DC Civil Protection Orders

A protection order is a court issued order that directs a person to refrain from committing a crime, threatening to commit a crime, or abusing or harassing another person, and sometimes to avoid all contact entirely.

These orders can certainly negatively interfere with someone’s life, so anyone who is facing a protection order should consult with a DC domestic violence lawyer, to see what can be done to prevent, or in some way mitigate the order. A DC civil protection order is only appropriate in circumstances where the parties are of certain relationships.

For example, a civil protection order is appropriate when the petitioner is a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking. Additionally, a civil protection order is appropriate when the petitioner and respondent are spouses, ex-spouses, romantically or sexually involved, roommates, or when they share a common intimate partner.

Restraining Orders

A restraining order can be issued no matter the relationship between the parties, and may be issued if a judge finds that the party applying for the restraining order will suffer immediate and irreparable injury loss or damage without the order being issued.

Usually, a restraining order will specify an action that is prohibited from being carried out in order to protect the other party or the other party’s property.

Temporary Protection Order

Sometimes after a person has petitioned for a civil protection order, a judge will issue a temporary protection order if the judge finds that either the petitioner or a household member is in immediate danger of the respondent.

It is referred to as “ex parte” because at this juncture, the respondent will most likely not have notice of the petition and therefore, not have the opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Because of these circumstances, a temporary protection order will last for 14 days. However, if both parties consent, a temporary protection order may be extended in additional 14-day increments until a hearing is held for the civil protection order.

Filing a Request For a Protection Order

When a person files a request referred to as a petition for a DC civil protection order, a judge will hold a hearing to determine whether there is good cause to find that the respondent committed or threatened to commit a crime against the petitioner.

If the judge does not find good cause, the petition for civil protection will be denied. If the judge finds good cause, the judge can issue an order that directs a person to do or refrain from doing a number of different things.

For example, a judge can issue an order that requires the respondent to refrain from committing or threatening to commit a crime against the petitioner, refrain from contacting the petitioner, participate in counseling or psychiatric treatment, give up possession of certain property (whether owned jointly or individually by the petitioner) and give up possession of any firearms.

A civil protection order can include terms that award temporary custody of the parties’ children to the petitioner. If a judge finds good cause and issues a civil protection order, the judge will specify how long the order will be effective. It can be effective for up to one year.

Protection Order Changes or Extensions

Once a judge grants a petition, it is possible for a civil protection order to be extended, rescinded, or modified. The petitioner or the respondent can file a motion to extend, rescind, or modify the order and the judge can grant such a motion if good cause is shown.

For example, if a petitioner files a motion to extend the order and shows that the respondent has continued to threaten the petitioner and has violated the existing order, a judge may find good cause to extend the civil protection order.

Impact on Criminal Cases

If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime, it is important to contact a lawyer that can explain the difference between a petition for a DC civil protection order and a criminal case in which a person has been charged by the government with a domestic violence criminal offense.

If the government has charged you with a criminal offense, and the complaining witness has filed a petition for a civil protection order, your lawyer will be able to explain what consequences may arise and discuss what strategies are advisable in defending each matter.

For example, if you resolve the criminal case by pleading guilty, it is possible that the court may automatically grant the petitioner’s request for a civil protection order.

Child Custody and Visitation

If the judge issues a civil protection order, the respondent must abide by all of the conditions within the order. If the petitioner and respondent have a minor child in common, the judge can award temporary custody to one of the parties or provide restricted visitation rights to protect the petitioner’s safety.

If the judge awards temporary custody to the petitioner and gives the respondent visitation rights, the respondent must comply with any visitation restrictions that the judge imposes or face criminal contempt sanctions or a misdemeanor charge for violation of a CPO.