Details on State Protective Order Laws

What Are Protective Orders?

Protective orders are also called "restraining orders." They are typically used in domestic disputes to ban one party from contacting another or from interfering with an order of the court with respect to child visitation or custody rights. They are also frequently used in cases of spousal abuse to keep the violent party from coming into contact with the victim.

Protective orders usually are temporary measures used by the court while the parties gather and present evidence showing that a more permanent remedy is required. Protective orders may sometimes be granted ex parte, that is without the presence of the party being effected. But this happens only when there is substantial evidence that the party applying for the order is under an imminent threat of injury or when there is good evidence that an order of the court will be violated.

Duration of Protective Orders

Protective orders have a wide range of duration. Typically, they last for one year with extensions possible under certain particular circumstances. Some states allow the imposition of protective orders for up to three years, while others limit them to just 90 days. Ohio has enacted a law that sets the duration of a protective order at five years, the longest of any state. Violations of protective orders also vary widely. Although most states impose a maximum one (1) year sentence and a $1,000 fine, states routinely require mandatory jail time for violating a protective order.

Informing Law Enforcement

Virtually all states require transmission of protective orders to local law enforcement agencies. Twelve states require transmission within 48 hours. A few states have set up state-wide registries or information systems that keep track of protective orders that are presently in effect. Utilization of the Internet permits easy access to statewide registries. In Iowa, for example, it is required that law enforcement agencies be given certified copies of protective orders within six hours of their issuance.

What Can the Court and Police Do to Protect Me?

The court can order law enforcement within its jurisdiction to protect you and your immediate family members who live with you. Sometimes the court will protect family members who live reasonably close to your home.

What Can I Do If the Defendant Refuses To Follow the Protective Order?

If the defendant does not follow the order, call the police immediately. The restrained person can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, a felony, or contempt of court. Taking or concealing a child in violation of the order may be a felony and punishable by confinement in state prison, a fine, or both. Traveling across state or tribal boundaries with the intent to violate the order may be punishable as a federal offense under the Violence Against Women Act.

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

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