What Happens if a Person Breaks a Restraining Order?

By Stephanie Mojica

Basics

The purpose of a protective order, also known as a restraining order, is to help protect the safety of the person who had to seek the help of authorities to get another person to leave her alone. Most restraining orders are placed into effect because a spouse or romantic partner has verbally or physically abused the other person in the relationship, creating a domestic violence situation. Restraining orders can be instituted due to threats or actual acts of violence, and typically last two years.

Consequences

Breaking a restraining order can lead to incarceration and/or fines, though exact penalties depend on the gravity of the violation as well as other factors such as the person's previous criminal record. In order to best protect the rights the restraining order creates, it is essential to involve the police each time a protective order is violated, even if the contact seems non-threatening. Breaking a restraining order can be anything from attempting to contact someone through a friend or family member to actually showing up at his home or workplace. Almost all states consider basic violation of a protective order a misdemeanor crime that can hold penalties of up to a year incarceration and/or fines of up to $5,000.

Committing a crime while breaking a protective order also opens up the accused to additional court charges. Vandalizing a car or assaulting a former lover while violating a restraining order could lead to misdemeanor or felony charges of battery or vandalism, depending on the severity of the additional crime or crimes committed.

Tips

When a protective order is in force, carrying copies of it with you at all times is important. Be sure to keep plenty of copies of the restraining order document on hand, and consider giving it to people with whom you are close, such as family members and friends. If the person you sought legal protection against tries to reach you, whether by email, text messaging, phone, visits, or contacting a family member or friend looking to talk, do not hesitate to call the police immediately. A protective order can never force a person to stay away permanently but can make it more legally appealing for them to do so. Violations of restraining orders can only be prosecuted with immediate reports to the police at the time of the incident.

About the Author

Stephanie Mojica has been a journalist since 1997 and currently works as a full-time reporter at the daily newspaper "The Advocate-Messenger" in Kentucky. Her articles have also appeared in newspapers such as "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and "The Virginian-Pilot," as well as several online publications. She holds a bachelor's degree from Athabasca University.