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Jessica F. v. Clinton C. F.

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

June 7, 2007

Jessica F.
v.
Clinton C. F.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

The petitioner appeals an order of the trial court dismissing her stalking petition. See RSA 633:3-a (Supp. 2006). She argues that the trial court erred in requiring that she prove all of the acts alleged in her petition. We vacate and remand.

RSA 633:3-a, III-a provides that a person who has been the victim of stalking may file a civil petition in district court. "Upon a showing of stalking by a preponderance of the evidence, the court shall grant such relief as is necessary to bring about a cessation of stalking." RSA 633:3-a, III-a. The types of relief available, applicable procedures and burdens of proof and the methods of notice are the same as those set forth in RSA chapter 173-B. Id.

RSA 633:3-a, I, provides in relevant part that a person engages in stalking if he "[p]urposely, knowingly, or recklessly engages in a course of conduct targeted at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her personal safety . . . and the person is actually placed in such fear" or "[p]urposely or knowingly engages in a course of conduct targeted at a specific individual, which the actor knows will place that individual in fear for his or her personal safety."

In this case, the petition alleged that on four occasions on specified dates, the respondent came into the victim's room around 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning and exposed himself by way of masturbating. The trial court found that the respondent's acts were targeted at the petitioner, that she was placed in fear and that it was reasonable for her to be fearful. However, the trial court then stated that the "petition and the law requires that the allegations in the petition be proven" and ruled that the petitioner had to prove that the respondent exposed himself and masturbated because those acts were alleged in the petition. The court concluded that she failed to prove those acts.

We decline to construe RSA 173-B:3 to require that every allegation in a stalking petition be proved before a protective order can issue. Rather, RSA 173-B:3 requires that a respondent know the allegations against him prior to the hearing on the petition. Cf. State v. Wright, 126 N.H. 643, 649 (1985) (in assault case, as long as some evidence of bodily injury as alleged, cumulative or superfluous details may be properly disregarded as surplusage). In this case, the victim did not attempt to add additional allegations but rather did not prove all of the allegations in her petition. The trial court found that the respondent's acts were targeted at the victim, that the victim was placed in fear and that it was reasonable for her to be fearful. The trial court erred as a matter of law by ruling that the petitioner was required to prove every allegation in her petition. The petitioner was required to prove only sufficient facts to establish stalking. See RSA 633:3-a, III-a. Because we cannot determine how the trial court would have ruled had it applied the correct standard of law, we vacate its order dismissing the petition and remand.

Vacated and remanded.

DALIANIS, DUGGAN and GALWAY, JJ., ...


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