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How a Protective Order Can Help Keep You Safe

Protective orders often called restraining orders, are designed to protect you from someone who has committed an act of violence, force, or threat against you. It restricts certain behaviors and keeps this person at a distance from you.

Many of the behaviors outlined in a protective order are already illegal. Threatening acts of violence, for example, is a form of assault. A protective order can expedite justice. If someone is threatening you, you can file a protective order in the civil process or you can call the police to report what happened and an officer can seek a criminal charge if there is probable cause. There are situations where a case can go through a criminal and civil process at the same or it could just be a criminal case or just be a civil case. When there is a protective order in place, a police officer can charge someone with violating the order in addition to any other illegal acts that were committed.

Different Protective Orders

There are three different kinds of protective orders, depending on how the facts and type of threat.

An emergency protective order can be issued if there is an immediate threat. They can be issued on nights, weekends, and holidays when the courts are not open if someone goes to the magistrate. They can also be issued along with a criminal charge as Virginia statutes require.

Emergency restraining orders usually provide three days, or 72 hours, of protection against your abuser. During this time, you and your attorney can gather the evidence needed to request the next level of protection.

Before an emergency order expires, you can file a petition in court to request a preliminary protective order. This is usually done ex parte which means the offender is not present. You will fill out a written petition and/or verbally appear in court to tell the judge why you need the protective order. If a judge grants it, you will have a hearing set within 15 days where the abuser will be present for a full hearing. In some jurisdictions in Virginia, a full hearing is still set within 15 days even if the judge initially denies it.

If granted, it lasts for 15 days, and it restricts more behaviors than an emergency order. Sometimes, a defendant will ask for a continuance to get an attorney or until after the criminal case, or for some other reason. Also, a hearing cannot be held if the defendant has not been served with the preliminary protective order and provided notice of the hearing. In those cases, a judge can continue the case for up to 6 months in order to allow time for the defendant to be served.

A permanent protective order offers the highest level of protection. If the judge grants your request, this can be issued for up to 2 years. Before this protective order expires, you can file a motion to extend the order and a court can grant another permanent order if the judge finds cause to do so.

When a permanent protective order is issued, a motion can be filed to modify conditions or dismiss it any time before it expires.

While an emergency or preliminary order is issued without the accused person present, that is not the case at the hearing where a judge decides whether to issue a permanent protective order. If the accused has been served and provided notice of the hearing and does not show up, the judge can hear the case anyway. If the accused does appear in court, they may handle the case on their own or have legal representation. Remember that in the weeks leading up to the hearing, they will have had time to prepare a defense. If you are seeking a permanent restraining order, you must use the time provided by your preliminary order. Work closely with your attorney to make sure they have all the information needed to fight for you when going to court.

Behaviors a Protective Order Restricts

  • emergency orders often require the abuser to remain a certain distance from you
  • The abuser’s contact with you and other members of the household is prohibited or limited, depending on the situation. If you share children, for example, they may be able to reach out to you strictly for parenting-related issues. If your children were witnesses to or victims of the abuse, they may be included in the protective order, keeping the abuser from them as well.
  • Abusers may be ordered to stay away from your work, school, etc.
  • You may be granted possession of the house, car, pet, and so on.
  • Some orders prevent the abuser from turning off your services such as water, electricity, phone, etc. They may also be forced to continue paying for rent or mortgage even after vacating the home. Abusers cannot commit acts of violence, force, or threat against you.
  • Abusers who injure you or damage your property can be held in violation.
  • Permanent orders prohibit you from owning or possessing any firearms and you will be required to certify to the court that you do not have any or that you have disposed of any you have

If you need help securing a restraining order, contact our office today. We can help gather the necessary evidence and keep the process running smoothly. You can reach us online or call us at (703) 940-0001.