Protective Orders

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What is a Protective Order?

A protective order is a court-ordered injunction that is typically issued in connection with domestic violence cases.  They usually order the offender to keep from coming into contact with the victims of spousal or child abuse.  For example, the protective order may prohibit the defendant from coming within 15 feet of the persons they have physically assaulted.   

Protective orders are usually temporary in nature, though some can last up to a few years.  In some instances, a protective order can also require the offender to pay damage for losses connected with property destruction or physical injury.  Protective orders may be called by various terms in different jurisdictions, such as “temporary restraining order” or “child protection order”. 

How Long do Protective Orders Last?

Protective orders can have a wide range of duration, depending on the jurisdiction as well as the purpose of the order.  A protective order will typically be valid for one year, with the possibility of extension.  In some states, protective orders are enforceable for up to three years, while some states only enforce them for 90 days. 

If protection is still needed after a protective order expires, the victim can sometimes file for a permanent injunction that will last indefinitely.  However, such extensions usually require a showing that the victim will continue to be exposed to physical harm from the defendant. 

How are Protective Orders Obtained?

Protective orders are usually granted at the same time that a criminal trial for domestic violence is filed.  At the beginning of trial or even prior to trial, a preliminary hearing may be held to determine whether the victim is in immediate threat of harm.  If it is determined that immediate protection is needed, the judge can grant the protective order before trial has been completed.

In some cases, a protective order can be granted “ex parte” (without the offending party being present at the hearing).  However, ex parte protection orders are usually only granted if there is enough evidence that the victim is under an immediate threat of harm or injury.  Ex parte protective orders can also be granted if there is evidence that a prior court order will be violated. 

What if a Protective Order is Violated?

A violation of a protective order is generally classified as a separate crime in itself.  This can result in criminal penalties for the violator, including fines and increased jail time.  Typical maximum penalties for violating protective order are a $1,000 fine and/or one year maximum in jail. 

A showing of actual physical harm or violence is not required to prove that a protective order was violated.  For example, the protective order may prohibit the offender from contacting the victim through any means.  If the offender attempts to contact the victim, this can be considered a violation, even if no harm resulted to the victim. 

In other words, violations of protective orders depend on the requirements stated in the order itself.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues with Protective Orders?

Situations involving domestic violence or abuse are very serious and are not treated lightly by legal authorities.  If you have any issues at all involving domestic violence, you may wish to contact a lawyer immediately.  Your lawyer can help you obtain a protective order or other legal remedies.  Protective orders can also be obtained for persons such as children who are exposed to domestic violence but did not directly suffer physical harm. 

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Last Modified: 09-07-2011 02:33 PM PDT

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