Legal Consequences of Violating a Restraining Order

Domestic violence restraining orders are legal measures to protect individuals who have been or are at risk of being harmed by a family or household member. These orders extend to spouses, individuals who share a child, and others in a familial or domestic relationship. A court issues these orders as a critical safety net for those facing potential harm in their homes.

While a restraining order is a court-issued document designed to keep the protected individual safe, the person against whom it's issued may choose to violate it. The protected individual should know that legal action and sanctions can be pursued against the violator. This awareness empowers individuals to speak up and seek legal recourse if the restrained person does not comply with the order. Additionally, it's worth noting that violating a restraining order can have significant implications, particularly in the context of child custody arrangements.

Consulting with a family law attorney is beneficial when seeking a domestic violence restraining order. These legal professionals can assist in navigating the complexities of family law matters, including restraining orders. They can provide invaluable guidance, help you understand the legal process, and protect your rights and safety throughout the proceedings.

If you or someone you know is considering applying for a domestic violence restraining order or has questions about the legal aspects of protection orders in Los Angeles, contact Claery & Hammond, LLPat (310) 817-6904.

What Is a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

A domestic violence restraining order is a legal directive issued by the court in cases where a family or household member has either abused or posed a threat to abuse another member of their family or household.

The primary purpose of the order is to establish a legally binding and enforceable document that serves as a protective measure for the victim and their family. It is a critical tool in preventing further harm or threats of injury within the family or household context.

What a Restraining Order Can Do

A domestic violence restraining order is a multifaceted protective tool.

Some of the protections it can provide include:

  • Restrict certain conduct: The order can legally prohibit the restrained person from engaging in specific behaviors such as contacting, threatening, or harassing the protected individual. This restriction provides a clear boundary that protects the victim from abuse or intimidation.
  • Prohibit proximity: The restraining order can also prohibit the restrained person from approaching certain places frequently visited by the protected person. These locations may include the victim's home, workplace, or school. The provision is designed to ensure the protected individual's safety and peace of mind by preventing unwanted contact or encounters.
  • Order the restrained person to move out: The court can order the restrained person to vacate a shared residence with the protected individual. This measure ensures the physical separation of both parties, minimizing the risk of further harm or conflict within the same living environment.

The Process of Obtaining a Restraining Order

The process typically begins with the petitioner (the person seeking protection) completing court-required forms. These forms are essential as they provide the necessary information about the situation. In the documents, the petitioner must clearly state what remedy they are seeking through the restraining order, such as no-contact orders or orders to vacate the shared residence. Additionally, it's crucial to detail the instances of abuse or attempted abuse. Providing accurate and comprehensive information in these forms is vital to building a solid case.

Once the forms are completed, they must be filed with the appropriate court. This step officially initiates the legal process. It's essential to follow the court's specific procedures for filing, which may include paying fees and submitting the paperwork within designated timelines.

After filing the documents, the court will typically schedule a hearing. During this hearing, the petitioner and the respondent (the person against whom the restraining order is sought) can present their sides of the case. They can argue for or against the issuance of the restraining order, providing evidence and testimony to support their positions. The court will carefully consider the information presented before deciding.

Violation of a Restraining Order

Violating a domestic violence restraining order means engaging in any actions against the provisions and conditions outlined in the order.

Common scenarios where violations may occur include:

  • Unauthorized contact: One common scenario involves the restrained person attempting to contact the protected individual, often through phone calls, text messages, or social media. This breach of the “no contact” provision is a clear violation.
  • Third-party communications: Sometimes, the restrained person may try to communicate indirectly through friends, family members, or intermediaries. This indirect contact is still considered a violation of a “no contact” provision.
  • Failure to vacate a shared residence: In cases where the court has ordered the restrained person to move out of a shared residence, a violation occurs if they continue to reside there or return to the residence against the court's directive.
  • Approaching restricted locations: If the restraining order specifies certain places the restrained person must avoid, such as the protected person's workplace, school, or other frequented areas, any attempt to enter or approach these locations would be a violation.
  • Intimidation or harassment: Engaging in any behavior that instills fear or distress in the protected person, even if it doesn't involve direct contact, can also be a violation of the restraining order. This includes sending threatening messages through a third party or engaging in stalking behaviors.

In essence, violating a restraining order involves actions that directly contradict the court's restrictions and instructions.

Legal Consequences for Violators

The protected person should always have a copy of their approved restraining order. Additionally, providing copies to relevant parties, such as employers or a child's school, can be crucial. This ensures that those interacting with the protected person know of the restraining order's existence and provisions.

If the restrained person violates the order, the protected person or another concerned individual can promptly call the police to report the violation, initiating legal action.

Potential Criminal Charges and Penalties

Violating a domestic violence restraining order in California is considered a criminal offense under California Penal Code § 273.6. This violation is a misdemeanor and carries serious legal consequences.

The penalties for violating a restraining order are severe and include:

  • A maximum fine of $1,000 and/or
  • A term of incarceration for up to 1 year

If the violation of the restraining order involves causing physical injury to the protected person, the penalties can become even more severe. In such cases, the maximum fine can increase to $2,000, and the violator may face a minimum jail term of 30 days, extending to up to 1 year.

Legal Help Seeking Protection

Legal remedies are available for individuals facing instances of abuse within their households. The legal system provides domestic violence restraining orders as a powerful tool to protect victims and ensure their safety. These orders offer enforceable safeguards against abusive or threatening family or household members, allowing victims to take decisive steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.

If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence or threats within the household and seeking protection, contact legal professionals who handle family law matters.

Claery & Hammond, LLPprovides guidance and support in Los Angeles. Contact usat (310) 817-6904.