When one person accuses another of domestic violence, it is likely that criminal charges will be filed. These cases are also likely to include the issuance of a no-contact order, a protective order or both. There are distinct differences between the two, and it is important to understand the details if you’ve been named in an order.
No-contact orders are requested by prosecutors in a criminal case
Once domestic violence charges have been filed, prosecutors may decide that the defendant should not have any opportunity to contact the alleged victim. In such cases, they can request that the presiding judge issue a no-contact order. This may be a condition of release on bail or probation, or part of the sentence imposed.
No-contact means that the defendant is not allowed to:
- Call, text, email, write or talk to the protected person
- Be within view of the protected person
- Be within view of the protected person’s residence, school or workplace
- Try to send messages or communication through a third party (known as indirect contact)
If the defendant violates the no-contact order, they may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor of invasion of privacy.
Protective orders are requested by alleged victims in civil court
Often called restraining orders in other states, protective orders are issued by a civil court judge at the request of someone who claims to be a victim of domestic violence. This person is known as the petitioner, and they can seek a protective order even if no criminal charges have been filed or are pending.
The order prohibits the alleged abuser from:
- Making contact with the petitioner (in all ways described above)
- Committing violent or threatening acts against the petitioner
- Harassing the petitioner
- Being in physical proximity to the petitioner
Initially, if a judge grants the petitioner’s request, they will issue a temporary protective order that lasts about 10 days. During that time, the court will set a date for a permanent protective order hearing. At the hearing, the defendant and the petitioner will each have the opportunity to make an argument for why a permanent order should or should not be issued. Despite the name, permanent orders expire after two years.
Even though this is a civil order, violating it can have the same criminal consequences as violating a no-contact order.
Protect yourself by consulting with an attorney
Both no-contact and protective orders are surprisingly easy to violate without intending to do so. If you’ve been named in an order, it is important to consult with an experienced defense attorney. The attorney can defend you against any criminal charges, represent you at a permanent protective order hearing and counsel you on ways to avoid violating an order.