In Washington State, there are a few different types of court orders that can be issued to prevent contact between two people.
Although it’s common for people to refer to all court orders preventing contact as restraining orders, the type of order that is issued will depend on who initiates the order as well as the relationship between the accuser and the accused.
Types of Court Orders that Prevent Contact
- Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) – issued at the request of the alleged victim (petitioner) as a civil remedy for domestic violence. An accusation of domestic violence can sometimes be enough evidence for a judge to issue a DV Protection Order on the accused person (respondent). If a person wants to avoid involving law enforcement, but wants protection from being assaulted, harassed or stalked, they may want to consider a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO).
- Restraining Order – a civil order that can be temporary or permanent. Restraining Orders are normally filed as part of an existing family law case, such as a divorce proceeding or child custody case. It is common for people to assume that they need a Restraining Order when they actually need an Anti-Harassment Order or DV Protection Order.
- Anti-Harassment Protection Order (AHPO) – a civil order that can be issued as a remedy for a person (petitioner) claiming any type of harassment from a non-family member (respondent). Anti-Harassment orders are commonly sought in neighbor disputes and other disputes that do not involve a family member, current or past romantic partner, or roommate.
- No Contact Order – initiated by a judge as part of a criminal case. For example, if there was an arrest for domestic violence assault, the judge will normally issue a No Contact Order to protect the alleged victim. Unlike a civil protection order or restraining order, the victim does not initiate a No Contact Order. Judges in Washington State will often create this order against the wishes of the protected person.
What type of contact is prohibited in WA State?
Prohibited contact can refer to in person contact, phone contact, texting, emailing, social media contact, or communication through a third party. Court orders often require a person to avoid coming within a certain distance of the protected person’s home, workplace, or school.
What happens if a court order preventing contact is violated?
In Washington State, a violation of any of the above orders is a criminal offense. An arrest will be made and the defendant will likely be booked into jail. At a criminal trial, the prosecutor must prove all of the following:
- An order must have been in place.
- The defendant had to know about the order.
- The defendant had to make contact that was prohibited by the order.
What are the criminal penalties for violating an order?
If the contact did not involve an assault and if the accused does not have two prior convictions for violating an order, the offense will be a gross misdemeanor, which means that there is a potential sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. If the contact involved assault or if the accused has two prior convictions for violating an order, the offense will be a Class C Felony, with a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
What if the contact was consensual?
When a court order is violated in Washington State, the wishes of the protected person become irrelevant to the court. Even if the contact was consensual or initiated by the victim, it can still result in a criminal conviction. There is no law that restricts the protected person from contacting the person who is ordered to avoid contact. An attorney will need to fight the criminal charge.
Are guns taken away after a protection order is issued?
If the petitioner or victim is considered an intimate partner, any firearms of the respondent or defendant are required to be surrendered to the police department. This is true with Domestic Violence Protection Orders as well as No Contact Orders associated with a domestic violence criminal case.
How would a defendant or respondent get their firearms back?
The police will not release any firearms without a specific court order to do so. Judges are reluctant to release guns and will not do so while the case is still pending. An attorney would need to demonstrate to the court that returning guns would not pose a significant safety threat to the victim.
Which side does your firm represent?
At Beckwith DV Law, we take your side. We represent people who want a civil protection order filed and we also defend people who are facing accusations of misconduct and order violations. Our experience representing plaintiffs and defendants allows us to better predict outcomes and present your case to the court in a convincing and strategic manner.
What geographical areas does your firm work in?
We work for clients in the courts of King County, Snohomish County, Pierce County, Thurston County, and Kitsap County, including the municipal courts of Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Kent, Tacoma, and Olympia, Washington.
We can be reached any day of the week for a free consultation.