A restraining order, sometimes called an order of protection, is a binding legal order issued by a court. Typically, a restraining order is issued when one party is accused of stalking, harassing, endangering or using violence against another party. The victim requests the restraining order as a means of protecting themselves from the aggressor. Terms in a restraining order differ depending upon the behavior exhibited by the aggressor. Sometimes the aggressor is restrained from approaching the home or place of work of the victim. They may also be prohibited from contacting the victim whether in person or by electronic means. Many aggressors who have a restraining order against them will intentionally violate the order. The consequences for doing so can be serious.
In this article, we will discuss what happens if someone violates a restraining order, including the typical consequences and what to do if the order is broken.
What Happens If You Violate A Restraining Order?
Violating a restraining order is a crime, but unfortunately, it happens quite frequently. In many cases, emotions run high when a restraining order is initiated against someone. Whether it is fear from the victim or anger from the aggressor, it is common for one party to feel the need to reach out to the other party. Now that technology is so prevalent, it is easier than ever to send someone a text, message them over social media, or give them a call. Sending an innocent text message may not seem like a violation, but if “no contact” is part of your order, it surely is.
Regardless of if the person initiating contact is doing so to make amends or to retaliate, it is against the law.
Typical Consequences for Restraining Order Violation
A person who violates an order of protection may be facing fines, jail time or both. Restraining order violation is most often charged as a misdemeanor, though it may become a felony under some circumstances. For instance, if a person is arrested for violating a protection order, and this violation was committed in concurrence with another crime like vandalism or assault, many jurisdictions will elevate the charges to a felony. At the misdemeanor level, the aggressor may be facing up to a year in jail and fines of a few thousand dollars. At the felony level, the aggressor could be looking at five years or more in prison and considerable fines.
Enforcing a Restraining Order
The person who has obtained a restraining order should be careful to keep a copy of the order with them at all times. This way, if the order is violated in any manner, the victim can immediately show the protective order to the police who respond to the call. For the order to be most effective, the victim needs to strictly enforce it. That means contacting the police any time the order is violated, even if the contact appears benign. Failing to file a complaint can make it difficult to enforce the order later. It’s also important to promptly report any incidents between the victim and the aggressor. Authorities frequently cannot act if too much time has elapsed between the incident and when it was reported.
A restraining order may only be a piece of paper, but it is nonetheless legally binding. This means that the restrained individual may be facing serious consequences for violating the order.
Restraining Order Lawyers
If you are a victim of a restraining order violation, it is a good idea to find a family law attorney to help. However, if the aggressor does any harm to you (physical abuse, etc.), report it to the police immediately, and then notify your attorney. The family law attorney will be able to file a motion for contempt of court, meaning the original case that was opened against the aggressor will be readdressed in court. A hearing will take place, and a consequence will be determined.
If you are the aggressor who has violated the restraining order, get in touch with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to tell you how to proceed.
What Happens If A Victim Violates A Restraining Order?
In most cases, the aggressor is the one that initiates contact after the order is in place – not the victim. But, what happens if the victim is the one reaching out to the aggressor? In some cases, victims might contact aggressors if they are a former love interest or family member. Maybe the man in the relationship physically abused his girlfriend, and she placed a restraining order against him for her safety. After time goes by, the girlfriend might have the desire to talk with the aggressor and decide she wants to reach out to him to make amends before getting the restraining order resolved.
If the victim is the one to initiate contact, it is not a violation of the restraining order. It is only a violation if the aggressor is the one to contact the victim.