If you are in a serious altercation with a significant other, relative, or household member, they may threaten to file a restraining order to keep you away from your children, residence, or certain possessions.
These orders are no joke. Having an order of protection placed against you can severely limit your freedom, your relationships, and your ability to live your daily life.
Orders of protection are issued by a county court to prevent further or future abuse. In a past blog post, we discussed the difference between protective orders and restraining orders. In short, orders of protection can place many more limitations on the recipient of the order.
Orders of protection are typically filed during domestic violence cases, or during divorce proceedings. If you have been issued an order of protection, it is important to thoroughly know your limitations and restrictions, as well as the penalties you may face for violating that order.
It is one thing to be charged or convicted of domestic violence. It is another to lose all rights to see a family member, own certain possessions, or have contact with your children or loved ones.
What Is Considered Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence occurs when abuse or threats of abuse are committed against a family or household member. This includes the following:
- Physical abuse, force, confinement, or restraint
- Sexual abuse
- Purposeful, repeated and unnecessary sleep deprivation
- Behavior that creates immediate risk of physical harm
- Intimidation of a dependent
- Willful deprivation (denying a high-risk adult medication, shelter, food, or necessary assistance that puts that person at risk of harm.)
Even if formal domestic violence charges have not been made, alleged victims can file an order of protection to prohibit their alleged abuser from contacting, visiting, or living with them.
Who Can File an Order of Protection?
The Domestic Violence Act of 1986 states that the following people can be protected by an order of protection:
- Any person abused by a family or household member;
- Any high-risk adult with disabilities who is abused, neglected, or exploited by a family or household member;
- Any minor child or dependent adult in the care of such person; and
- Any person residing or employed at a private home or public shelter which is housing an abused family or household member.
What Limitations Come with An Order of Protection?
Orders of protection can include a variety of limitations based on the case, history of abuse, and relationship between the two parties. Orders of protection can include:
- Requiring a recipient to stay a certain distance from the alleged victim
- Prohibiting the recipient from contacting the alleged victim (“no contact orders”)
- Prohibiting a recipient from committing abuse, neglect, or exploitation
- Prohibiting a recipient from his or her dwelling (called “exclusive possession”)
- Forfeiting temporary custody or visitation rights of minor children
- Requirement to pay child support
- Requirement to attend counseling
- Prohibiting a recipient from possessing a firearm
- Prohibiting a recipient from accessing specific records
These limitations can last for up to 21 days (in the cases of emergency orders of protection), or up to 2 years (in the cases of plenary orders of protection). However, orders can be extended.
When an Order of Protection Is Violated
Even if no charges of domestic violence were made, if an order of protection was filed, violating that order can mean jail time and fines. Violating an order of protection is a contempt of court charge. If the order of protection concerns an adult, the charge is a class A misdemeanor. If the order of protection concerns a minor child, the charge is a class 4 felony.
That’s right. Violating a protection order may result in a felony conviction.
The court is also encouraged to require first-time offenders to spend a minimum of 24 hours in jail, and 48 hours for second and subsequent offenders. Sentences may also include fines, restitution, and community service.
How These Orders Can Be Abused
No system is perfect, and you may be issued an order of protection or involved in a lawsuit involving an order of protection due to the law’s loopholes. For example, any person can file on behalf of a minor child. This includes stepparents or guardians who do not live with the child and may have a very limited understanding of the situation. This is just one example of how orders of protection can be taken advantage of, and people can be falsely accused.
As methods used to protect victims, orders of protection are necessary and valuable tools. But such powerful tools should not be so easy to use. Unfortunately, that is the world that we live in today. If you have been issued an order of protection unjustly, contact a Chicago criminal lawyer with a track record of success in these types of cases.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.