Repercussions of Violating a DC Protective Order

The consequences for violating a temporary protection order (TPO) or a civil protection order (CPO) in DC are exactly the same. A person could face a criminal charge called contempt of court for violating a TPO or a CPO. Even though a protection order is a civil matter, violating those conditions carry more severe consequences because they are considered court orders.

To determine any further repercussions of violating a protective order in DC, it is important to consult with an experienced domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible. There are many nuances and specific elements associated with protective orders in DC, which should only be explained by a knowledgeable domestic violence attorney.

Initial Steps

When a person receives a TPO, the first thing they should do is contact a lawyer to make sure they understand the conditions. The person should not go to the court to file a claim against the petitioner. A respondent should not reach out to the petitioner directly or contact the petitioner through a third party. These can all potentially be criminal violations of the protection order.

These orders can be complicated because they may have different conditions a person cannot immediately understand. To fully understand those and not run the risk of violating the DC protection order, it is important for a person to reach out to a lawyer who handles CPOs. They are able to better respond in the appropriate and legally sound way.

Violating the Order

A petitioner with a protection order against a respondent who believes the respondent violated that protection order can file a motion with the court to ask that the respondent be prosecuted for contempt of court. A petitioner could also call the police if they believe the respondent violated the protection order. In the end, a petitioner cannot personally prosecute a respondent for contempt of court or civil protection order violations. Only a DC prosecutor can make that decision. Violations of a TPO or a CPO are criminal prosecutions.

The prosecutors who file contempt charges do not represent petitioners. Once the petitioner calls the police or files a motion to adjudicate criminal contempt with a judge, the judge schedules a hearing and gives DC prosecutors an opportunity to review the evidence that can be used to prove the respondent violated a DC protection order and decide whether to prosecute the case or serve appropriate repercussions.

That prosecution is not based on the involvement or the desires of the petitioner because the prosecutors do not represent the petitioner. The prosecutors represent the government and prosecute the case on behalf of the government, not on behalf of the petitioner.

Committing a Crime

Violating an order is considered to be a crime. A person does not necessarily need to commit a second crime to violate a protection order.

For example, a respondent has a protection order that requires they stay at least 100 yards away from the petitioner. If there is an accusation that the respondent came within 100 yards of the petitioner, the respondent could be prosecuted for contempt of court even though the respondent did not commit an additional crime like assault, threats, stalking, or obstruction of property.

If the respondent comes within 100 yards of the petitioner and punches the petitioner in the face, for example, the respondent could be charged with contempt of court and assault for punching the petitioner. The respondent then faces possible criminal penalties for the violation of the protection order and completely separate criminal penalties for the assault.

Potential Penalties

The DC prosecutors might decide to serve appropriate repercussions for violating a DC protective order. In that case, the judge could sentence the respondent up to 180 days in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, or a combination of the two for each charge of contempt. The judge could also impose court costs between $50 and $250 for each count of contempt of court.

Aggravating Factors

When a person is alleged to have violated a protection order and committed a separate crime in doing so, one of those charges is not necessarily considered more serious than the other. A person is likely to be prosecuted for both offenses at the same time.

When considering those offenses, a prosecutor or a judge could see the overall situation as more severe if a respondent committed an assault as a violation of the protection order versus committing a less severe violation.

For example, a respondent violates a protection order by sending an innocuous text message or email to the petitioner. Even though the text message or email can be prosecuted because it violates the no contact provisions of a civil protection order, a prosecutor may pursue a more favorable resolution to the defendant that does not involve jail time. Potentially, the criminal charges could be dismissed.

However, for more serious situations where the person violated a protection order and committed an assault in doing so, the prosecutor and judges may see that situation as far more severe and seek harsher criminal penalties. Those criminal penalties could involve more lengthy periods of incarceration, longer probation periods, and more strict probation conditions in the criminal case.

Benefit of an Attorney

Even though protection orders are important and can be complicated, they do not have the same criminal penalties that a person faces for an allegation of violating the protection order.

When a person is accused of violating a protection order, that is considered a criminal case and the person is entitled to have legal representation in the same way they are entitled to legal representation in any criminal matter. It is essential that when a person receives a notice alleging they violated a protection order, they should reach out to lawyers immediately for legal advice and representation.

A person faces serious consequences including prosecution and possible jail time for allegations of violating a TPO or a CPO.

Because of the seriousness of those cases, getting legal advice immediately can help a person understand their options and prevent them from taking any actions that could make their situation or consequences even worse.