An order of protection is akin to a restraining order. The petitioner, or the person requesting the order, can complete the form online. The respondent is the person against whom the order is sought.
Who Can File a Request Under Tennessee Law
Victims of all genders are eligible for an order of protection. There is no cost to file an order of protection. A person who qualifies as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking can file for an order of protection.
A victim of domestic abuse is defined as a person who has suffered from certain acts of an abuser, including:
- Physically hurting them, trying to physically hurt them, or putting them in fear of physical harm.
- Threatening them with serious physical harm.
- Physically restraining them, such as confining their movements or imprisoning them in any way.
- Destroying or damaging their property on purpose, which means doing so maliciously.
- Injuring, attempting to injure, or putting them or their minor child in fear that the abuser will injure any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by the victim and/or their minor child.
A victim of sexual assault is defined as a person who has suffered the abuser committing, threatening to commit, or putting them in fear that they will commit any form of rape or sexual battery. A victim of stalking is defined as a person who has suffered repeated and intentional harassment from the abuser.
The action must make the victim reasonably feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or bothered. The harassment must be part of a pattern of conduct made up of two or more separate acts committed by the stalker directly, indirectly or through third parties. These separate acts may occur on the same day.
Specific Relationships Required for Abuse Protection Orders
If someone has stalked or sexually assaulted a person, the person can ask the court for an order of protection against the offender no matter what their relationship with the offender.
If a person alleges that an individual abused them, they must show that the offender had a specific relationship with them. The relationship must be one that involved a family tie, situation involving cohabitation or romantic interactions.
For clarification, the offender must be:
- The person’s spouse or former spouse.
- Someone the person lives with or used to live with.
- The individual the person is dating or used to date.
- The individual with whom the person is having a sexual relationship with or used to have a sexual relationship with.
- Anyone the person is related to by blood or adoption.
- Anyone the person is related to by marriage or used to be related to by marriage.
It is not necessary that the offender have been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of, domestic violence in order for the victim to get an order of protection. It is not necessary that a victim have contacted a law enforcement officer to petition for an order of protection.
Penalty for Violating Order
Violating an order of protection is a Class A misdemeanor, according to Tennessee Code Annotated 39-13-113.
Typically, a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days incarceration and a fine up to $2,500, according to Tennessee Code Annotated 40-35-111.
A violation of an order of protection, however, is punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days' incarceration and a fine between $100 and $2,500.
Serving Jail Sentences Consecutively
An offender may serve a sentence of incarceration consecutively to the sentence for an offense based in whole or in part on the same facts as the violation of the order. The term "consecutively" means the offender will serve a sentence for one crime after they serve the sentence for the other.
For example, if the offender violated the order of protection by hitting the victim, they could be sentenced to 60 days in jail for striking the victim and 90 days in jail for violating the order of protection. The offender would serve 150 days total in jail.
Serving Jail Sentences Concurrently
Alternatively, the sentencing judge or magistrate may specifically order that the sentences for the offenses arising out of the same facts are to be served concurrently. The term "concurrently" means the same time will count for both sentences.
In this scenario, the offender would serve the first 60 days for both offenses. They would serve an additional 30 days for violating the order of protection. This would result in them serving 90 days total in jail.
Time on Offender's Record
A person that immediately seeks an order of protection will file a petition for a temporary, or ex parte, order of protection. An ex parte order of protection lasts for up to 14 days. The court will hold an order of protection hearing, at which time it will hear from both the petitioner and the respondent.
If the court finds there is good cause for the order of protection, it will issue a permanent order to last for one year. How long the order of protection stays on an offender’s record depends on the length of the order of protection itself and whether the offender abides by it.
A court may issue an order of protection that lasts three or six months if circumstances warrant the shorter period.
Extensions When an Order of Protection is Violated
If a person is alleged to have violated an order of protection, the civil court will hold a hearing on whether the offender did, in fact, violate the order. If the civil court finds a person violated the order of protection, the charge can remain on the offender’s record forever unless the court expunges it.
The court will typically extend the order of protection for up to five years upon a violation, but can extend the order for up to 10 years if the offender violates the order a second time.
Requesting the Issuance of an Order of Protection in Memphis
The person seeking an order of protection should contact their county’s Crime Victims & Rape Crisis Center (CVRCC) to speak to an advocate about an order.
The person may be referred to their local family safety center if the person they are filing against is a current or former intimate partner. In Memphis, this center will be the Family Safety Center of Memphis & Shelby County.
A CVRCC advocate will discuss the victim’s safety needs and review the case specifics to determine if they are eligible to file an order of protection. The advocate can then ask the victim to complete the online application. Completing the online application limits the amount of time that the victim needs to be present at their upcoming in-person appointment.
Information Needed to File for an Order of Protection
The victim should have this information in order to file for an order of protection:
- Full name of the offender.
- Offender’s complete address.
- Names, ages and relationships to the respondent of the children for whom the victim is seeking protection.
If the offender lives out of state, the petitioner will need a money order to pay for serving the offender with the necessary paperwork.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.