Virginia civil protective orders, or restraining orders, have become much easier to get, thanks to a law that went into effect in July 2011. The law eliminates obstacles that made it difficult for non-family members to get a restraining order. This would seem like a coup for people who are truly in physical danger, but the change has led to some dubious cases.
Earlier this year, Mark Bowes of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on how this change in the law has affected the number and type of civil protective orders being granted. He found that in the last six months of 2011, the number of protective orders issued—including emergency protective orders—was 15 times the number that had been granted in the last six months of 2010.
The more questionable situations for which civil protection orders were requested include the following:
A woman who tried to get a protective order against a neighbor who had put a dead fish on her doorstep.
A woman who was frightened because an acquaintance threatened to slip into her house and cut her throat while she was sleeping.
A man who said his neighbor threw lit cigarettes onto his porch, tossed trash into his garden, unzipped his pants outside, and let his dogs bark all the time.
The publicity surrounding the revisions to the law “has caused people to believe that any time somebody aggravates them…they can get a protective order to stop it,” according to chief judge Archer L. Yeatts III of the Henrico General District Court.If you have been served with a civil protective order in Northern Virginia, call The Law Office of Ann Thayer at (703) 940-0001, and we’ll set you up with a FREE, immediate, no-obligation consultation.