Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
Do You Need a Restraining Order?
Ask a Restraining Order Attorney for Legal Advice
A restraining order or “protective order” is a court order designed to protect a person from a threat of danger posed by another specific party. Restraining orders are commonly used to protect victims from abuse, assault, harassment, and stalking. These orders are intended to protect people from being further harmed by someone who has hurt them or threatened to hurt them before, and generally prevents the abuser from coming within a certain distance of the victim’s home or workplace. Some victims hesitate to file a restraining order because they fear it will mean a criminal record for the person they are afraid of. However, this is not the case. Restraining or protective orders are civil orders simply designed to protect one party from abuse by another.
There are a variety of situations in which someone should consider filing a restraining order, including domestic violence or child abuse, especially during or after divorce or separation, as well as cases when repeated harassment and/or stalking have occurred to you or your child. To learn more about restraining orders or for help filing, contact a restraining order attorney right away. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
What are the Statistics on Restraining Orders?
To better understand the use and purpose of restraining orders, it might help to look at some of the data. Let’s go over some important statistics related to protective orders as detailed in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law:
- Restraining orders can be issued to last anywhere from one week to the life of either party.
- California maintains 880 protection orders for every 100,000 adults.
- 84%-92% of the above protection orders were implemented over issues of domestic abuse.
- Charges for violating a restraining order can range from civil contempt to felony criminal charges, and punishments can range from fines to imprisonment.
Domestic Violence is the Primary Motivator for Restraining Orders.
While anyone could be guilty of behaviors which justify a restraining order, the main perpetrators are current and former spouses or partners. To better understand who is eligible to file a restraining order, it might help to note that a variety of behaviors qualify as domestic violence beyond simple physical violence. Some of these acts include:
- Criminal restraint
- Criminal sexual contact
- Criminal trespassing
- False imprisonment
- Sexual assault
How to File a Restraining Order
The application for a restraining or protective order is completed in the same way as any other court process, and can be completed or combatted with the help of a restraining order attorney. To apply for one of these orders, the victim will need to fill out and file the paperwork regarding the threat presented by the person they are filing against, attend a hearing, and wait for a judge to reach a decision. Steps to file a restraining order include:
- Collect evidence. Evidence such as descriptions of specific incidences which occurred including the dates, times, and locations where they happened; texts, emails, voicemails and phone records which are indicative of abusive or harassing behavior; and pictures of injuries or damaged property. It is important to collect this evidence and can keep it in a safe place where it cannot be lost or deleted. In fact, it might be a good idea to send copies to a trusted friend or family member.
- Fill out the paperwork. The paperwork regarding the restraining order can be downloaded from your state’s government website or obtained from the courthouse. Many of these forms are now fillable online and downloadable as PDFs to then be filed in court, like any other official court document.
- Attend a hearing. After filling out your paperwork and making sure it was properly submitted, you will attend a hearing before a judge to assess the validity of your request for the protective order.
- Distribute copies of the restraining order to necessary parties. Once the order has been issued, it’s a good idea to give a copy of the restraining order to your local police station, workplace, school, etc. Any environment which the abuser might show up at should have a copy of the restraining order on hand.
- Keep a copy of the order with you at all times. This ensures that you have it available at all times if necessary.
To learn more about restraining orders, or for help filing once, seek legal counsel from a restraining order attorney to discuss your situation. To learn more about domestic violence or available resources, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline here. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.