A regular restraining order can take time to get, because of the process it has to go through in the court system. When more immediate intervention is needed, an emergency protective order may be available. It functions like a restraining order, but can be put into place much more quickly. This type of protection is commonly needed in situations with victims of spousal abuse (domestic violence) and child abuse.

It is also commonly sought by victims of stalking and other types of harassment. Emergency protective orders keep victims safe until more permanent protective orders can be put in place. They may be referred to as EPOs.

Emergency protective orders may or may not differ from a temporary restraining order (TRO), depending on the jurisdiction. Most commonly, though, emergency protective orders can be put into place more quickly than TROs. With an EPO, the victim can contact the police, who can contact a judge and ask that an EPO be provided. This is done in cases where the victim fears for their safety or their life if protection from their abuser is not immediately established.

Because EPOs are issued so quickly, they usually do not involve the court proceedings required of permanent restraining orders. Also, although both parties are typically required to be present at a hearing, EPO hearings are often held without the presence of the abuser.

The victim will be required to give an account of the violence they have suffered, and why they believe they are in imminent danger. Evidence such as calls to the police and medical care required for injury should be included. Victims should file an EPO application with their county court describing this type of information (many courts have forms and don’t charge a fee). Most likely, they will be brought before a judge within 24 hours. An EPO order from a judge should be shared with your local police department to enhance your protection.

What Can an Emergency Protective Order Accomplish?

Emergency protective orders can be very useful in cases where victims fear immediate danger to themselves or to their children. They allow victims to keep their abusers away from them, even from a home where they both live.

An emergency protective order may also:

  • Prohibit the abuser/offender from trying to contact the victim in any fashion, unless certain types of communications are expressly allowed;
  • Prohibit the offender from seeking to do further violence to the recipient of the EPO;
  • Prohibit the offender from damaging any of the victim’s property;
  • Require the offender to stay a certain distance away from not only the victim’s home, but from schools and places of work of victims.
  • Prohibit the offender from contacting the victim’s children, whether or not they have also been subject to abuse;
  • Require the offender to officially move out if they share a home with the victim; and
  • An EPO may even take custody of any children involved away from the offender.

Although certain items are standard for an emergency protective order, a judge may add or delete provisions to an EPO as needed, in order to provide protections necessary to a specific situation. This may include further restrictions on who the offender may visit or contact, and places the offender must avoid.

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How Long is an Emergency Protective Order Enforceable?

Emergency protective orders are not meant to be permanent. They may only stay in place for as little as a few days. This is because their purpose is to provide protection from imminent danger while a more permanent order, such as a restraining order or temporary restraining order, can be put in place. More permanent orders of protection require greater legal safeguards, so that both parties to the matter can present their case to a judge, in the interest of fairness.

However, since these permanent orders do take a little longer to issue, EPOs exist to protect victims when there is a serious need. A victim, or their children, must be in immediate fear for their safety (even their lives) in order for this type of order to be issue. It is not meant to be used merely to prevent merely annoying behavior.

EPOs are quite serious, and can lead to serious consequences for their targets (including loss of their children), so it is important when establishing a permanent restraining order to be sure all information is in evidence.

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

You will most likely want to engage the services of a criminal lawyer as soon as you realize you are in need of a protective order. You should also contact the police if you are in danger from an abuser or offender.

Your lawyer can help smooth the process of obtaining protective orders and working with the police on your behalf. You will also want their representation when you appear at trial for a permanent protective order.