Understanding Restraining Orders In California

Physical or verbal abuse is against the law and can be prosecuted criminally by filing a restraining order. While criminal prosecution can unfortunately sometimes take months or years to be finalized, people are not able to wait that long for protection. Therefore, the alleged victim can ask the court to issue an order of protection, also known as a restraining order. 

In California, domestic violence is defined as any abuse or threatened abuse that is between two people that are either related by blood, marriage or who are in or have had an intimate relationship. 

The most common type of restraining order is the domestic violence order, with three other types pertaining to very specific abuse. This article will delve into what a domestic violence restraining order is, what it can do to protect the person filing it and how to best understand your options if you ever need to file for one, always keeping in mind the seriousness of such an action.

Domestic Violence Restraining Order

Between the four types of restraining orders, the domestic violence restraining order is the most common type with the lowest burden of proof needed. A domestic violence restraining order is issued when the person against whom you are taking the order is:

  • A spouse or ex-spouse
  • Current boyfriend/girlfriend or ex
  • Engaged to or engaged in the past
  • Co-parent
  • Co-habitant
  • Close relatives such as a child, sibling, parent, in-law, or grandparent.

Reasons For Filing

If any of the above have physically hurt you, harassed you or issued verbal threats to you, then you may file a domestic violence restraining order. Acts of abuse such as throwing things, following, sexual assault, destuction of your property, theft of your property, intimidation, and breaking into your home or place of work, can also serve as grounds for a restraining order.

If you are in grave danger, you must first get an emergency protective order through a law enforcement officer. An emergency protective order can be given to someone if the officer believes they are in immediate danger and ascertains the person needs to be protected right away based on the complainant’s allegations. 

What A Restraining Order Does

A domestic violence restraining order will require the accused abuser (restrained) to:

  • Not to have any contact with the victim or any other person who is listed in the restraining order.
  • Not be able to own guns.
  • To see any children shared between parties only under the custody rules set by the court.
  • To pay child support.
  • To pay spousal support.
  • To not interfere with property that is owned jointly or individually.
  • If the restrained person violates the court order, that is a crime and they can be given jail time and fines. 

Enforcement Of Restraining Orders

Restraining orders are court issued orders, so the police and the judge will enforce them. The police can be called immediately if an order has been violated. The police will then attempt to gather proof of the violation through witness interviews and other sources such as emails, texts, 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

Punishments for violating restraining orders can be severe. Failing to obey the terms of a restraining order can result in jail time and/or fines 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 more fines and possible prison time as well.

Other Types of Restraining Orders

Elder Abuse Restraining Order

An elder or dependent adult abuse restraining order can be given if you are 65 or older OR between 18-64 and have certain mental or physical disabilities that cause you to not be able to do normal activities or allow you to protect yourself. This can be physical, emotional or financial abuse. 

Civil Harassment Restraining Order

You can ask for a civil harassment restraining order if you are being harassed, stalked, abused, or threatened by someone who is not as close to you as a spouse or relative, such as a roommate, neighbor, or more distant family members like cousins, aunts or uncles, or nieces or nephews.

Workplace Violence Restraining Order

A workplace violence restraining order must be requested by the employer on behalf of the employee who is in need of protection. The court order can last up to 3 years and also protect certain members of the employee’s family and other employees at the employee’s workplace.

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