Criminal protective or restraining orders are primarily issued in domestic violence-related cases. They are mandates issued by courts that shield victims from physical abuse, intimidation, stalking, or harassment. These orders are typically issued against household members or family members, but the judge could also issue them against anybody threatening the safety of the victims or their families.
These orders prohibit restrained individuals from contacting, in any way, the supposed victim, including making phone calls, texting them, sending them emails, and reaching them through social media. Also, restraining orders prevent indirect contact, like sending messages to the victim via someone else.
Our domestic violence lawyers at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney understand various protective orders and how courts handle these cases. We have been successfully legally representing clients in protective order matters for decades, and we can do the same for you. If you desire to apply for a restraining order or someone has obtained a protective order against you, call us as soon as possible for legal advice. We look at permanent restraining orders.
Permanent Restraining Order (PRO) Overview
Before we define a PRO, you must know that California has three types of restraining orders. These orders provide different protection levels. Before a PRO, there is an EPO (Emergency Protective Order) and TRO (Temporary Restraining Order).
The EPO's purpose is to provide the victim with interim or short-term protection while they undergo the procedure for obtaining a PRO. EPOs are prevalently granted in emergency domestic violence-related cases. Generally, authorities responding to an abuse science will call the judge requesting an EPO. EPOs last one week and are viable for replacement by a more permanent order after their validity expires.
Regarding TROs, prosecutors in criminal cases can request them, and are judge-issued. If a judge grants a TRO, it will stay effective until the case ends. A TRO's purpose is to offer the victim temporary protection until the judge holds a hearing to determine whether to issue a PRO or not or the criminal proceedings in question are concluded.
After a TRO comes a PRO, which are court-issued mandates that restrict you from contacting, in any way, the victim who applied for the order, and they can remain valid for a maximum of five years. Because a PRO substantially restricts your freedom, the court is mandated to hold a hearing to allow the defense and prosecution to argue their cases. At the hearing, the judge weighs the evidence against and for granting the protective order. After weighing the evidence, they rule depending on the case facts.
Whether the judge has ordered an EPO, TRO, or PRO against you is based on the danger and harassment the supposed victim faces or believes they face.
Also, note that you want to understand the protection level granted. It could affect who you may contact and where you may go. You, therefore, should consult a skilled restraining order attorney immediately if a person seeks to acquire a PRO against you.
Types of Permanent Restraining Orders
Not all permanent protective orders serve the same purpose. There are various types of permanent protective orders that California courts could issue. California permanent restraining orders fall under four classifications:
- Domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs)— DVROs protect victims from violence or abuse from a person closely related to them. Parties eligible to file for a DVRO may include spouses, registered domestic or married partners, former spouses, co-habitants, significant others, and former significant others. Minors twelve years and above can request a DVRO by themselves. Someone else acting on a child's behalf may also file for DVRO.
- Civil harassment protective orders— these protective orders are typically requested when the involved person is ineligible for a DVRO. They are usually filed against roommates, neighbors, extended family, or co-workers. These kinds of orders can be sought in situations where illegal violence is experienced, like stalking, battery, or assault, or where credible threats of violence have been made.
- Dependent adult or elder restraining orders— dependent adult or elder protective orders can be sought by persons aged sixty-five years and above or those aged between eighteen and sixty-four with physical and mental disabilities that hinder them from leading an everyday life. Dependent or elderly individuals who fall victim to neglect, abuse, deprivation, or hurtful treatment can request this restraining order.
- Workplace violence protective orders— a workplace violence protective order is sought by an employer who wishes to protect their employees from threats of violence or violence at the workplace.
Note that the PRO will outline the exact behavior it prohibits. Mostly, the order will contain provisions meant to bar you from contacting the protected party, including the following:
- Wanting you to always keep a specified distance from the protected person
- Barring you from calling the protected person via the phone or sending them text messages
- Wanting you to avoid sending the protected party emails or interacting with them on social media
Failure to obey any provision against you listed in the protective order may result in you facing restraining order violation charges under PC 273.6.
Regardless of the type of protective order the victim has sought against you, seek legal advice from a skilled restraining order attorney to assist you in understanding the protective order provisions.
How Is a Permanent Restraining Order Served?
When a judge decides to issue a PRO, a time and date for a court hearing are scheduled. After the scheduling of the hearing, the protective order papers have to be served or delivered to the intended restrained party (respondent). The papers must be served so the respondent is notified that someone has filed a petition against them.
Protective order papers generally contain a statement describing the action the petitioner requested, the hearing time and date, and any other document the victim (petitioner) might have filed in court to support their petition. After being served the papers, the respondent has ten to twenty days before the scheduled hearing to file a response to the victim's statements.
The court will not issue a PRO if the respondent is not served properly with restraining order papers. A process server or police officer can serve protective order papers. The papers cannot, however, be served via mail.
Permanent Restraining Order Violation, California Penal Code 273.6
If the judge has issued a PRO against you, failing to adhere to the terms and provisions of that order will subject you to severe consequences under PC 273.6. Although, the judge or jury must first determine that you violated the PRO. To do that, the court will hold a protective order violation proceeding. At the proceeding, the prosecutor must substantiate all these elements for the judge/jury to find you guilty of violation and sentence you:
- A judge granted a PRO against you.
- You were conscious of the fact that there was a PRO out against you and the terms contained in it. The district attorney does not have to demonstrate that you went through the PRO and read all the order’s terms. They only have to show you were conversant with the provided terms.
- You possessed the present capability to obey the PRO. The PRO must be reasonably created to avoid placing prejudicial or unjust limitations on your freedom. Thus, if the PRO terms make it impractical or impossible for you to follow, you can contest the validity of the order terms and conditions by hiring a knowledgeable restraining order attorney.
- You deliberately violated the PRO. For a judge to deduce that you broke the PRO terms, the prosecutor must prove you knew those terms and opted not to follow them regardless. An unintentional or accidental violation is insufficient to sustain a conviction of a PRO violation under PC 273.6.
The Outcome of Violating a PRO
If the judge determines that you broke the terms of the PRO issued against you, criminal consequences may follow. Under PC 273.6, violating a PRO is deemed a wobbler crime, meaning the district attorney could charge it as a misdemeanor or felony. Whether you will face felony or misdemeanor charges depends on your criminal record and the facts surrounding your case.
You will be subject to up to a year in jail and a fine not exceeding 1,000 dollars if it is a misdemeanor PRO violation conviction. A felony PRO violation conviction carries sixteen months, three or two years in jail, and a fine not exceeding 10,000 dollars.
The judge will also consider other factors when deciding on your penalty for breaking the terms of your PRO, including whether or not you have any prior conviction for a restraining order violation or related offense or whether or not the victim suffered injuries. If, for example, your PRO violation led to the protected party suffering physical injury, you may be subject to a mandatory jail sentence of at least thirty days.
You may also qualify for a probation sentence if convicted of a PRO violation. During your probation period, the judge will require you not to break any law (apart from traffic infractions). Additionally, the judge will need you to follow various conditions, including:
- Paying the victim restitution for medical bills incurred due to the crime or making payment to a battered women's shelter.
- Going for mandatory counseling.
- Reimbursing the victim for costs caused by your violation.
- Performing community labor.
- Making frequent mandatory visits with your probation officer.
Failure to adhere to any of these conditions could lead to the revocation of your probation, and you may face the maximum incarceration period permitted under the statute.
Owning a Firearm with a PRO Against You
When a judge has issued a PRO against you, owning, possessing, buying, or obtaining a gun in any other way will be illegal. If you have weapons, the court will require you to sell them to an authorized firearm dealer or surrender them to your local police agency to comply with the PRO.
Knowingly possessing or buying a gun while the PRO against is still valid could result in severe criminal charges per 29825 PC, possessing a firearm in violation of a court order. This crime is considered a wobbler. If guilty of misdemeanor charges, you will face a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars and a maximum of one year in jail. A felony conviction carries a maximum of three years of a prison sentence and a fine of one thousand dollars.
Defenses to PRO Violation Charges
If accused of breaking the terms of your PRO, you should seek help from a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer immediately. An experienced lawyer understands the valid defense strategies for PRO violation accusations, and they will help you argue them effectively. Here are the various defenses to PRO violation charges that attorneys have applied to defend clients.
The PRO was Issued Illegally
The prosecutor must show that the PRO was issued legally for the judge to find you guilty of violating it. Your attorney may argue that the PRO is invalid since the court did not have the jurisdiction to issue it or the facts upon which the PRO was dependent are misleading or false.
If the judge issued the PRO dependent on misleading or false info or the court did not have the jurisdiction to issue the PRO, the order could be deemed invalid. If that is the case, you would not be obligated to adhere to its terms.
Inability to Obey the Terms of the Order
The judge will sometimes impose PRO terms that are almost impossible or impractical for the restrained person to obey. Therefore, you are not guilty of breaking your PRO terms if you lack the present capability to comply with those terms.
For example, say the judge issues a PRO that prohibits you from using a particular road passing through the victim's neighborhood. But this road is the only one you can use to go to your home, and you will be incapable of accessing the highway unless you use it. It is unfair and unreasonable for the PRO to direct you to stop using your only access route. In this case, therefore, the court should find that you could not obey this condition of the PRO.
In this case, your lawyer can argue that your charges are dropped and the PRO terms are revised.
You Lacked Intent
For the court to find you guilty of a PRO violation, the D.A must prove you deliberately broke the terms of the order. Thus, it is valid for you to argue that you inadvertently or accidentally violated those terms.
How can a person violate a PRO accidentally? Suppose the PRO states that you should not go anywhere within a hundred yards of the victim. One day you go shopping at a grocery store without knowing the victim is also at the same store. In this case, the court should not find you guilty of a PRO violation since your coming within a hundred yards of the victim was not deliberate.
You Lacked Knowledge
For the court to find you guilty of a PRO violation, the D.A must show you were conscious of the fact that the PRO had been issued against you. If you did not have this knowledge, you are not guilty of intentional PRO violation.
This defense is valid when you were absent when the judge issued the PRO. Your lawyer can show you lacked knowledge by proving you were not served notice that there is a PRO against you. If, for example, the PRO was mistakenly served to another person, the court should not penalize you for a PRO violation.
If someone wrongfully accused you of breaking PRO terms, you should call a lawyer to fight off the accusations aggressively. False accusations of PRO violations often arise in contentious child custody or divorce cases. The individual under protection may falsely allege that the person being restrained violated the PRO to avenge the individual or have the upper hand in the custody case.
Permanent Restraining Orders FAQs
To understand PROs better, most people often ask various questions. The frequently asked questions include:
Can Employers See If I Have a PRO Against Me?
PROs are a public record, meaning anybody can access the information if they know where to search. However, the background checks employers conduct on possible employees vary in thoroughness and the specific information the employer is trying to access.
Fortunately, PROs are not criminal orders; therefore, they will not reflect on background checks meant only to discover your criminal record. Additionally, civilly issued PROs will unlikely appear during background checks since many employees are not interested in accessing your civil or family law records. However, no law prevents an employer from accessing PRO info if they so desire.
Even though PROs are not criminal orders and do not reflect on background checks, violating a PRO under PC 273.6 is a criminal offense, and a conviction can appear on background checks. Therefore, if you violate a PRO imposed against you and are convicted, employers can access the conviction record, and it may be hard for you to secure employment.
What Will Happen When a PRO Expires?
PRO may last up to five years. When your PRO is about to expire, the victim can request that the court renews it permanently or for an additional five years. The court decides whether to renew the order based on whether you have caused any further violence.
What If the Protected Person Tries to Contact Me?
If the PRO terms and conditions prohibit you from contacting the victim, avoid any communication with the victim at all costs, even if it is them making contact. A PRO aims to restrict your behavior, not the protected person's. Therefore, only you will be convicted if you violate its terms, per PC 273.6.
If the protected person wishes to lift the PRO, they must request the court to do so. Never contact the supposed victim whatsoever until you are sure the court has officially lifted the order.
Will I be Required to Vacate My Home If There Is a PRO Out Against Me?
The provisions of the PRO against you will likely state that you should keep a particular distance from the protected party. As a result, if you and the protected party live together, one of you will need to vacate, provided the PRO remains valid.
Should I Disregard a PRO I Think Is Invalid?
No. Never merely ignore a court-issued PRO. All court-issued orders must be complied with, even when you believe they are invalid. Failure to comply with a court-issued order could result in you facing criminal consequences.
Contact a skilled restraining order attorney if you know or believe a PRO is invalid, dependent on false info, or was not served properly. The lawyer will advise on how you can proceed without violating the order.
Who Can Withdraw a PRO?
Only the court can withdraw a PRO. But you can request the court to lift the PRO against you. Your lawyer must prove that you are no longer a threat to the protected party for the judge to grant your request to lift the PRO. Also, the protected individual could request the judge to lift the order if they believe the PRO is not needed anymore. They can do this by filing a motion.
Find a Knowledgeable Criminal Attorney Near Me
Being issued a PRO can complicate your life. The PRO will affect who you can talk to and where you can go. You will also face severe repercussions if you violate the PRO, including incarceration and fines. Consequently, you need legal help if dealing with PRO matters, that is, whether someone seeks to obtain a PRO against you or you have been charged with violating one.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, our restraining order lawyers have decades of experience and expertise in successfully representing people in protective order cases. We are also ready to help you with legal advice and strategic defense. Call us at 424-333-0943 for a cost-free consultation concerning your case.