A 46-year-old man from Des Plaines, Illinois, has been arrested and charged with one count of stalking 19-year-old singer and actress Selena Gomez, star of the TV show “Wizards of Waverly Place” and the movie “Monte Carlo.” A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has granted a three-year restraining order against the man and has set his bail at $150,000. The defendant has pled not guilty.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the defendant has a long history of mental illness, including two previous convictions for stalking. Although it is unclear whether the man made any direct contact with Gomez, the authorities apparently told her that the man had traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles to meet her, and that he had claimed to have had conversations with God about killing her.

Gomez cited that information in her request for a temporary restraining order, which was granted on Oct. 13. The request also stated that the man had visited Gomez’s workplace on at least three occasions.

Under California law, temporary restraining orders (TRO) are issued through an expedited process to protect vulnerable people. If someone applies for a TRO and submits reasonable proof of domestic violence, harassment or stalking, a TRO lasting 21 days is issued immediately. The court then schedules a hearing to determine if a permanent restraining order, which can last from three to five years, should be issued. Only at the hearing for the permanent restraining order does the defendant have a chance to offer a defense.

In this case, the Illinois man was presumably charged at the permanent restraining order hearing, which typically takes place 21 days after the temporary restraining order is issued. While he has not yet been found guilty of any crime, the permanent order requires him to stay at least 100 yards away from Gomez, her parents and an assistant who was apparently also felt to be at risk.

If it is found that any incidents of stalking took place after the temporary restraining order was in force, the Illinois man could be charged with a felony. Under California law, stalking while subject to a restraining order is a felony with a potential sentence of up to four years. Otherwise it can be charged as a misdemeanor.

Although this case involves the alleged stalking of a celebrity, in most cases stalking accusations arise out of domestic disputes. When allegations of stalking or harassment arise, emotions are often running very hot. Being denied the opportunity to talk to the person you’re in a dispute with can be extremely frustrating, and a TRO can also mean being forced to move out of the family home and prevented from having contact with your children.

Far too often, when people learn that someone has obtained a TRO against them, they react emotionally and try to engage in communication with that person, which can create a very sticky legal situation. If you have been accused of stalking, harassment or domestic violence, it is best to seek the advice of an attorney immediately and to avoid any contact with the accuser that might add fuel to the fire.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Selena Gomez’s accused stalker pleads not guilty,” Andrew Blankstein, Nov. 3, 2011