In some situations, our court system will stop you from having contact with certain people. This usually happens because you have been charged with a crime, or because that person filed a claim with the court stating that you harmed them. There are two main ways that the court system can stop you from contacting another person – the criminal protective order and the civil restraining order. I will discuss both here.
Criminal Protective Order
A criminal protective order is a formal court order entered by a criminal court judge. Its purpose is to protect the victim of an alleged crime from further contact with the defendant. Criminal protective orders accompany criminal charges. In a domestic violence case, the protected party is usually a spouse, child, family member, intimate partner, or household member.
Once a criminal protective order is entered with the court, it stays in effect until the end of your case, or until it is formally modified by the judge. Criminal protective orders can restrict or entirely prohibit your contact with the protected party depending upon the restrictions imposed. Typical protective orders include:
- “Full no contact” orders (the most restrictive).
- “Residential stay-away” orders (middle level restriction).
- “No threatening or harassing” orders (the least restrictive).
The protective order means that you can’t have direct or indirect contact. In addition, you cannot have someone else contact the protected party for you. Only the judge can modify or remove a criminal protective order. Just because the protected party says it is ok to resume contact, does not mean you should do so. The protected party does not control whether the criminal protective order remains in effect. If you violate the terms of your criminal protective order, you will be subject to further arrest and prosecution for the additional crime of Violation of a Protective Order. This crime is a Class D felony and exposes you up to five years in jail in addition to your previous criminal charges.
Civil Restraining Order
Then there is the civil restraining order, which is a formal court order entered by a civil court judge. Its purpose is to restrain you from having contact with a certain designated person or persons. Unlike a criminal protective order, which is imposed automatically by the criminal court judge in domestic violence cases, the party that wants the civil restraining order needs to submit a formal written request to a civil judge. This happens by filing mandatory forms with the civil clerk.
No criminal charges are necessary to obtain a civil restraining order. The party that wants the civil restraining order must provide evidence, usually by a written statement, justifying the need for the civil restraining order. The party must show the civil court judge that they have been the victim of violence, that they are in fear of imminent harm, or that they are being threatened.
Civil restraining orders are limited to situations between family and/or household members, or in situations where the moving party is the victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking. Upon reviewing the moving party’s application, the civil judge can do one of the following:
- Issue an immediate ex parte restraining order, which remains in effect for two weeks followed by a contested hearing.
- Not issue an immediate ex parte order but schedule the matter for a contested hearing within two weeks.
At the contested hearing, the civil judge can either dismiss the civil restraining order application or impose the civil restraining order for up to one year. After the year period expires, the moving party can request further extensions of the civil restraining order. If you violate the terms of the civil restraining order, you are subject to arrest and prosecution for the crime of Criminal Violation of Restraining Order. This crime is a Class D felony and exposes you up to five years of jail.