An emergency protective order is a type of restraining order that can be put into effect immediately. It provides for the immediate protection for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, stalking, harassment, and other types of crimes. Emergency protective orders, or EPO’s, provide the victim with more time to file for a more permanent restraining order.

Depending on the jurisdiction, an emergency protective order or emergency restraining order may be different from a temporary restraining order (TRO). Emergency protective orders are usually faster to obtain than a TRO. Either the victim or the police can contact a judge and ask for them to issue an EPO to prevent imminent harm, sometimes before a trial has even started. Also, an emergency protective order is often issued “ex parte” (without the other party being present at a hearing).

What Can an Emergency Protective Order Accomplish?

Even though an emergency protective order can be obtained in such a short time (sometimes a few hours), they can actually accomplish a lot in terms of protection for victims. 

A typical emergency protection order may address issues like:

  • Restraining the offender from contacting or communicating with the victim, except as allowed by the court;
  • Restraining the offender from committing further acts of abuse or violence;
  • Restraining the offending party from entering onto the property or damaging the property of the victim;
  • Restraining the offender from within a certain distance from the victim, or a certain distance from the victim’s residence, home, or school;
  • Preventing the offender from contacting the victim’s children or from coming within a certain distance from the children;
  • Requiring the offender to move out of the victim’s residence;
  • Granting temporary custody of children to the victim

In addition, a judge can also add other provisions to the emergency protective order as needed. For example, the judge can include specific instructions in the order that prohibit the offender from contacting the victim’s family members or spouse. 

How Long Is an EPO Enforceable For?

An emergency protective order is usually enforceable for only a very short time, generally less than a week. Again, their main purpose is to provide immediate protection while the petitioner files for a more lasting type of order, such as a temporary restraining order or a permanent restraining order. 

Temporary and permanent restraining orders may only become effective after a judgment has been issued in trial, and so the emergency protective order acts like a “placeholder” until more final orders are issued.

EPO’s are generally reserved for situations where the petitioner or the petitioner’s child faces immediate, imminent danger or risk of harm. Violations of an EPO can result in further criminal consequences for the offender, such as contempt of court. Violating an EPO can also negatively affect the offender’s chances in the future of obtaining child custody or visitation rights.

Should I Contact a Lawyer If I Need an Emergency Protective Order?

If you or a loved one is in need of immediate protection or assistance, you should contact local law enforcement authorities as well as a family lawyer immediately. The police and your lawyer can work in conjunction to get an emergency protective order in place right away to prevent further risks of harm. You may also retain the services of your attorney so they can provide you with counsel and representation during trial proceedings.