Violating a court order, such as a restraining order, is considered a criminal offense. There are many reported cases of violating such orders both intentionally and unintentionally, which often attracts penalties. If you’ve been accused of violating a restraining order, or you are the victim of a violated restraining order, it’s important that you contact a Sean Fagan Criminal Defence Lawyer immediately to help you defend and protect your rights. Trying to handle the result of such violations may lead to more problems than you bargained for. 

What is a Restraining Order 

A restraining order, also known as an order of protection, is an order issued by a court as a buffer to protect an individual (the petitioner) from being harassed, abused, threatened, stalked, or harmed by another individual (the defendant/aggressor) either through words or by actions. It is usually issued when the aggressor uses violence or is capable of causing danger/death to the petitioner.

The restraining order prohibits the aggressor from contacting the petitioner either through phone calls, texts, social media sites, etc. In some cases of domestic violence or divorce, it may evict the aggressor from a shared property, grant custody over children temporarily or permanently to the petitioning spouse, confiscate and prohibit the defendant from using firearms, etc.

What is Considered as Violating a Restraining Order

To convict a person of violating a restraining order, all or some of the following must occur:

  • A court issued a restraining order.
  • The restraint order was in full effect during the time of the violation. 
  • The defendant was fully aware of the restraining order.
  • The defendant continued to contact and harass the victim, hence, failing to keep to the restraining order.

Contact with the victim is considered as violating a restraining order. Actions such as disturbing the victim’s place of work or home, both in their presence or absence, are also considered a violation of a restraining order. Note that accidentally bumping into the victim is not considered a violation.

What Can Happen to a Person Who Violates a Restraining Order?

The penalties involved in violating a restraining order differ. It usually depends on the type of order that was violated and how the order was violated. But below are some of the common penalties involved.

Criminal conviction 

Some States classify violating a restraining order as a class A misdemeanor, and defaulters may receive a jail time of about 11 months and a fine of about $2,500, depending on the terms of the violation. Should the defaulter commit another offense in the process of violating the order, then the defaulter would also be charged with that offense alongside the violation offense.

For instance, if the defaulter physically assaults or causes injury to the victim while the restraining order is in effect, the defaulter would not only be charged for violating the order but also for physical assault. The violation offense would typically carry misdemeanor penalties, while the other offenses may carry felony penalties.

Also, should the defaulter possess a firearm, then the defaulted would not only face state charges for violations but would also face federal charges, as federal law forbids people under court restraining orders from possessing firearms. Under federal laws, the defaulter may face up to ten years of jail time and a fine.

Warrantless Arrest 

Some state laws authorize law enforcement agencies to arrest an individual who inarguably violates a restraining order, even without a warrant. For instance, when a person violates a restraining order against a domestic violence victim intentionally, the law permits the defaulter to be arrested without a warrant and charged with the criminal offense of violation.

Minimum Jail Hold 

In some cases, the aggressor, although being arrested, may still pose a danger to the victim or the general public. In such instances, the aggressor is not immediately granted bail but must wait for a certain period from the time of the arrest until the court decides that the victim is no longer endangered. Usually, the minimum jail hold is 12 hours. However, it can take between 48 to 72 hours in some states.

Bail Conditions

In instances where the defendant is granted bail, the court imposes certain bail conditions, which may include the defendant wearing a GPS ankle monitor. This helps to monitor the activities of the defendant and also ensures that the defendant doesn’t abscond subsequent arrests for violation. The victim is usually notified in such instances.

It is not unusual for people under restraining orders to contact the other party. But regardless of the reasons or motives, violating a court restraining order is a serious criminal offense and should not be taken lightly. It may result in loss of life if not properly handled. So, if you find yourself in such situations, don’t hesitate to report it to the right authorities.