What is a protective order? What are the different types of protective orders?

When referencing restraining orders or court orders prohibiting contact between individuals, you have probably heard the terms “emergency protective order,” “two-year protective order,” and “preliminary protective order” used interchangeably.  However, while they are all forms of restraining orders, they each have a different meaning.  

Why Do People Get Protective Orders?

Abused spouse seeking protection order in Virginia

Protective orders are necessary and highly beneficial in a lot of abusive relationships, but people will often seek protective orders unnecessarily to gain leverage in domestic disputes.  Protective orders are civil matters; therefore, if you are served with a protective order it is not a criminal charge and you will not have a criminal record.  However, protective orders often go hand-in-hand with criminal matters.  Regardless of the reason, it is important you seek counsel if you need a protective order or have been served with one.

Where Are Protective Order Hearings Held?

Hearings will be held in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court if the alleged abuse is committed against a family or household member; otherwise, the hearing will be held in the General District Court.

What Are The Different Types of Protective Orders?

1. Emergency Protective Order

An emergency protective order pursuant to Virginia Code § 16.1-253.4 is typically issued by a magistrate or judge upon the request of a law enforcement officer who issued a warrant for domestic assault and battery.  In other words, if someone is arrested for domestic assault, an emergency protective order will be issued to protect the victim.  These protective orders are short and only last for 72 hours.  The purpose of an emergency protective order is to provide the victim a safe window of time to file for a preliminary protective order.

2. Preliminary Protective Order

Preliminary protective orders pursuant to Virginia Code § 16.1-253.1 are the first step toward obtaining a permanent protective order.  Preliminary protective orders are issued by a judge if the victim can establish probable cause that he or she was recently abused or is in reasonable fear of being abused.  If abuse has been established, the judge will grant a preliminary protective order, which lasts for 15 days.  Because the respondent, or person against which the preliminary protective order is filed, has the right to have his or her side heard, a full hearing on the matter is set within those 15 days.  A judge will hear the evidence and then determine whether or not to grant a permanent protective order.

3. Two-Year Protective Order

A two-year protective order may be issued pursuant to Virginia Code § 19.2-152.1.  While many people refer to this as a “permanent” protective order, it is not permanent because it can only be issued for a maximum of two years in Virginia.  To grant the two-year protective order, a judge must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the victim has suffered an act of family abuse (Virginia Code § 16.1-228) or an act of violence, force or threat (Virginia Code § 19.2-152.7:1), placing him or her in fear. 

What Kind of Protection or Relief Can I Get with a Protective Order?

Virginia Code § 16.1-279.1 provides the remedies and relief the court can grant with the issuance of a two-year protective order.  This can range from exclusive use and possession of a residence and/or car, to temporary visitation, custody and/or child support related to couples’ children.

What is a Protective Order Violation?

Violation of a protective order can have serious consequences such as mandatory jail time and misdemeanor or felony convictions (Virginia Code § 16.1-253.2).  In other words, although the issuance of a protective order does not mean you have a criminal record, if you violate the order, you will be charged criminally.  You can violate a protective order simply by sending a text message or email, if the order requires absolutely no contact.  It is possible to fashion a protective order to allow for some communication if necessary (such as in cases of parents with shared custody of children); however, the court’s order must be strictly followed. 

Can I Extend the Protective Order for More Than Two Years?

Virginia Code § 19.2-152.10:B allows a protective order to be extended prior to the expiration of the two years if the court finds the victim needs further protection. 

Each order provides a source of safety and protection to someone who has been abused; however, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney at Greenspun Shapiro if you would like to petition for a protective order or have been served with a protective order.  

Anastasia T. Kranias
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Criminal Defense Attorney