Violating a Civil Protection Order in DC

Explore the legal consequences of violating a civil protection order in DC with Scrofano Law PC. Learn about penalties, legal processes, and how our experienced defense team can assist you.

The Role of a Civil Protection Order 

When someone threatens, abuses, harasses, or commits a crime against another individual, they can seek a protective order to protect themselves and their well-being. A protection order is a court order that mandates someone to do or not do certain things. For instance, a judge may order someone to stay away from another person or prohibit contact between them.

Violating a DC protective order can result in criminal charges, potentially leading to fines and jail time.

This article will cover what constitutes a civil protection order and which actions can be considered a violation of such order. Moreover, we will discuss which penalties someone can face if they violate a protection order and what legal defenses are available for those accused of these violations.

The team at Scrofano Law PC is excellent at guiding clients through complex legal matters, including civil protection order violations. With years of experience, we offer comprehensive assistance tailored to your unique situation.

    Understanding Civil Protection Orders in DC

    A protection or protective order is a legal mandate issued by a court where one person (the petitioner) requests that specific requirements be placed on another person (the respondent). 

    The purpose of a protective order is to protect an individual from harm. Protective orders can prohibit the respondent from contacting or coming near the petitioner. Moreover, these orders can award temporary custody of children.

    What Constitutes a Civil Protection Order?

    The petitioner may apply for a civil protection order (CPO) if the petitioner and the respondent: 

    • Share an intrafamilial relationship 
    • Are roommates or dating partners 
    • Share a child
    • Are immediate family members

    To be eligible for a CPO, the respondent has to commit or threaten to commit a crime against the petitioner. If a judge determines that the respondent committed an offense against the petitioner, they may grant a CPO. The crime in question can include sexual assault, physical harm, property damage, or cruelty to an animal belonging to the petitioner. 

    Types of Civil Protection Orders

    Those who file for a Civil Protection Order (CPO) with the Domestic Violence Unit at the DC Superior Court can seek a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) first. If the judge grants a TPO, it will be valid for up to 14 days. However, an Emergency Temporary Protection Order (ETPO) may be issued in emergency situations or outside of regular court hours. An ETPO is valid for five days.

    Both of these orders, TPO and ETPO, can be issued ex parte. In other words, an individual accused of committing violence, harassment, or abuse does not have to be present. However, a Civil Protection Order Hearing must be held to get a civil protection order. Furthermore, the respondent has to be served with the CPO petition, Notice of Hearing, the Order to Appear, and the TPO.  

    At the hearing, the petitioner will need to provide evidence that the crime occurred. A CPO can be granted if the judge determines there is “good cause” to believe the respondent committed or threatened to commit a criminal offense against the petitioner or their animal. This type of protective order can be valid for up to two years. 

      Violating a Civil Protection Order: What It Means

      The person who applied for a CPO is generally the one who reports any protective order violations in DC

      The petitioner can contact the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) if the respondent violates a protective order and report the violation. If the police determine that the court order has been violated, MPD may arrest the respondent or take other appropriate action.

      Alternatively, the petitioner can file a protection order violation in court. Depending on the nature of a violation, the petitioner can file: 

      • Motion to Adjudicate Civil Contempt 
      • Motion to Adjudicate Criminal Contempt

      The Motion to Adjudicate Civil Contempt can be filed if the respondent, for instance, fails to pay court-ordered costs and fees. On the other hand, the Motion to Adjudicate Criminal Contempt can be filed if the respondent threatened, abused, or contacted the petitioner. 

      Actions That Constitute a Violation

      What actions constitute a violation depends on the terms of the civil protection order. In other words, an individual doesn’t necessarily have to commit a crime to violate a protection order. However, the following actions could be considered CPO violations:

      • A phone call or text in case of a no-contact order
      • Any contact through social media
      • Internet posts by a respondent referencing the petitioner
      • Contacting the petitioner through a third party 
      • Coming within 100 yards of the petitioner if a no-contact order is in place
      • Failing to pay child support
      • Failure to pay spousal support
      • Threatening to the petitioner
      • Abusing the petitioner
      • Hitting or assaulting the petitioner

      If you are unsure whether a particular action constitutes a protection order violation, contact Scrofano Law PC. Our domestic violence lawyer can shed more light on your particular case. 

      Legal Implications of Violation

      The court will conduct a hearing to assess the evidence of the violation. To be convicted for violating a CPO, the prosecution has to prove the following:

      • That a CPO was issued;
      • The respondent was aware of the order;
      • The respondent knowingly violated the order. 

      Proving civil contempt is relatively straightforward, with the standard of proof typically being the “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that the judge must find it likely that the violation occurred.

      In criminal contempt cases, the defendant charged with violating a protection order has the same rights as in a criminal charge, and the prosecution must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a violation occurred.

      A conviction for a CPO violation can result in jail time and other sanctions. Additional charges may also be incurred if a crime was committed while violating a CPO. Violent or harassing behavior can be considered aggravating factors that can enhance the potential penalties. 

      Penalties for Violating a Civil Protection Order in DC

      Sometimes, an individual who violates a CPO can be held in civil contempt. This means the judge can issue another, more restrictive court order compelling the individual to follow the original CPO. Furthermore, the new court order can include sanctions. For example, it may suspend the individual’s driver’s license or threaten to escalate the case to a criminal court.

      Short-Term Consequences

      Those who are suspected of violating a CPO can be arrested. The respondent may also have to move out of the house if they live with the petitioner. 

      A CPO can also impact the respondent’s family court proceedings, potentially influencing child custody decisions. This can be exacerbated if the respondent is charged with criminal contempt.

      Long-Term Consequences

      Violating a TPO or a CPO is considered a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine, up to 180 days in jail, or both. The severity of the penalty depends on factors like the respondent’s previous criminal record and the specific violation. 

      In addition, a CPO violation will go on a person’s criminal record. Under DC Code § 16–801 (9)(A), intrafamily offense conviction cannot be expunged. That means a CPO violation may be a part of a person’s criminal record forever. 

      Additionally, the individual convicted of CPO violation may need to report it to their employer. This could result in administrative leave or even termination. For licensed professionals, reporting a restraining order or violating a CPO could lead to investigations regarding professional suitability. 

      Also, a CPO typically contains prohibitions against a respondent possessing a firearm, even in connection with employment. That means a CPO can have an adverse effect on the respondent’s employment and their liberties as a US citizen. 

      Possible Defenses in Civil Protection Order Violation Cases

      If a CPO is filed against you, you may pursue several defense strategies, such as cross-petitioning, gathering evidence, and appeals. If a CPO is implemented, it is crucial to obey the terms of the order, even if you feel charges are exaggerated or fabricated. Consulting a skilled defense attorney is beneficial for understanding your options and defending a CPO petition or alleged violation. 

      If the respondent feels they were defending themselves and the petitioner was the aggressor, they may file a cross-petition for a civil protection order. Your attorney can advise on the most appropriate steps and whether filing a case against the petitioner makes sense.

      The respondent’s attorney can also gather evidence to help refute any claim that the respondent violated a CPO. This can include witness statements or phone records showing the respondent did not contact the petitioner. 

      Appealing a CPO violation conviction may be possible. However, to appeal a conviction, the respondent must show there was an incorrect application of the law, a procedural error, or other legal issue. Skilled legal help is often necessary for a successful appeal and if you are facing a civil protection order charge. 

      Navigating the Legal Process: Steps After an Alleged Violation

      If you are accused of committing a CPO violation, there are specific steps you can take: 

      • Do not resist the arrest. Resisting arrest can lead to additional charges.

      • Hire an attorney if you still need to.

      • Gather evidence that proves your innocence.

      • Discuss potential defense strategies with your attorney.

      Scrofano Law PC is dedicated to protecting your rights and liberties, building a solid case, and providing legal representation during the CPO violation hearing. 

      Need Help With a DC Civil Protection Order Violation? Contact Us!

      Violating DC civil protection orders can result in criminal charges, potentially leading to fines and jail time. The severity of the penalty depends on several factors, like the respondent’s previous criminal record and the specific violation. In addition, violating a protection order can lead to civil consequences, child custody complications, loss of liberties, and employment issues.

      Scrofano Law PC is dedicated to providing skilled legal representation and protecting your rights. Our team guides clients through complex legal matters, like defending CPO petitions and alleged CPO violations. 

      If you have more questions on protective order violations in the District of Columbia, reach out to Scrofano Law, PC, today so we can discuss your case.


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