In Virginia, protective orders, or restraining orders, are legal mechanisms designed to protect individuals who are victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. These orders provide legal protection and establish boundaries between the victim and the perpetrator.

What are the three types of protection orders in VA?

In Virginia, several types of restraining orders are available, each with its own criteria and scope of protection. Here are the three main types:

  • Emergency Protective Order (EPO): Law enforcement officers and magistrates can issue an emergency protective order 24 hours a day, even outside regular court hours. These orders can provide immediate protection to the victim from alleged acts of violence. It typically lasts for 72 hours or until the next day the court is in session.
  • Preliminary Protective Order (PPO): PPOs can be obtained from a magistrate or a judge and typically last for 15 days. They are intended to provide temporary protection while the victim pursues a long-term PO.
  • Protective Order (PO): A permanent restraining order is issued by a judge and provides long-term protection. The duration of a PO can vary depending on the circumstances but is typically for up to two years. A judge can grant an order for up to five years or permanently in certain cases. In cases of family abuse, the court can grant temporary custody of a minor child to the victim during the duration of the PO.

What are the rules of a protective order in Virginia?

Pursuant to Virginia Code §19.2-152.10, to qualify for a restraining order, you must have experienced a recent incident where violence, force, or a threat caused bodily injury or put you in a reasonable state of fear for your life, sexual assault, or bodily injury.

The victim must meet specific eligibility requirements to obtain a restraining order and provide evidence of the abuse or threat. The following individuals may qualify for a protective order:

  • Spouses or former spouses
  • Parents who have a child in common
  • Relatives who live together or have lived together within the past year
  • Individuals who have a child in common, regardless of whether they were married or lived together
  • Individuals who have been in a dating relationship or have had a romantic involvement within the past year
  • Victims of sexual assault, regardless of the relationship with the offender

How do I get a Preliminary Protective Order?

If the person you want protection from is a juvenile, a household or family member, or if you’re under 18 years, go to the juvenile and domestic relations district court. If you don’t fall under the above criteria, visit the general district court.

At the court, you’ll fill out forms for the restraining order. At the juvenile and domestic relations district court, the filing is done at the Court Services Unit, and at the general district court, it’s done at the clerk’s office.

After filing for a restraining order and after 15 days, there will be a final protective order hearing for the judge to determine whether to grant or deny your request.

When does the Preliminary Protective Order take effect?

Preliminary orders take effect once the respondent is personally serviced. Unless stipulated otherwise, violating the order is contempt of court.

This means a court official or police officer must give the respondent the restraining order. To do this, you should furnish the officer with the respondents, address, photograph, phone number, and place of work.

Do I need to press charges to file a protective order?

No, you don’t. Protective orders are civil orders and are different from pressing charges. You can file a criminal charge against your abuser and still file for a protective order. However, you don’t have to press charges to file for a protective order.

Once the abuser (respondent) is served with the restraining order, it’s their responsibility not to violate the rules therein. Violating the order is a criminal offense and earns the alleged abuser some jail time. Moreover, the court has to issue a new protective order.

Are protective orders from other states valid in Virginia?

Virginia laws offer full protection to out-of-state protection orders, provided you can provide a copy of the order and prove it’s not expired.

While you don’t necessarily have to register the copy or the order with the national or state registry for it to be enforced, the law enforcement officer should believe it’s a real order.

Fighting a Protective Order

If you believe the protective order is based on false charges, you can fight it. To fight an order of protection, consult an attorney knowledgeable in Virginia state laws and legal processes. Usually, the first step is determining the type of protective order you are served and why it was issued.

But even as you fight the order, you should observe it until it’s dismissed. The last thing you want is to face criminal charges and subsequent penalties for violating the order.

File a Protective Order in Virginia

While you can file for a protective order independently, it can be time-consuming and emotionally draining. If you’d like help filling a protection order in Virginia, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Battlefield Law Group.

We’ll offer professional legal advice while ensuring the outcome protects you and your family.