A judge can issue a restraining order to ban you from contacting the protected party. It means you cannot visit or come into contact with the petitioner. Violating the terms of a protective order is primarily a misdemeanor, punishable by fines and incarceration. Do not navigate the matter alone once a law enforcer serves you with a protective order. Emotions can be high when there is a misunderstanding or the petitioner falsely accuses you. Instead, consider hiring a skilled Sacramento criminal defense attorney. The professional can ensure you understand the court to avoid getting into legal trouble, and the judge will listen to your version of the story.

Defining a Restraining Order in California

Also called protective orders, restraining orders usually restrict communication or contact with the people involved. The court order varies depending on the situation and the legal basis for obtaining the protective order. However, it can include the following:

  • Forbidding threats of violence, bodily harm, or damaging the alleged victim’s property.
  • Giving control of property like a home or a car to the individual obtaining the protective order.
  • Prohibiting communication with the alleged victim or their family.
  • Giving short-term custody of a child.
  • Forbidding the ownership of a gun.
  • Instructions for the restrained party to enroll in programs like counseling or treatment for substance abuse.
  • Requiring the restrained party to move out of the protected person’s residence and to take only personal belongings and clothes until the scheduled court hearing.

Types of Restraining Orders

The several available types of orders are as follows:

  • Preliminary protective orders (PPOs) — A California judge could grant a PPO, depending on the accused’s statements, but a California PPO is a temporary court order.
  • Emergency protective orders (EPOs) — Law enforcement agents could obtain an EPO if they understand there are potential threats of more abuse or violence against the alleged victim. They are also known as temporary restraining orders (TROs).
  • Permanent protective orders (POs) — A permanent order could last 12 months or longer. For a permanent order, the court conducts a proceeding where the alleged victim and defendant present their case facts.

Judges grant TROs without providing the retrained party with an opportunity to submit a response to the accusations of physical harassment or abuse. Courts issue temporary court injunctions before the trial in serious situations where waiting until the case's resolution is complex.

On the other hand, you can present your response in court before the judge issues a permanent restraining order.

Contact Prohibited By Your Protective Order

Many restraining orders forbid any form of physical contact. They could forbid the restrained party from appearing at the alleged victim’s workplace, home, or the residences of the victim’s loved ones. The orders also prevent any electronic communication and include the following:

  • Text messages.
  • Phone calls.
  • Social media posts.
  • Emails.
  • Sending images or videos.

What Does the Law Protect the Victim Against?

The law recognizes the various types of restraining orders that safeguard victims against:

  1. Domestic Violence (DV)

The alleged victim can seek a DV restraining order if you have an intimate relationship with them. An intimate relationship could imply that you and the victim are:

  1. Divorced.
  2. Separated.
  3. Married.
  4. Domestic partners.
  5. Have a baby together.
  6. Previously dated or in a romantic relationship.
  7. Related by blood or marriage.
  1. Dependent Adult or Elder Abuse

The victim can seek a dependent abuse or elder abuse protective order if:

  1. They are between 18 and 64 and live with specific physical or mental disabilities or are at least 65, and
  2. They are victims of physical injuries, abuse, neglect, or deprivation of basic needs by a caregiver.
  1. Civil Harassment

The accuser can obtain a civil harassment protective order if a person to whom they are not closely related has threatened, abused, harassed, or stalked them.

  1. Workplace Violence

An employer can seek a workplace violence protective order to safeguard employees from credible threats of abuse, immediate danger, or violence.

A worker cannot obtain this order. Instead, they should acquire a DV restraining order (if they are related to the defendant) or a civil harassment restraining order.

You Can Challenge a Restraining Order Against You

Your defense lawyer can challenge a protective order at a permanent restraining order court hearing. Typically, the hearings happen twenty-one days after the judge issues a TRO.

During the court hearing, your lawyer can persuade the judge why the protective order is unnecessary. They can call witnesses and submit proof. If the attorney convinces the judge, your TRO will expire.

Please note that you can appeal in a higher court if the judge imposes the permanent restraining order.

Violating a Protective Order

The prosecution should demonstrate the following case facts before finding you guilty of Penal Code Section 273.6 PC:

  • The restraining order was issued legally by the court.
  • You knew about the protection order against you.
  • You could abide by the order.
  • You deliberately broke your restraining order.

Regarding your knowledge, the prosecutor should establish that you should have known of the court order’s existence. It consists of you having a chance to go through the court-issued order (even when you fail to do so).

You violate the law willfully when you do it:

  • Deliberately.
  • On purpose.

The court can sentence you for Penal Code Section 273.6 PC and the California provision governing your other offense if you commit another offense while violating a protective order.

What Happens When You Violate a Protective Order?

If you violate a court order, the accuser reports it to law enforcement or the courts. Next, the police will contact you, issue you a stern warning, or take you into custody.

You could be prosecuted for a restraining order violation based on the circumstances. Additionally, the terms and conditions of the restraining order could be revised so that they become more severe.

The affected party is not obligated to be the person reporting the order’s violation. You could still be penalized, even if the victim is unwilling to file charges against you or report you.

Sometimes, the alleged victim might contact you. In this case, you should ensure the court has vacated the protective order before communicating with the alleged victim. Consulting your attorney for more advice is advisable.

Violation of the Protective Order Sentencing and Possible Penalties

Generally, prosecutors charge the violation of restraining orders as a misdemeanor. The offense attracts the following penalties:

  • A one-year jail term.
  • Summary probation.
  • A one thousand dollar maximum fine.

The crime is a wobbler if:

  • Your violation had an element of violence.
  • It is your subsequent conviction for violation of a restraining order.

A California wobbler is a criminal act that the prosecution can file as a felony or a misdemeanor.

A felony attracts three (3) years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Generally, violating a court order does not affect the defendant's immigration status.

How a Conviction Impacts Your Firearm Rights

A Penal Code Section 273.6 PC conviction will only affect your gun ownership rights if the judge has sentenced you to a felony. California law states that felons cannot own, possess, or purchase a firearm.

You can still retain your firearm rights if convicted of a misdemeanor.

Is Breaking a Restraining Order Terms a Criminal Record?

Protective orders do not appear on criminal checks because they are generally civil legal matters. However, any person who conducts a background check can see your arrest and conviction if you violate an order. A criminal record can affect your future ability to secure housing, employment, and state professional licenses.

How to Fight Your Criminal Charge

Your lawyer can review your case circumstances to determine the best legal strategy to defend yourself against this crime. Your appropriate defense can include any of the following:

The Order Was Not Lawful

You can only be sentenced per this law if your violation was against a legitimately issued court order. You can fight the criminal charges by arguing that the order was unlawful. For example, the judge did not have the legal basis to issue the protective order.

You Were Unaware of the Court Order’s Existence

Remember, you should be aware of a court order to be convicted for its violation. It means the judge cannot find a defendant guilty if they do not know about this protective order.

Your Conduct Was Unintentional

You must, on purpose, violate a court order to break this California law. Therefore, it is an effective legal strategy to argue that, although you might have committed a violation, it was accidental or unintentional.

Can a Victim Commit a Protective Order Violation?

The law considers victims the “protective party.” Therefore, they cannot get in trouble with the law for communicating with the “restrained individual.”

Only the restrained individual risks arrest and criminal prosecution for a protective order violation.

Related Crimes to a Restraining Order Violation

The six related offenses to violating your protective order are as follows:

California Stalking

California Penal Code 646.9 makes it an offense to:

  • follow,
  • threaten, or
  • harass,

another individual to the extent that the other party is fearful for their safety.

Domestic Violence (DV)

California DV laws criminalize injuring or threatening an inmate partner.

The most common California DV charges include:

  • PC 243e1 — Domestic battery.
  • PC 273.5 — Inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner.

Elder Abuse

California Penal Code Section 368 defines elder abuse as abuse committed against a person aged at least 65 years.

The abuse could include the following:

  • Emotional abuse.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Financial exploitation.
  • Neglect and endangerment.

Criminal Threats

California PC 422 makes it unlawful to make criminal threats.

The statute defines a criminal threat as when a defendant threatens to murder or injure a person and:

  • The individual is fearful.
  • The threat is detailed and unequivocal.
  • The accused made the threat verbally, in writing, or via electronic means.

Contempt of Court

California PC 166 is the law that prohibits engaging in conduct that disrespects the judicial process.

The crime is a misdemeanor, punishable by a six-month county jail sentence and a one-thousand-dollar fine.

Penal Code Section 594 (Vandalism)

Vandalism occurs when a defendant maliciously defaces property belonging to another individual, paints graffiti, or writes on somebody’s building.

Steps to Take After Receiving a Restraining Court Order Against You

Your initial instinct after being served a restraining order is to panic because you are unsure of its impact on your life. The section below discusses the steps to take and things to avoid engaging in.

The first thing to do is to hire an attorney. Even with the restraining court order, you can go to work and places where the order has not prohibited you. You are also entitled to build a defense against the protective order. Your attorney can ensure you understand the terms of the order and collect the relevant information.

You have limited time between receiving the order and the scheduled court hearing. You should spend this time collecting evidence of the alleged incident in the complaint, like videos, photographs, and clothes. You can support your alibi by securing GPS, phone, or computer records. Talk to relatives or friends who can testify in your favor. Remember to submit evidence like emails, letters, text messages, or photos to your lawyer; they will use it to build your case defense. 

If you and the petitioner have a baby together and the court order prohibits you from seeing them, do not skirt around your order and visit the child at the victim’s home or school. It can lead to criminal charges. It is wise to address the matter of seeing your child in court. Remember, judges grant TROs to be on the safe side until they can listen to all parties at the permanent restraining order court hearing.

It can be tempting to destroy any evidence that can cast a poor light on you. If the judge discovers it, it could look like you are hiding something, making it more challenging to prove your innocence. Instead, confide in your lawyer; they know how to build a case defense.

Find Experienced Legal Representation Near Me

It is seamless for a person to request a restraining order. All they need is to sign a declaration showing they are in imminent danger of harm from somebody else’s threats. However, an effective protective order can create legal complications and difficulties for you. Foos Gavin Law Firm is ready to guide you throughout the process from the moment you receive the court order. We can gather evidence and interview witnesses to build a strong case defense. We can also ensure you understand your order’s terms to reduce your chances of violating them. A conviction can attract incarceration and a life-altering permanent criminal record. Please call our Sacramento legal office at 916-779-3500 to schedule your initial, confidential case review and learn how we can help you.