It would be nice if the government could just convince people to say "no" to hitting, hurting or threatening others. But the "just say no" rule hasn't been a success in other areas and is not likely to have much effect in this circumstance.
That is what restraining orders are made for: to impose punishment on someone who hits, hurts or threatens others, or does any of a host of other disagreeable actions.
Issuance of a Restraining Order
A restraining order in Ohio is issued by a judge under Ohio Revised Code: Section 3113.31. It is a court order issued to someone who previously has committed an offensive, threatening or abusive behavior. The order states quite clearly that, if the person repeats the act, there will be consequences.
Ohio has restraining orders, termed civil protection orders (CPOs) to stop domestic violence as well as harassment or abuse by acquaintances, neighbors or strangers. Once a restraining order is in place, dropping it may be harder than one thinks.
Restraining Order vs. Criminal Statute
There are many kinds of behavior that an individual would be better off stopping – from selling heroin to shoplifting. But the court doesn't issue restraining orders for these types of bad actions, Rather, there are laws that identify them as crimes and impose fines and incarceration on those who do them. Criminal statutes apply to all persons and serve as a deterrent to the general public.
A restraining order, on the other hand, orders a particular person to stop taking specific actions toward a particular person. The order is served on the person whose behavior is at issue and sets out the name of the person protected and the actions prohibited.
Threatening or Abusive Behavior
A restraining order is generally issued only for extremely abusive behavior. In most states, courts issue protective orders when someone is being physically hurt, harassed or threatened by someone else. "Hurt" here is very inclusive, including being slapped, punched, kicked, beaten, knocked over, shoved, pushed, assaulted, battered or harassed.
Threatened means acting in a way that makes an individual fear being the victim of one of these types of injury. Courts issue restraining orders when a reasonable person, in the same circumstances, would be afraid that one of these types of abuse is quite likely to happen soon to them or someone in their family.
Restraining Order as a Threat
In most states, anyone violating a restraining order can be picked up by the police and arrested for violating the order and, sometimes, for committing the underlying crime as well. They may quickly find themselves incarcerated.
One might argue that a restraining order is itself a threat. When a court issues a restraining order, it is informing the abuser that the court is aware of the bad behavior toward the victim and that they had better stop it now or the police will be involved, an arrest made, and charges filed.
Ohio Restraining Orders
A restraining order is called a civil protection order, or CPO, in Ohio. The title at the top of the document doesn't change things, however. Ohio's CPOs, just like restraining orders in other states, are issued against one specific individual and instructs that person not to do certain things. And it only does so when the victim asks for court assistance.
CPO Not Available for Anonymous Abusers
Given this, it is clear that the only time a person can get a CPO is if a specific individual is threatening, hurting or abusing a specific victim and/or their family. What if the victim hasn't discovered the person's name or identity? No CPO is possible.
While it is awful to be harassed, stalked or injured by a stranger, the court cannot issue a CPO to an anonymous abuser. No matter how severe the behavior, it isn't possible for the victim to get a CPO.
Close Relationships and Stalkers
The sad fact is, most victims who are hurt, abused, harassed or threatened are being mistreated by someone with whom they have a close relationship, like a family member, spouse or intimate partner. If the victim comes forward and is brave enough to name names, they are eligible for a domestic violence civil protection order in Ohio.
However, not every abuser fits this category. If a victim is being hurt, abused, threatened or harassed by someone they don't have a close relationship with, like a neighbor, a casual date, a coworker or even a stranger as long as their name is known, the victim can get a stalking or sexually oriented offense civil protection order in Ohio.
Criminal protective orders are also available in Ohio if certain charges are brought against the abuser.
Types of Restraining Orders
Ohio law described a number of different types of restraining orders. These do not overlap; each one applies to a different situation. Anyone considering seeking a protective order in Ohio needs to understand the basic types of orders available.
Information about them is available at Ohio courts, and there are some excellent websites – like that offered by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network – that provide an overview, forms and instructions.
Criminal vs. Civil Protection Orders
The world of restraining orders in Ohio can be viewed as two separate hemispheres: criminal protection orders and civil protection orders, or CPOs.
The first type are issued by Ohio criminal courts if an individual is charged with a crime for abusive or threatening behavior. This can be a Domestic Violence Temporary Protection Order (DVTPO) or a Criminal Protection Order (CRPO). Generally, the prosecutor bringing the criminal case against the abuser will assist the victim in obtaining this type of order.
Civil courts in Ohio do not hear criminal cases. They can issue CPOs if a victim seeks such an order when the abuser is a family or household member of the defendant. If the abuser is not in a close relationship with the victim, civil courts can a issue Civil Stalking or Sexually Orientated Offense Protection Order. To get one of these orders issued, the victim must apply for it.
Behavior on Which a CPO Can Be Based
An Ohio court can issue a domestic violence order for any abusive behavior where the abuser:
- Causes bodily injury.
- Attempts to cause bodily injury.
- Threatens the victim with serious physical harm.
The injury and threats can include:
- Committing child abuse.
- Committing a sexually oriented offense.
Defining Sexually Oriented Abuse
Ohio courts, recognizing that CPOs are often the only way a victim can put the brakes on abuse, interpret the terms broadly. Courts in Ohio have defined a "sexually oriented offense" to include a wide range of crimes, such as:
- Sexual battery.
- Sexual contact with a minor.
- Sexual imposition.
- Soliciting a minor for sexual activity.
- Being a voyeur.
- Forcing a victim into prostitution.
- Using a minor in pornography.
- Stalking someone with a sexual motivation.
- Human trafficking with a sexual motivation.
- Kidnapping with a sexual motivation.
- Murder with a sexual motivation.
A victim in Ohio can get a protective order if the abuser makes an attempt to do any of these crimes. A CPO can be in effect for up to five years.
Procedure to Get an Ohio Restraining Order
A victim in Ohio must establish the basic elements of the restraining order they are seeking. For example, if they want a civil domestic violence restraining order, the victim must establish that the abuser is in a close relationship with them, like a spouse or ex-spouse; co-parent; child; member of the household; or a person the victim is dating or used to date.
For a dating relationship to qualify, a casual social relationship is not sufficient; it must be an intimate relationship that occurred within 12 months of the domestic violence incident.
Filing Court Forms
To seek a CPO, the victim must fill out the forms and file them in court, with or without legal help or assistance from an advocate of a domestic violence program. The victim is the Petitioner on the form, and the abuser is the Respondent.
The petitioner must identify each party and describe the abuse in as detailed and specific a manner possible. The forms are signed at the court in front of the clerk. There is no charge to file a request for an Ohio CPO.
Court Hearing Date
If granted, the initial CPO is a temporary restraining order, pending a hearing. It is called an ex parte order because it was granted by the court with only one of the parties present. A temporary order lasts only until the hearing. Once both parties are before the court, or at least have been notified of the hearing and had a chance to appear and argue, the court can issue a permanent order.
Once the temporary ex parte order is issued, it becomes necessary to notify the abuser about the order and also about the time and date of the scheduled hearing for the permanent order. Generally this is done by law enforcement. The papers regarding the matter must be personally served on the abuser, either by having law enforcement hand them to the person or by paying a professional process server to do this.
Service notifies the abuser of the date and time of the hearing so they can show up in court and contest the order. At the hearing, the court listens to both sides and decides whether to issue a permanent restraining order.
Procedure to Drop an Ohio Civil Protection Order
When a victim is granted a temporary order, it lasts until the hearing. Sometimes, between the granting of the temporary order and the hearing date, the victim may decide to drop the order. When this happens, they can show up at the hearing and explain this to the judge, or they can simply not show up at the hearing, and the court will usually deny the petition.
If they do show up and tell the court they have decided not to go forward with the order, they can expect the court to quiz them on their reasoning. The judge will want to be certain that they have not dropped the order because of harassment or threats made by the abuser.
Once a civil protection order is issued, dropping it becomes more difficult. If either party wishes the court to drop the CPO, they must file a Motion to Modify or Terminate Domestic Violence Protection Order, or CPO. The party that makes the motion bears the burden of convincing the court that the protection ordered is no longer required.
Once again, if the person seeking to have the order dropped is the victim, the court will want to be certain that the victim is not taking this action because of threats or harassment from the abuser.
- WomensLaw: Ohio Restraining Orders
- City of Columbus: A Guide to Protection Orders
- Find Law: Ohio Temporary Restraining Order Laws
- Ohio Domestic Violence Network: Increasing Safety for Ohio Families
- Supreme Court Ohio: Motion to Modify or Terminate COP
- Ohio Revised Code: Section 3113.31 Domestic Violence Definitions; Hearings
- You have the right to request a modification of the terms of a restraining order, instead of complete termination. In many cases this may be an effective way to drop some of the more restrictive elements of an order while still securing your safety. Modification requests should be filed at the county court where the restraining order was originally filed.
- A petitioner cannot drop a restraining order issued in the criminal court. Even though you were the victim of the crime, the case is actually the state versus the defendant, and you are simply a witness for the prosecution. The prosecutor is responsible for any decision to drop the case, as domestic violence is a crime against the state. You do have the right to make a victim impact statement, requesting the charges be dropped, which can be instrumental in the legal decision-making process.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.