Restraining orders, often called protective orders, are designed to help keep people safe. These orders prohibit an abuser from contacting someone, staying in the home, and so on.
Sometimes, protective orders prohibit behaviors that are already illegal. For example, it’s unlawful to make threats against someone, and restraining orders specifically prohibit an abuser from doing so. What’s the difference?
Essentially, protective orders expedite the legal process. Imagine you have a restraining order against someone. They call you, making threats against you. Normally, you would accuse this person of threatening you. The police then investigate your claim. If they agree, they charge the other person with assault. This charge takes time to try, convict, and sentence.
With a restraining order, however, you can simply accuse your abuser of violating the order. It’s easier to arrest someone on this charge. The penalties for violating an order are generally more lenient than for assault. Even so, they can scare someone into recognizing the seriousness of a restraining order, which could motivate the abuser to leave you alone.
There are four different kinds of restraining orders in California: elder or dependent adult abuse, civil harassment, workplace violence, and domestic violence.
In this article, we will focus on domestic violence protective orders. We will explore how they work and how you can use one to protect yourself and your family.
Defining Domestic Violence
Violence happens between people every day. For it to be labeled “domestic” requires certain circumstances.
Most of us are aware that domestic violence happens between romantic partners. It may, however, surprise you to learn that this partnership need not be current. Ex-spouses, former boyfriends and girlfriends, people who broke off engagements, and more can be guilty of domestic violence. Even if you haven’t been in contact with a former partner for years, if they commit an act of violence against you, they can be guilty of domestic violence.
Domestic violence also happens between family members. They don’t have to be housemates. Imagine two brothers that live in different states getting into a fight at Christmas. Regardless of their distance, this fight can be legally considered domestic violence.
Finally, you needn’t be in an intimate relationship with someone to be the victim of domestic violence. If you live with a roommate, and they attack you, this is a form of domestic violence. It doesn’t matter if you have a relationship with them beyond your living situation.
In California, domestic violence protective orders are specifically reserved for abusive relationships like those outlined above.
What Can a Protective Order Do?
Restraining orders can prohibit behaviors in three separate ways.
Several violent behaviors are named in protective orders. These behaviors are illegal by themselves, but a protective order can make justice move more swiftly. Such behaviors include stalking someone, threatening or harassing them, sexual assault, and destruction of property. Conduct restrictions also include disturbing the peace of the protected individual.
A restraining order can keep someone at a distance. With stay-away restrictions in place, simply contacting a victim causes legal trouble for an abuser. Often, these orders include keeping a specific distance between abuser and victim, such as 50 or 100 feet.
Stay-away orders also prohibit physical proximity to places connected to the victim. The abuser must stay distant from the victim’s home, work, school, childcare facility, and vehicle. The victim may even name places important to them, such as their regular, local grocery store, for the abuser to avoid.
If the victim and abuser cohabitate, the victim can request move-out restrictions. When granted, this order gives the abuser the chance to gather clothes, food, toiletries, and other necessities. After that, they must vacate the premises.
Types of Protective Orders
There are three types of protective orders available to you, depending on your circumstances.
Emergency Protective Orders
These are used when you are under immediate threat from your abuser. Only a law enforcement office can request this order. Judges are available 24 hours a day to issue and enforce these orders, meaning police can request them on nights and weekends. This order can be issued without an abuser’s involvement. They are not given the chance to defend themselves.
Emergency orders can last as long as seven days, giving you and your attorney time to prepare for the next order.
Temporary Protective Orders
In California, these orders last between 20 to 25 days. You must request this order yourself, and you may secure legal representation to build your case. The court can grant this order solely on its belief. Your abuser cannot appear to defend themselves.
Once again, you should the time of this order wisely. You have at least 20 days to build a case against your abuser, and you will need a strong argument to be granted the next level of protection.
Permanent Protective Orders
When filing for this order, prepare for a fight in court. Your abuser has the right to a defense. Just as you’ve been preparing your case against them, you should assume they’ve been doing the same. Obtaining this order requires a hearing. You will have evidence, and so will your abuser. There may be witnesses, documents, and other items you would normally see in a trial.
Permanent domestic violence restraining orders last for five years in California.
Penalties for Violating a Protective Order
The punishments for violating a protective order are not as severe as those of a violent crime, but they are still steep. They should be enough to send a message to your abuser and help keep you protected. Your abuser could face one year in jail and fines as high as $1,000 for violating a restraining order.
Restraining order violations are a “wobbler” crime in California. These crimes are not directly defined as misdemeanors or felonies. Depending on the severity of the offense, it could be charged either way. If an offender violates an order more than once, they could be charged with a felony. They could also be guilty of a felony if, in violating the order, they committed an act of violence. A felony conviction could result in three years of prison with fines up to $1,000.
If you need help with a restraining order against a domestic abuser, reach out to our firm as soon as possible. For a free consultation, call us at (949) 565-4158 or contact us online.