In California, domestic violence is considered to be any abuse or threatened abuse between two people either related by blood or marriage or who have or had an intimate relationship. They may be married or domestic partners, they may be dating or have dated, live or have lived together or they may have a child together. Whatever the situation, physical or verbal (harassing, stalking or threatening) abuse is against the law and can be prosecuted criminally.
However, criminal prosecution can take months or years to be completed and in the mean time, an alleged victim can ask a court to issue an order of protection, also known as a restraining order. California provides specific domestic violence restraining orders for situations in which domestic violence is alleged. As violations of these orders carry serious consequences, those accused of domestic violence should understand what these orders entail.
What a Restraining Order Restrains
A restraining order comes from a court and can order the restrained person to:
- Have no contact with the person requesting the order, their relatives, anyone they live with or even their pets
- Move out of the requesting person’s house (even if they live together)
- Stay away from the requesting person’s home, work or school
- Follow child custody and visitation orders
- Pay child, spousal or partner support
- Pay certain bills
- Not have a gun
- Give back certain property
On the other hand, a restraining order cannot end a marriage (divorce) or establish parentage (paternity).
Enforcement of Restraining Orders
Because they are court orders, the police and the judge enforce restraining orders. The police can be called immediately if an order has been violated. The police will attempt to gather proof of the violation through witness interviews and other sources such as e-mails, text messages and voicemails. If there was any physical injury to the alleged victim, photographs and medical records may be used as proof.
Penalties for Disobeying a Restraining Order
Failing to obey the terms of a restraining order can result in a fine and/or jail time in California. A first offense can carry jail time of up to a year with a possible fine of $1,000. If there is an injury, the fine increases up to $2,000 and/or a minimum of 30 days in jail is required. Subsequent violations can lead to six months to a year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine; prison time is also a possibility.
The punishments for violating a restraining order in California are serious. If you or a loved one has been accused of, or charged with, violating a restraining order, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation and your rights.Back to Domestic Violence Practice Area