According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence from an intimate partner. If you or a loved one have experienced violence, harassment, or threats at the hands of a domestic partner – or if you have been wrongfully accused of these actions – you deserve quality care, protection, and legal representation.
Unfortunately, domestic violence remains a huge problem in the United States today. However, there are certain protections available for victims of domestic violence. A restraining order is one of these.
What is a restraining order?
A restraining order, also known as a protective order, is a legal order a court issues to protect one person from the dangerous or harmful actions of another. Each state handles restraining orders differently. In Maryland, for example, someone can apply for a protective or peace order, depending on the details of their case. The District of Columbia calls these civil protection orders, while the commonwealth of Virginia refers to these as protective orders.
What does a restraining order do, exactly?
Protective orders act as a legal barrier between a victim (the person the order protects) and the respondent (the person the order is taken out against). Based on the protections in the order, the respondent may not contact, harass, or otherwise interact with the victim. They may also be barred from certain places, like the victim's home, workplace, school, or other locations. This is done to ensure the victim's protection, safety, and security in his or her day-to-day life.
If the respondent violates the terms of the restraining order, they can be arrested, jailed, or otherwise punished. If you have a restraining order against someone in your life, and the terms are violated, the critical first move is to call the police to ensure your protection.
Who is eligible for a restraining order?
Anyone who is a victim of certain acts – such as domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or other crimes – is eligible to apply for a restraining order against the perpetrator.
Depending on the state, you may be eligible for one type of protective order over another. For example, Maryland has two different types of restraining order: protective orders are for situations where the respondent and petitioner are related by blood, marriage, or other intimate relationships, while peace orders are for less personal situations, like coworkers, clients, and strangers.
How do you get a restraining order?
While each state has different specifications, the basic process remains the same. The victim files a petition against the respondent with their local circuit or District Court and brings evidence and/or witnesses to a temporary hearing.
At this first hearing, a judge will hear the victim's case and determine whether a temporary restraining order is necessary. These typically last from 3 to 10 days, at which point the victim and respondent are required to appear in court to determine if a final protective order is necessary. At this second hearing, a restraining order can be put in place which is likely valid for several months or up to two years, depending on the jurisdiction. These can also be renewed prior to their expiration.
What about protective orders that are filed on false pretenses?
Domestic violence in the United States is a serious and troubling topic, and should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately, in some family law cases that turn sour, it is not uncommon for one party to file for a protective order against the other, alleging abuse or neglect that may not have taken place. Particularly for members of the armed forces, a protective order sought on false allegations can have a catastrophic impact.
Until recently, most courts required “clear and convincing” proof of the alleged abuse before it would grant a protective order, but a few years ago, several states – including Maryland – reduced the standard of proof to merely a preponderance of the evidence standards (i.e., “more likely than not.”) As a result, now false allegations can be difficult to disprove (particularly if no witnesses were present during the alleged incident). Because protective orders prevent the respondent from possessing a firearm based on a federal law termed “The Lautenberg Act,” the issuance of an unjust protective order can have a catastrophic impact on a service member's career.
In volatile cases like these, a Patriots Law Group attorney can help. We have successfully defended protective order cases or found solutions to resolve such case in a manner that protects the service member's career or ability to possess a firearm. Further, we know the rules for “shielding” a protective order from public view and can work to ensure future employers cannot see an order that has expired.
What do I do next?
If you are preparing to file a petition for a protective order, or are facing a Notice to Appear in Court because someone has filed a protective order against you, you have a right to qualified, experienced legal help.
At Patriots Law Group, we offer family law support for military and civilian clients alike. We know how emotionally difficult this process can be and the effects a restraining order can have on careers and one's stress level. We are in your corner. We are here to help.
Call 301-952-9000 today to learn more.
DISCLAIMER: The information above is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice for any particular case or situation. No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information. Each individual situation is different, and therefore, a formal in-person consultation is necessary before any advice or information can be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for a particular case. Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice concerning your situation.