Emergency protective orders (EPOs)are common in domestic violence cases. They are injunctions banning the restraining person from getting close to the alleged victim or a place and intending to protect the victim. Once the judge issues an EPO and you are put on notice of the order, violating the order is an offense under PC 273.6. The crime carries severe criminal penalties like fines and serving time, not forgetting collateral penalties like challenges securing employment. If charged with PC 273.6, Los Angeles Criminal Attorney can listen to your side of the story, guide you throughout the legal process, and collect and analyze evidence to develop the most effective legal defenses. We are committed to fighting for your rights and ensuring you obtain the best possible case outcome.

What is an Emergency Protective Order?

California Penal Code Section 273.6 PC bans breaking the terms and conditions of the protective order.

A restraining order, also known as a protective order, emergency protective order, or temporary restraining order, protects an alleged victim against:

  • Threats of violence
  • Stalking
  • Dependent adult abuse
  • Physical abuse or injury
  • Harassment

Your emergency protective order can also include terms and conditions for the following:

  • Personal conduct order — To keep you, the restrained party, from engaging in specific acts like calling, assaulting, threatening, harassing, or destroying the personal assets of the victim
  • Stay-away order — To keep you a specific distance away from the victim or their loved ones, home, or work
  • A residence exclusion order makes you move out from where the victim resides. It allows the plaintiff exclusive possession or use of the place of residence which you jointly own with the plaintiff.

An individual can ask for a domestic violence EPO if:

  • You, the restrained individual, have abused the person, and
  • You and the protected individual have a close relationship.

The term “a close relationship” means that you and the person are:

  • Separated
  • Divorced
  • Married
  • Domestic partners
  • Dating or dated
  • Live together
  • Are in-laws or family members
  • Have a baby together

The purpose of an emergency restraining order is to offer interim or short-term protection to the victim while they are applying for their permanent restraining order. The law enforcer responding to the accident scene requests the EPO.

An EPO lasts seven days and can be replaced by permanent court order after its conclusion.

How an EPO is Served

When the judge grants an emergency protective order, they will schedule the time and date for the hearing. After the hearing is scheduled, the EPO papers should be served (delivered) to the respondent (you). The purpose of serving you with the papers is to notify you that a petition has been filed against you.

The restraining order will have the following components:

  • The hearing’s time and date
  • The statement of the action requested
  • All documents that the petitioner brought to the court supporting the EPO

Once served, you have 20 days to respond to the victim’s statement (before your hearing date).

A process server or police officer can serve you the EPO.

What Happens When You Violate the EPO (Facts of the Offense)

Before convicting you of PC 273.6, the prosecution team must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • The court legally issued the protective order
  • You knew of the court-issued order
  • You could comply with the court-issued order
  • You willingly broke the order

Knowledge under PC 273.6 means you knew of the existence of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). It includes the chance to go through the EPO regardless of whether you read it or not.

You engage in a behavior willfully when you do it on purpose or willingly.

If you break another law while violating your restraining order, you can be convicted of PC 273.6 and the code section governing the other offense.

Can an Alleged Victim Violate an Emergency Protective Order

The victim (protected individual) in a TRO cannot get in trouble for contacting the restrained person. Only you, the restrained individual, can face criminal charges and an arrest for violating your restraining order.

It is unwise for the victim to contact you. You can use it as proof in a court proceeding that the alleged victim does not fear you and that the EPO is no longer essential.

Penalties, Sentencing, and Consequences

Violation of this crime is a California misdemeanor punishable by the following penalties:

  • A year in jail
  • One thousand dollars in fine

However, the crime becomes a California wobbler if:

  • You have a prior conviction for violating a temporary restraining order, and
  • The violation involved violence

A California wobbler is an offense that the prosecution team can charge either as a California felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the defendant’s criminal record and the case facts.  

A felony carries the following maximum penalties:

  • Fine of ten thousand dollars
  • Three years in prison

Typically, violation of a TRO does not have negative immigration consequences.

A Conviction Could Affect the Firearm Rights and Privileges

A conviction will affect your firearm rights if you are facing a felony. California laws ban felons from possessing or owning a gun.

Will the Emergency Protective Order Appear on Your Background Check?

Restraining orders are civil matters and do not appear in background checks.

However, if you violate your temporary restraining order, the violation will appear on your background check. A charge on your criminal record, even without a conviction, will:

  • Affect your ability to secure employment or reduce your earning potential
  • Result in more severe penalties if subsequently convicted of another crime
  • Make it challenging to obtain state professional licenses
  • Make it hard to secure housing and education opportunities

Legal Defenses and Strategies to Violation of PC 273.6

While violating an emergency protective order carries severe penalties, there are numerous defenses your attorney can use on your behalf to fight the charges.

Your lawyer will collect evidence and analyze your case's circumstances to develop the most effective legal defense and strategy. Typical legal defenses include:

Absence of Knowledge of the EPO

One element of the crime is that the defendant was aware of the temporary restraining order.

Therefore, the accused can urge that they violated the temporary restraining order before the process server or police officer served them with it.

You Did Not Violate the Temporary Restraining Order Willfully

You should willfully or purposely break the restraining order to break the law. It is then an effective legal defense for you to claim that you did not act so purposely while you violated the order.

You probably committed the crime accidentally. Maybe you showed up at the same location as the alleged victim.

You cannot be convicted of this crime, provided you did your best to keep your distance and avoid confrontation.

The Restrained Order was Not Lawful

The defendant can only break this statute if they violate a legally issued order. Therefore, you can claim that:

  • The order was expired and was not renewed
  • The judge did not have a basis for issuing the order

False Accusations

It is not uncommon for a person to be falsely accused of PC 273.6. The victim probably had ill motives after your relationship ended and made false accusations due to jealousy, anger, or vengeance.

Related Offenses

Discussed below are crimes charged alongside or instead of Penal Code Section 273.6.

Domestic Violence

Under domestic violence (DV) laws, it is illegal for you to threaten to harm or harm your intimate partner.

Typical DV charges include:

  • Corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant (PC 273.5) — It is a wobbler. A misdemeanor carries a year in jail, while a felony is punishable by a four-year state prison sentence.
  • Domestic battery (PC 243(e)(1)) is a misdemeanor. The crime carries a $2,000 fine, a year in county jail, and probation.

California Stalking

PC 646.9 makes it an offense to follow, annoy, harass, or threaten an individual to a level that the alleged victim fears for their safety.

If charged with a misdemeanor, the offense carries up to a year in jail or summary probation. A felony, on the other hand, is punishable by formal probation or five years in California state prison.

Criminal Threats

California PC 422 defines criminal threats as threats of great bodily injuries or death intended to place the victim in reasonable and sustained fear for their safety or that of their families.

It is a wobbler. If convicted of misdemeanor criminal threats, you will spend a maximum of a year in jail. A felony conviction carries up to four years in state prison. Using a deadly or dangerous weapon enhances the sentence by a year.

Elder Abuse

California PC 368 prohibits abuse directed at a person at least 65. Abuse can be either:

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

The prosecutor can charge the crime as either a felony or a misdemeanor. It carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Vandalism in California

California PC 594 defines vandalism as maliciously destroying, defacing, or damaging somebody else’s assets.

The crime is a California misdemeanor if the damaged property value is less than $400. However, the charges become a felony if the amount exceeds $400.

Contempt of Court

You violate PC 166 when engaging in conduct disrespectful of the court proceeding.

Examples of unlawful behavior include:

  • Engaging in disrespectful conduct in a court proceeding, like being loud or taunting the clerk
  • Willfully violating a written court order
  • Public false accounts of court proceedings

It is a misdemeanor that attracts the following penalties:

  • Six months in county jail
  • A fine of $1,000
  • Summary probation

How Much is Bail for Violating an Emergency Protective Order

Bail is the amount of money you post with the court to secure your release from police detention until your criminal case is resolved. After paying your bail, the court will hold the amount and allow you to return home to your family and work while awaiting your trial.

Every California county has a bail schedule that outlines the required bail amount for every crime. You should fully understand your criminal charges to know the required bail amount. The bail for an emergency restraining order starts at $15,000. Typically, your bail amount depends on many factors, including:

  • Alleged victims — The judge will raise the amount if any party was injured during the crime commission. The aim is to keep the suspect behind bars to protect the other party. You will also pay a high bond amount if your case involves children
  • Flight risk — If you can flee the jurisdiction or evade law enforcers, the higher the set bail amount.

If you cannot raise the amount, speak with a skilled and reliable Los Angeles bail bond agent. The bondsman can arrange your bond in exchange for a non-refundable fee, usually 10% of the total bail cost.

Once your case is closed, the court will refund the bail amount to the person who posted it.

What to Do If Falsely Accused of Violating PC 273.6

Malicious false accusations are a common phenomenon in violation of EPO charges. It can happen when the accuser lies to the authorities to gain the upper hand in family law or child custody disputes. Other reasons can be due to vengeance, anger, or malice.

While the initial inclination is clearing your name by talking to others and sleuthing around, it is not always a wise idea. You do not have to establish your innocence; it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove the guilt. Moreover, the last thing you want to do is worsen things, so take the steps below.

Engage a Proficient Legal Counsel

The best thing you can do if falsely accused of violating an emergency protective order is to remain silent and hire a defense attorney.

It would be best if you never thought you did not require legal counsel because you are innocent. There is a need for a lawyer, especially if your case involves:

  • Interactions with the prosecutor to discuss mistakes in your criminal charge
  • Hostile witnesses and accusers
  • Misleading or false evidence
  • Guilty plea to a lesser crime

Your attorney is best placed to advise you on what steps to take.

Conduct Pre-file Investigations

Pre-file investigations are when your lawyer investigates the allegations before the prosecutor files the criminal charges.

The investigations aim to gather favorable evidence for the defendant.

During the pre-file investigations, the lawyer can:

  • Interview the prosecutor’s witness
  • Find new witnesses
  • Conduct background checks and records
  • Gather information about the alleged victim to cast doubt on their credibility
  • Gather records and documents related to your crime, like emails, letters, legal records, GPS records, phone records, financial records, computer records, and records that show where you were at the time of the crime

Pre-file investigation can be an effective legal strategy. After the investigations, the district attorney can convince the D.A. to either:

  • File a lesser offense, or
  • Decide not to file any criminal charge

Impeaching the Accuser

Impeaching the accuser means presenting questions or evidence undermining the victim’s credibility.

Typically, it happens during cross-examination at trial. The defense attorney will ask the witness if they know facts that reflect poorly on the accuser’s reputation for knowledge on the topic or truthfulness.

What Not to Do If Falsely Accused

If you are falsely accused of violating your EPO, you should not:

  • Destroy evidence (it can result in more suspicion and criminal charges)
  • Try to contact the alleged victim about the case or have contact with witnesses or the accuser
  • Speak with police officers without your defense lawyer present

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Arrested for Violating Your Emergency Protective Order

If you are arrested, you must know everything you should do to fight your criminal charges. It is also critical to know the common mistakes most defendants make so you can avoid them.

Resisting Arrest

It would be best if you did not resist arrest or try to flee from the police officers. Resisting the arrest could subject you to injuries if the cops use force to refrain you and additional criminal charges.

Instead, remain as calm as possible.

Failing to Speak with a Defense Lawyer Immediately

Most people wait until they are arrested or arraigned before hiring an attorney. You should call a lawyer once you realize law enforcers suspect you of violating your emergency protective order. The sooner you have a lawyer, the better.

Here is what the legal profession can do:

  • Investigate your case — After your initial consultation, your defense lawyer will start investigating the case. They will collect as many details about the case as possible. They will ask you questions about the case to determine the available legal defenses and options. Additionally, they will analyze police reports and interview witnesses.
  • Guide you through the California judicial system  — An experienced defense lawyer has previously handled similar cases and understands and complies with written and unwritten rules and procedures. The legal expert can, for example, leverage their knowledge of the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution to determine whether the arrest was lawful. They also find information about prior court decisions affecting your case outcome.
  • Negotiating with the prosecution team — Generally, most cases in California are resolved through plea bargains before the matter reaches trial. During the plea bargain negotiations, you would plead guilty to lesser criminal charges in return for lenient penalties or have the case dismissed altogether.
  • Present defense in the courtroom — If your case proceeds to trial, the lawyer will present your account of what happened before the prosecutor’s witnesses’ cross-examination to persuade the judge or jury that the burden of proof has not been satisfied. Your lawyer should present several pieces of evidence and arguments to increase the possibility of a favorable case outcome. Additionally, the attorney can file a motion to suppress unlawfully-obtained evidence.

Using Social Media

Avoid posting online when you learn of the criminal accusations against you, even if you have not been charged or arrested yet. Do not talk about your accusations online. Do not make insinuations about what occurred.

The police will look at your social media presence. The cops can use content unrelated to your crime against you. They can also take funny photos or posts out of context and affect how the prosecution team views your character.

Consider staying off social media if you have several random connections you do not know in real life.

Finally, do not delete anything without consulting your attorney.

Lying to or Hiding Information from Your Defense Lawyer

Your defense attorney cannot defend you effectively if you withhold details. The lawyer can only build legal defenses based on the details you provide, police evidence, witness statements, and the attorney’s knowledge of the law. When you cooperate with the lawyer, they can prepare to deal with the unfavorable information that the victim could reveal during your trial.

If you fail to offer specific facts later discovered to be untrue, the consequences could be devastating for the case. If the jury discovers that you tried to hide the truth, they will assume the defense is questionable, and you could face additional perjury charges.

Failing to Take the Criminal Charges Lightly

While you could believe you are innocent and that the criminal justice system will rule in your favor, ignoring your charges can hurt the case.

Attempting to Tell Your Side of the Story

People who believe they were wrongly arrested often try to explain themselves and convince law enforcers of their innocence.

Whatever you say during your arrest will and can be used against you in a court of law. Police officers are not your friends. They are there to gather evidence.

Find a Knowledgeable Domestic Violence Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Typically, the court issues an EPO in a domestic violence case where emotions run high. It is a challenging and emotionally draining moment, especially when the plaintiff is your significant other or a family member. The Los Angeles Criminal Attorney has previously handled PC 273.6 charges and knows what is at stake. We know the prosecution team and judges do not take the charges lightly and could impose severe penalties. We can assist you in protecting your rights and fight for you to obtain the most favorable case outcome.

Please call us at 424-333-0943 to discuss your case facts and the way forward.