SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Monday that state law does not require victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to show an immediate threat of harm to obtain an order of protection from their alleged abusers. In a unanimous opinion, the court said “there is no language that indicates that a petition must state why a petitioner needs the order, or even language that requires proof of a petitioner’s need for the order.”
New Mexico law provides for protective orders for domestic abuse by household members such as a spouse or former spouse.
The law’s definition of domestic abuse also covers stalking and sexual assault by someone who isn’t a member of the victim’s household.
The court reached its decision by interpreting the language of the statute, concluding that victims must show “past or present domestic abuse” but not “a threat of future harm.”
The justices ruled in the case of a woman who, after turning 18 years old, sought a protective order against a man who allegedly had sexually abused her since she was the age of 12. A temporary order of protection was granted, but a permanent order was denied because a hearing officer concluded the woman had failed to prove the alleged abuser posed an immediate danger. The older man had not contacted her in more than a year, except for an encounter at church when the two did not speak.
A district court adopted the hearing officer’s dismissal order. The Supreme Court affirmed a state Court of Appeals decision that reversed the district court in Bernalillo County. A temporary order of protection will remain in place pending the outcome of the proceeding.
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