District of Columbia Protective Orders Laws

Protective orders are also called "restraining orders." They are a piece of paper that require a named individual (typically, those charged with domestic violence or stalking) to stay a specified distance away from a named victim, for a certain amount of time. They are legal documents issued by a court to protect the health and safety of a person who is alleged to be a victim of any act involving violence, force or threat that results in bodily injury or places that person in fear of death, sexual assault or bodily injury.

Types of Protective Orders in D.C.

There are two (2) types of civil protection orders in Washington, D.C. This article will address domestic violence protective orders. If you are a victim of stalking, sexual assault, or sexual abuse, you can file for a civil protection order against the offender even if you do not fall into one of categories below.

A temporary protection order (TPO) can be issued the day that you file your petition without the abuser being present in court - (this is what is meant by an ex parte order). The judge can give you this temporary order if he or she believes that the safety or welfare of you or your household member is in immediate danger from the abuser. The order can last up to 14 days.

Once you return to court, the judge can extend the temporary protection order for additional 14 day periods until the final court hearing or trial is completed.

Persons Entitled to Protective Orders in D.C.

Any person who is involved in one of the following relationships with another party may be entitled to a protective order upon proof:

  • Someone you are or were married to, in a domestic partnership with, or in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship with;
  • Someone related to you by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership;
  • Someone you have a child in common with;
  • Someone who share(d) a home with (i.e., a roommate);
  • Someone who is/ was in an intimate relationship with the same person that you are/ were in an intimate relationship with.

The following table highlights the main provisions of D.C.'s protective orders laws, with links to additional articles and resources.

Code Section Code Section 16-1001, et seq.
Activity Addressed by Order Enjoin contact; order counseling; exclude from dwelling and possession of other personal property; regarding minor children: temporary custody, visitations award court costs and attorney fees to petitioner
Duration of Order Temporary protective order: maximum 14 days. General protective order: maximum one (1) year unless extended
Penalty for Violation of Order Misdemeanor: fine, maximum $1,000 and/or imprisonment: maximum 180 days
Who May Apply for Order Any person or agency
Can Fees Be Waived? No fee to file
Order Transmission to Law Enforcement Metropolitan police department
Civil Liability for Violation of Order Contempt of Court

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a D.C.domestic violence attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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