What to do when someone violates a restraining order

A restraining order is a court order. But sometimes, the Respondent might violate the order. Read this post, so you are prepared on how to act quickly when someone violates a restraining order.

Violating (or disobeying) a restraining order is a crime, so you should move quickly to report the violation to the police.What you should do:

  1. Call the police right away – even for a small violation

By violating the court protective order, the abuser is committing a crime. Report all violations to your local police. Call 911 if you feel threatened.

If your order says that the abuser cannot contact you, then even minor, polite contact violates the order, and you should report it. Many times, an abuser will slowly violate the order to see whether you will enforce the order. The abuser is testing the limits. If you don't report the violation, the abuser's contact and violations may escalate.

When you contact the police, make sure you have a copy of your restraining order. If the restrained person has not been served, you can have the police serve by filling out the Form DV-200.

  1. Collect proof of the violation

Take photos and screenshots of texts, emails, and phone calls, making sure that the timestamp (date/time) is also included. Write down the time, date, and content of any other forms of contact.

You may also want to:

  1. Contact your district attorney ("DA") if you want to ask the DA to file criminal charges against the restrained person.
  2. File a civil contempt action in court. The restrained person could be put in jail for 5 days for each violation of the restraining order. If you file a contempt action, the restrained person will have a right to a court-appointed attorney. These cases are taken very seriously, so make sure you have detailed description and evidence of each violation of the order.

What happens to the abuser?

By violating the restraining order, the restrained person can be fined or go to jail.

Generally, if the police arrive when the abuser is near you and violating the order, they will arrest the abuser. If the contact was not in person, then the police will document your description and a detective will contact the abuser.

Violation of a restraining order is usually considered a misdemeanor, but can be considered a felony if the abuser was also committing other crimes at the same time (like assault or vandalism).

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