A victim of domestic violence, sexual abuse or stalking doesn’t need to show an immediate threat of harm to obtain an order of protection under New Mexico law, the state’s highest court ruled Monday.

A unanimous New Mexico Supreme Court found that a lower court erred when it denied a permanent protection order for a Bernalillo County woman who failed to prove that a man who had sexually abused her as a child posed an immediate danger to the woman.

Justices ruled that state law “does not require a showing of immediate need for a domestic violence order of protection,” Justice David Thomson wrote for the five-member court.

Justices remanded the case to district court for a new hearing and ordered a temporary order of protection to remain in place pending a new hearing.

The state’s Family Violence Protection Act “relies on a showing of past or present domestic abuse, and it does not require a showing of a threat of future harm,” Thompson wrote. The law only requires that “domestic abuse has occurred.”

The Supreme Court ruled in the case of a woman who sought a protective order from a man who allegedly sexually abused her beginning in 2016 when she was about 12 and the man was 20, the opinion said. She testified that the man raped her “uncountable” times at her home, in his car, and at a church retreat.

In 2021, when the woman turned 18, a district court judge found probable cause that abuse had occurred and issued a temporary protection order. But a hearing officer later declined to make the order permanent, finding that the woman failed to show “an immediate need for an order of protection.”

The hearing officer found that the man had not contacted her in nearly two years except for a brief encounter at church when the two did not speak, the opinion said. A district court judge upheld the dismissal after reviewing the hearing officer’s finding.

The New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed the district court order in November 2021, finding that the district court erred by requiring the woman to show an immediate threat when seeking a protective order.

The Supreme Court opinion upheld the Court of Appeals ruling, finding that state law contains “no language that indicates that a petition must state why a petitioner needs the order, or even language that requires proof of a petition’s need for the order.”