DC Protective Orders

Under DC law, a protective order is a civil matter filed by one person against another person claiming that the petitioner, the person making the request for the protective order, has reason to feel afraid of the respondent, the person the petitioner is filing against. Protective orders are different from restraining orders, although sometimes people confuse the two. The difference between a restraining order and a protective order is the relationship between the people involved.

Anyone who has had a protective order against them should contact a skilled domestic violence lawyer to clarify the DC requirements based on the facts of your case. Protective orders are different from restraining orders, although sometimes people confuse the two. The difference between a restraining order and a protective order is the relationship between the people involved.

Protective Order vs. Restraining Order

A protective order is a specific kind of civil matter handled by the DC domestic violence branch of the DC Superior Court. It is still considered a civil matter, not a criminal matter. However, the people involved in a protective order must have some kind of intra-family relationship between them.

Whereas a restraining order does not necessarily involve one person asking another person to stay away from them because they are afraid. A restraining order can be filed by one person against any person they want, asking that the person is required to do or not do something, and it can be modified as needed. These are general civil matters handled by a normal civil court.

Dynamics of Protective Order

The protective order definitions of intra-family relationships do not necessarily mean that the people are related by blood. Intra-family relationships consist of people that have or had a dating or sexual history between them, who have a child in common, are blood relatives, or share a domicile. Sharing a domicile does not mean that the people involved are romantic partners. They could be roommates who share a domicile.

Protective orders are specific civil matters where a petitioner asks a court to impose an order requiring the respondent to comply with certain conditions that usually consist of staying away from the petitioner and having no contact with them. Protective orders could also include other conditions like attending domestic violence courses, paying for past rent, and other orders a judge could impose against the respondent. Violations of protective orders come with serious consequences.

Types of Protective Orders

There is only one type of civil protective order. They are filed through the domestic violence branch. A CPO is limited to civil claims filed out of an alleged fear of harm made by a petitioner against a respondent with whom that petitioner has an intra-family relationship. Although, there can be different allegations made in protection orders such as assaults, threats, obstruction of property, stalking, and harassment. These are allegations that can be made in a protection order filed at the domestic violence branch of the DC Superior Court.

Once granted, a standard CPO lasts one year. When the one year is over and the petitioner can show good cause as to why they have a continuing fear of harm, a judge may grant an extension of the one year CPO. The petitioner cannot make the same claims that were made in the initial CPO to show a continuing fear of harm. There must be some new fear of harm that was not addressed at the initial court appearance to establish a reason for the judge to extend the CPO beyond one year.

Civil Protection Requirements in DC

Most commonly, a CPO requires a person to stay away from and have no contact with the petitioner. Typically, the stay away order is a 100 yard stay away order. The respondent must stay at least 100 yards away from the petitioner at all times. A CPO could also require the respondent to stay 100 yards away from the petitioner’s vehicle, their job, their family members, their children, and other locations the petitioner might frequent.

A CPO might require that a respondent not have any contact with family members, children, or other close acquaintances of the petitioner. A judge could also order a respondent to enroll in and complete domestic violence counseling or anger management programs; pay restitution for damaged property; or vacate a residence the respondent shares with the petitioner in some situations.

Judges have some latitude when deciding appropriate conditions to impose based on the facts the judge found to be credible in that person’s case. The judge hears arguments from both sides to determine what is appropriate for the circumstances. The respondent can make arguments for why such conditions are not appropriate.

Evidence to Disprove Violation

A contempt of court for violating a protection order allegation is a criminal charge.  As such, in a contempt of court prosecution, the prosecutors have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a person violated a civil protection order.

A respondent and a petitioner can negotiate with each other to resolve the civil protective order in a way that might resolve the matter without a specific finding against the respondent. However, those kinds of negotiations between a respondent and a petitioner do not happen in a contempt allegation. The petitioner has no direct control over a contempt of court prosecution. The prosecutor bears the burden of producing evidence and proving a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, during the trial the petitioner may act as a witness, submitting documentary evidence or witnesses to allow the prosecutor to meet the burden of proof. To challenge those allegations and the prosecutor’s ability to prove their case, the respondent, and their attorney, can gather witnesses as well as written or documentory evidence to disprove the violation of a CPO.