, but not limited to, a pattern of threatening, as described in section 53a-62, by another family or household member may make an application to the Superior Court for relief under this section.

Sec. 46b-38a defines household member as

(A) Spouses or former spouses; (B) parents or their children; (C) persons related by blood or marriage; (D) persons other than those persons described in subparagraph (C) of this subdivision presently residing together or who have resided together; (E) persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they are or have been married or have lived together at any time; and (F) persons in, or who have recently been in, a dating relationship.

Some states, notably California, have civil harassment restraining orders that protect against harassment and stalking from any person who is determined to be a threat. The restraining order against Sheldon is legally possible because the show is set in California. New York, like Connecticut, does not have a similar statute. The Sopranos restraining order is not legally accurate. That could be because TV writers tend to be located in California even though their shows might be set in other places. Additionally, restraining orders are entered by courts after application and hearings.

So what does one do if he or she is being harassed by a neighbor or other non-household member in Connecticut? Much of harassing, bad neighbor behavior likely falls within existing criminal statutes and civil causes of action. If you are facing the threat of abuse from a household member, you could apply for a civil restraining order.


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