Restraining Order Violation Penalties in California

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 How Does a Restraining Order Work in California?

A restraining order, also known as a protective order, is a court order that is intended to protect someone, the “protected person,” from being harassed, threatened, stalked, physically abused, or sexually abused by another person, the “restrained person.”

In California, there are a number of different types of restraining orders, as follows:

  • Personal Conduct Orders: Personal conduct orders are intended to stop the restrained person from committing specific acts against the protected person. The order may include more than one protected person, such as those in the same family or living in the same household. Some of the actions that the restrained person may be ordered to stop include:
    • Making any contact with the protected person, including calling, emailing, or messaging;
    • Harassing;
    • Stalking
    • Threatening;
    • Sexually or physically assaulting;
    • Destroying property;
    • Disturbing the peace, which is a broad term that can include things such as showing up at the protected person’s home and causing a scene or continued contact and harassment;
  • Stay-Away Orders: Stay-away orders order the restrained person to keep a specified distance away from the protected person and/or various locations. Those locations include, but are not limited to:
    • The protected person’s home;
    • The protected person’s workplace;
    • School or child care attended by the protected person’s children;
    • The protected person’s vehicle;
  • Residence Exclusion Orders: Residence exclusion orders, also known as “kick-out” or “move-out” orders, direct the restrained person to move out of the residence where the protected person lives. They are permitted to remove their clothing and personal belongings only until the court hearing.

Some other classifications of restraining orders include the following:

  • Domestic Violence Restraining Order: A domestic violence restraining order is used when the restrained person is a person with whom the protected person has a close relationship and who has abused them. It might be a spouse or domestic partner, someone the protected person had a romantic relationship with, someone they had a child with, or to whom the protected person is otherwise closely related, e.g., a family member;
  • Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse Restraining Order: A person who is 65 years old or older or someone over 18 with mental or physical disabilities that keeps them from being able to care for and protect themselves may obtain a restraining order. The restraining order might be obtained in order to protect an elderly or dependent adult from physical abuse, mental abuse, financial harm, neglect, or poor treatment by a caregiver who is depriving them of basic needs or services;
  • Civil Harassment Restraining Order: A civil harassment restraining order is used to protect a person who is being stalked, threatened, or abused by a person with whom they do not have a close relationship. The restrained person might be a distant relative, such as a cousin or nephew. This type of restraining order may also be used against a roommate, neighbor, or acquaintance;
  • Workplace Violence Restraining Order: Workplace violence restraining orders are intended to protect employees from harassment, violence, or credible threats of violence in the workplace. The employer must ask for a restraining order to protect the employee.

What Is the Punishment for Restraining Order Violation?

A restrained person may face criminal charges for violating a restraining order. In California, violating a restraining order is considered a “wobbler” offense. This means that the crime may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts and circumstances.

A first-offense violation of a restraining order would probably be charged as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor restraining order violation is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and payment of a fine of up to $1,000. Some violators might get probation. They would have to attend frequent meetings with their probation officer and might also be required to do community service, pay restitution, or participate in counseling sessions.

Can I Be Convicted of Felony for Violating a Restraining Order in California?

Some restraining order violations are considered felony offenses. If a person violates a restraining order in California, they may be charged with a felony and might face between 16 months and 3 years in jail and payment of a fine of up to $10,000.

Whether a violation is a misdemeanor or felony depends on the facts and circumstances of the particular violation and the criminal history of the violator. If the victim was injured when the order was violated, the punishment is likely to be more harsh. A violator with a criminal history will be more likely to face jail time for violating a restraining order.

If a person has a restraining order in effect against them, it is illegal for them to possess a firearm. Therefore, knowingly possessing a firearm when under a restraining order may lead to a criminal charge, even if the restrained person does not violate the order in any other way.

A felony conviction for violating a restraining order leads to the restrained person losing their right to own a gun. In California, anyone convicted of a felony is not allowed to own or possess a firearm. A local attorney in California would be able to explain this in greater detail.

Are There Tougher Penalties for Violating an Order a Second Time Within a Year of the First Violation?

A restrained person who commits a second or subsequent violation of a restraining order faces harsher punishment than a first-time offender. While the violation is not automatically charged as a felony, the punishment is likely to be more severe the second time. A second violation that is within 1 year of the first definitely leads to a harsher penalty and a larger fine.

Is Supervised Probation a Sentencing Option?

Not every restraining order violation will result in jail time for the offender. In some cases, the court may determine that supervised probation is an appropriate punishment. A defendant who receives supervised probation for a restraining order violation in California will be required to do some or all of the following:

Violating the terms of probation, including another violation of the restraining order, would result in the violator going to jail for violating a restraining order.

What are Some Defenses to Violating a Restraining Order in California?

Some defenses for violating a restraining order may be available in California as follows:

  • Lack of Intent: A person must be aware that there is a restraining order against them if they are to have the intent required to violate it. A lack of intent defense would be appropriate if the restrained person accidentally ran into or had a chance encounter with the protected person in a public place or social function where both parties have a right to be present;
  • Invalid Order: The restraining order is not lawful: A violator might be able to argue that the restraining order was not legal or there was no legal basis for the judge to have issued the order in the first place.

Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer for My Restraining Order Violation Charge?

If you have been accused of violating a restraining order, you want to consult a criminal defense lawyer. can quickly connect you to an experienced restraining order lawyer in California who will be able to review the facts of your case, advise you of your rights, and prepare any defenses that might be available. They can also represent you in court.


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