Being charged with a protective order can be a frightening, frustrating, and even confusing experience. A protective order (sometimes referred to as a restraining order) is a court order stating that you must stay away from a certain individual and/or location. Here are several steps you should take if you find yourself on the receiving end of a protective order.
Understand the type of protective order you are facing
There are basically three types of protective orders in Utah: (1) an ex parte protective order; (2) a permanent/final protective order; (3) a child protective order out of the juvenile court; and (4) a stalking injunction. An ex parte protective order is a temporary protective order and can be issued without a hearing. It typically lasts for up to 20 days. When you are served with it, the paperwork will typically list a hearing date when you will be able to go to court and defend yourself. A permanent or final protective order is issued after that hearing, if the court finds that a final protective order is warranted. A child protective order is issued by the juvenile court and is focused on the protection of children. A stalking injunction is similar to a protective order, but is typically based on allegations of stalking and spying on another rather than on domestic violence. It’s important to understand the type of protective order you are facing so you can properly prepare for any hearings or legal proceedings.
Consult with an attorney
If you have been charged with a protective order, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights, the consequences of a protective order, strategize with you based on the facts of your case, put together evidence for your defense, prepare you to testify in court, and provide you with guidance throughout the legal process.
Comply with the protective order
Even if you believe the charges are unwarranted, it’s important to comply with the terms of the protective order. Violating a protective order can result in criminal charges and a loss of credibility with the court. If you have any questions about the terms of the protective order, err on the side of caution.
Attend all court hearings
Failure to show up at your court hearing can result in an ex parte (temporary) protective order becoming a permanent protective order. Sometimes people don’t want to attend a court hearing if they don’t have an attorney present—don’t do this. Instead, go to court and say, “Your honor, I haven’t been able to come up with the retainer to hire an attorney yet. I’d like to request an extension of 30 days so I can save some money, interview attorneys, and hire counsel.” Typically the court will grant such a request, but the protective order will still remain in place until the hearing.
Prepare for the hearing
If you have a hearing scheduled, it is important to prepare for it carefully. Gather evidence that refutes your accuser’s allegations and supports your narrative of events. This can include witness statements, photographs, text messages, recorded conversations, police reports, or other relevant documentation. Additionally, it is important to dress appropriately—court is best dress. Men should wear a button up shirt with a tie (and a suit if you have one) and women should wear dresses, skirts, slacks, or other appropriate professional attire.
Consider seeking counseling or therapy
If you have been charged with a protective order, it may be helpful to seek counseling or therapy, attend courses, or complete assessments to address any underlying issues that may have led to the charges. This can help you even if you are innocent. Doing this can demonstrate to the court that you are taking the charges seriously and are committed to addressing any concerns—it certainly wins favor in the eyes of the judge.
Protective order proceedings typically are processed rather quickly. It’s important not to wait to address them, or you may find yourself in a situation where a protective order is entered against you and you didn’t have the opportunity to present a valid defense. Hire experienced counsel and provide them with all the relevant evidence so they can develop a strategy tailored for your situation.