Q: I was dating a guy but broke up with him because he was acting odd. Now I continue to get excessive text messages and phone calls from him which I do not return. Also, I think he has been following me and parking near my work and gym to keep an eye on me. His text messages imply that he knows where I am presently at. Can I do anything to stop this? He is scaring me.

A: For years, there have been anti-stalking and anti-harassment laws. However, law enforcement have not always been consistent regarding whether to actually file charges against a stalker/harasser. Having enough evidence to convince law enforcement to prosecute can sometimes be difficult to accumulate. For example, recently a University of Utah student athlete was killed by an ex-boyfriend, and we recently learned that this victim made several calls to Campus Police and Salt Lake City Police, without receiving any meaningful help.

However, about three years ago, the Idaho Legislature gave victims of stalking and harassment another tool to combat the harassment. A protective order may be sought by the victim against the harasser. Thus, you can bypass law enforcement if they are unwilling or unable to assist, and go directly to the court. Previously, a victim could only get a protection order if there had been a history of actual violence, or the threat of impending violence. In 2016, the Idaho Legislature added the ability to obtain a protection order for victims of malicious harassment and/or stalking, including telephone harassment.

To obtain a protection order, it would be necessary to show the court that your ex-boyfriend has continued to contact you, even though you have expressly told him that you desire the contact to be discontinued. A text message or email from you asking for contact to stop, and then evidence of continued calls, texting, or harassment from him after you asked, should be enough. If you continue to talk back to your ex-boyfriend through communications, the Court may consider his contact consensual.

A protection order such as this, pursuant to Idaho Code § 18-7907, can be filed at your local County courthouse. If the court initially grants the protection order based on your representations and evidence, then your ex-boyfriend would be served, and he would be entitled to a hearing within fourteen (14) days. At the hearing, the court could extend the protection order for up to one year at a time.

After you receive the protection order, if contact continues, or he violates the distance restriction put on him by the order, at your home, work, or gym, he could be arrested for violating the protection order.

Shan Perry is an attorney in Idaho Falls. This column is provided by the 7th District Bar Association as a public service. Submit questions to “It’s the Law,” P.O. Box 50130, Idaho Falls, ID 83405, or by email to rfarnam@holdenlegal.com. This column is for general information. Readers with specific legal questions should consult an attorney. A lawyer referral service is provided by calling the Idaho State Bar Association in Boise at 208-334-4500.