Arguably the most important part of life is to be in relationships with other people. A good relationship, whether with a family member, friend or spouse/significant other, is a great blessing.
However, human interaction is complicated, and sadly, some relationships turn sour and can become outright harmful. Abuse can be physical and/or psychological and can cause enormous harm to the person on the receiving end. What, if any, remedies does the law offer a victim of domestic abuse?
The tool most readily available is an Order of Protection, (also called a Restraining Order, an Injunction Against Harassment, etc.). Such an order, properly issued and served, prohibits the
perpetrator from having any contact with the victim(s) and can even prohibit the person from going near the victim’s home or work. One can be obtained by applying in person at the court nearest you. If contact occurs, the perpetrator can be charged with a crime, and if caught, they will be arrested even if the contact is nonthreatening or non-violent. A person convicted of violating a protection order will likely be ordered to complete a violence intervention program and could be sentenced to jail time.
When should you get an Order of Protection?
For instance, if your ex is messaging you 400 times a day about getting back together, and you have asked that they stop but it continues, you may want to consider getting a protective order.
Even if none of the messages contain any threats of injury, this can be harassing and stressful. Of course, if threats are uttered or physical violence is perpetrated, a crime has been
committed, which deserves police attention in addition to providing a reason for a protective order.
Once the order is signed by the judge, the person against whom it is issued (the Defendant) has a right to respond. Upon being served, the Defendant can request a hearing and contest the
allegations. Here in Arizona, any incident alleged must have occurred within the previous 12 months. If the incident occurred outside of the previous year, the order will be dismissed. An order is in effect for one year unless renewed for good cause, and they can be dropped early upon the request of the protected party.
If the relationship between the two parties is that of spouse, lover, significant other or parent of a joint child etc, the defendant is prohibited from possessing firearms during the duration of the order. If the defendant is caught possessing a firearm during while subject to an order, felony charges can be brought for “Prohibited Possessor of a Firearm.”
Due to being a cynic and apt to state the obvious, A protective order does not protect anyone from a person who ignores it. Earl; the man of song lyric notoriety “who walked right thru the restraining order,” comes to mind (The Dixie Chicks), but it is a tool that ups the ante on a perpetrator after the fact.
Always use common sense; in imminently dangerous situations call the Police!!! If the situation is ongoing, seek help from family and friends, religious or other non-profit organizations that focus on helping victims of abuse. In addition, many prosecutors’ offices have Victim Advocate Groups that assists crime victims during the perpetrator’s court process. Although not a legal system remedy; do not overlook martial arts training both armed and un-armed for the most extreme situations; the skills learned can be beneficial outside the realm of abusive relationships.
Notes of caution. There are two disturbing phenomenon surrounding protective orders. First, there are victims of SERIOUS PHYSICAL ABUSE who do not even report the incident to the police, much less have a protective order in effect! For your own sake and for the sake of those who love you, please do not find yourself in this category.
On the other hand, sometimes alleged perpetrators are framed by a person hiding behind a protective order and concocting accusations out of spite. For the sake of others, avoid belonging to
this category. On a positive note, many defendants report that they have greatly benefitted from the violence intervention classes they took after violating a court order. They have gone on to happier, more peaceful lives and healthier relationships.
Magnus Eriksson is a Criminal Defense Trial Attorney based in Scottsdale and is currently licensed to practice in the Sate and Federal Courts of Arizona. contact Magnus at: firstname.lastname@example.org