It's important to understand how a protective order works to safeguard a victim of abuse and what the consequences are for an alleged abuser when someone falsifies information to get one.
A protective order – sometimes called a protection order – is technically different from a restraining order. A protective order is issued by the court to protect a person, business, establishment or the general public from a situation that involves abuse, harassment, stalking or sexual assault.
A restraining order dictates what a party to a lawsuit can or cannot do. It protects you or your property in the event you have sued someone and are afraid they will cause you harm. In some states, a domestic violence restraining order is the same as a protective order.
What an Emergency Protection Order Does
In several states, when a domestic abuse situation takes place, the abuser is often told to leave the area where the victim resides or works. The police then give the victim an emergency protection order, which is a short-term order that is typically in effect for about a week. It allows the victim to request a more permanent protective order from the court at a scheduled hearing that takes place before the emergency order expires.
What a Long-Term Protection Order Does
A protection order is usually for a longer period of time than an emergency protection order. In rare cases, it can be valid for several years. The victim can ask the court to renew a protection order after it has expired if she still feels threatened.
Protection orders have various terms to safeguard a victim, which can include no contact, limited contact, a stay-away provision, a move-out provision, a firearms provision, a counseling provision and a visitation or custody provision. The application and enforcement of these provisions differ from case to case.
The victim must file the required legal papers with the court to obtain a protection order. She must present evidence of the abuse at the scheduled hearing. The alleged abuser receives documents precisely outlining the provisions he is ordered to follow if the court grants the victim a protection order.
Fighting a False Protection Order
Occasionally, an alleged victim might accuse someone of abuse, stalking or sexual harassment where none has occurred. The reasons why are varied – the accuser might want to get back at a significant other due to infidelity, while another might want to gain an upper hand in a family law or custody case. Whatever the reason, a false accusation can have severe consequences for the alleged abuser who could potentially go to jail, lose a job or custody of a child, or suffer a damaged reputation.
Seek immediate legal representation to fight a false protection order. An attorney can help protect your rights by presenting a defense against the allegations. It's imperative that you and your lawyer appear at the long-term protection order hearing after the emergency order has been issued. Be punctual, presentable and well-prepared. During the hearing, you or your attorney can challenge the accusations made against you by asking questions of witnesses. If you decide to represent yourself, make sure to prepare any questions in accordance with the court's rules.
Do your homework and collect documentation that can assist your lawyer in disproving the alleged victim's claims in the protection order. Ask witnesses to support your good character in court. If you have a clean record, convey to the court that you don’t want it smeared by false accusations.
It might come down to your word against your accuser's. Show the court that you're credible, well-educated, employed and a responsible member of society. It's critical that you remain calm throughout the process. You'll want to present an image of stability and respectability to fight the false allegations against you.
Obeying the Order
You must follow the instructions in the emergency order while waiting for your court hearing. This might seem unfair, but it's important to show the court that you are a law-abiding citizen.
If you're unable to successfully fight a false protective order, you must comply with the provisions stated in the order until it has lapsed or expired. Any violation of a protective order can result in criminal charges.
Read More: How to File a Temporary Restraining Order
- Alert the judge to circumstances that would make a protective order especially difficult to obey (e.g., joint custody of children or a shared residence or business).
- You can ask to see the original petition and affidavit in the records department of the court they were filed in. You will need your file number and docket number, which should be in the papers you were served with.
- If the permanent protection order is granted, you will have to abide by all of its clauses. A violation of a protective order will result in criminal charges.
- The petitioner or his lawyer can cross-examine you at the hearing if you testify.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.