California Protective Orders Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

In most states, including California, protective order laws often come into play in domestic violence cases. Such court orders state that an abusive spouse, for example, may not come within a stated distance of a named individual for a period of time. In California, protective orders (also called "restraining orders") may be in place for up to three years but may be made permanent in some cases.

What Can the Court/Law Enforcement 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 a 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.

The basic provisions of California protective order laws are listed in the table below. See Domestic Violence: Orders of Protection and Restraining Orders for more information.

Code Section

Family Code Section 6250 (grounds for emergency protective orders)

Family Code Section 6320 (grounds for protective orders)

Penal Code Section 273.6 (violations of protective orders)

Activity Addressed by Order Enjoining contact; excluding from dwelling; enjoining specific behavior; regarding minor child: custody, visitations. Penal code: any person who has domestic abuse perpetrated against him/her as shown by affidavit of reasonable proof
Duration of Order Emergency order: the earlier of the close of the 5th business day after issue or 7 calendar days. Others: 3 year maximum unless extended by office or parties stipulate to permanent order
Penalty for a Violation of Order 1 year and/or $1,000; with physical injury: $2,000 or 30 days to 1 yr. in jail or both; subsequent conviction: $2,000, 6 mos.-1 yr. jail, or both, or state imprisonment
Who May Apply for Order Spouse, cohabitant, fiance/fiancee, parent of one's child, blood relations.
Can Fees Be Waived? -
Order Transmission to Law Enforcement By the close of business on day of issuance; local law enforcement agency must notify Department of Justice for domestic violence protective order registry
Civil Liability for Violation of Order -

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

California Protective Orders Law: Related Resources

Need a Protective Order? An Attorney Can Help

While California protective orders can be used to protect individuals facing domestic violence, it's important to note that they are not limited to those situations. For example, courts can issue protective orders if someone is the victim of stalking or other forms of harassment from strangers. Whatever the situation, you should always consider at least speaking with an expert before taking action. A criminal attorney in California can help you understand how protective orders work.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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