Victims of stalking, sexual assault, or abuse may seek relief from the justice system by filing for an Order of Protection. An Order of Protection grants aid to those who have been threatened or subjected to violence. The order creates a set of parameters concerning the amount of contact a person may come into with a victim. This can range from limited contact to absolutely no contact, directly or indirectly, with the victim for a fixed period of time not exceeding a year. If an Order of Protection is violated, law enforcement officers may be permitted to arrest the perpetrator without obtaining a warrant. This serves to guarantee the safety of any victim, and further prevent members of a civil suit from being harassed by opposing parties.
Knowing Whether you Need and Order of Protection
Threats of violence can come from those as close as family or distant as strangers. The law can be a useful resource to articulate what someone is experiencing regardless of your relationship with an abuser. The law recognizes a person committing assault as someone who:
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another;
- Intentionally or knowingly causes another to fear imminent bodily injury; or
- Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.
Further, the law defines harassment as:
Conduct directed toward a victim that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress, and that actually causes a victim to suffer emotional distress.
This criteria for assault and harrasment charges is used in evaluating situations of stalking, domestic abuse, and sexual assault or harrasment. If someone has exercised any of the above listed offenses against you or a dependent, contact an attorney about filing an order of protection.
Petitioning for an Order of Protection
If you decide that you need an order of protection, there are a couple things you can expect after filing. After you have filed your OP, a judge will review it and either dismiss or temporarily grant it. To deliberate whether or not the order is to be permanently granted, the court will set a hearing date. The respondent, the person you’re filing the Order of Protection against, will be served a copy of the petition and notified of the hearing date. The hearing will either take place in the county where the respondent resides, where the assault or harassment occurred, or, if the respondent lives out-of-state, where you, the petitioner, live. On the day of the hearing, it will be you and your counsel’s responsibility to prove the allegations which necessitate your Order of Protection by a preponderance of the evidence. This means the court must find that it is more than 50% likely that your allegations are true. An Order of Protection will be granted once your legal counsel meets this burden of proof.
Being served With an Order of Protection
If someone were to file an Order of Protection against you, you could expect the following to take place. Firstly, it is the courts’ responsibility to serve you a copy of the petition, in addition to notice of the date set for hearing the petition, no less than 5 days before said hearing. The notice will inform you that you are entitled to representation by legal counsel. If you or counsel do not attend the hearing, the Order of Protection may automatically be granted on the grounds that there is nothing to counter the claims of the respondent. The hearing will either take place in the county where you, the respondent, resides, where the alleged assault or harassment occurred, or, if you live out-of-state, where the petitioner lives. By attending the hearing, you and your counsel will have the opportunity to counter any claims brought against you
What an OP Can Do
An Order of Protection is not only capable of limiting contact between two parties. In addition to this it can:
- Mandate counseling
- Alter custody agreements
- Alter and enforce child support
- Alter and enforce alimony
- Alter property division
- Terminate possession of firearms
In situations where a petitioner and respondent live together, an Order of Protection may require that the respondent vacate the joint home or provide suitable alternative housing for the petitioner.
Amanda Gentry has experience both petitioning for and defending against Orders of Protection. If you are concerned for your safety and well being, contact our offices today for a consultation.