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DC Protection Order Violations

In order for a protection order to be effective, clear conditions must remain in place. As an extension of this, there must be penalties associated with any violation of those provisions.

DC protection order violations may involve something relatively mundane, such as accidentally arriving at the same store as the petitioner, to more serious violations like online harassment or stalking. No matter the circumstances, speaking with a knowledgeable lawyer about what an infraction might mean could be essential.

Common Violations in Protective Order Cases

The most common way protective orders are violated involves the “stay-away” order. A stay-away order is issued to prohibit direct or indirect contact. Contact through a third party, social media, texting, phone, mail, or email is also forbidden.

It is important when a stay-away provision in a civil protection order is implemented to understand the day-to-day activities of the petitioner and respondent. Sometimes, the parties do not realize that the location of their residences are too close and violate the protective order, meaning they need to modify the distance. When the parties are in day-to-day contact at work, the implementation of the stay-away order needs to be considered as well.

When a respondent finds themselves in the restricted proximity of the petitioner, they should walk away. If something unintended happens, like a respondent being in a bar when the petitioner walks into the bar, the respondent should leave.

Social Media

Any contact through social media could be a violation of a protective order. That includes a Facebook message from the respondent to the petitioner or posts by a respondent referencing the petitioner. Contact by a third party on behalf of a respondent to the petitioner is also a violation of a civil protection order.

What if the Petitioner Consents?

A protective order is put in place for a reason. A respondent cannot violate a protective order, even when the petitioner allows it. A judge might take consent into account when deciding what sanction should be issued because of the violation, however. For example, if a petitioner calls the respondent because of an emergency and asks them to come over, the judge will likely consider that when determining whether there should be a sanction for a protection order violation.

Penalties for Violating a Protection Order

There is a wide variety of sanctions available to a judge when someone violates a protection order. Judges often impose a graduated set of sanctions depending on the type of violation. When there is a minor violation, the judge may issue a warning to the respondent. Typically, judges do not escalate to a contempt citation or something drastic.

Aggravating factors may enhance the penalties of a protective order. Violence, threatening behavior, harassing conduct, an intentional violation, and more than one violation all may lead to a harsher penalty for a protection order violation.

There are many non-jail options for individuals who violate protection orders. A judge might warn the petitioner, modify the terms of the order, or extend the civil protection order to include harsher conditions.

How an Attorney Could Help Defend

A lawyer could help mitigate someone’s DC protection order violations charge. A first-time allegation is often explained away at a hearing unless, of course, they are more serious, like assaultive behavior. However, assaultive behavior usually results in a separate crime being charged, which is a whole separate proceeding. Typically, what is relied on or focused on is the nature and circumstances of the alleged violation.

An experienced DC lawyer could work to determine the best strategies for defending an individual against a protection order violation. It is important that the defense attorney understands the nature of the alleged violation and is familiar with the specific judge to advocate for their client successfully. If you are being accused of having violated a protection order, contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights.

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