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Preventative justice is something that courts try to consider where possible in order to avoid having to send a perpetrator to prison. If there is a way to avoid a serious crime being committed then orders such as protective orders will be implemented.

What is a protective order?

A protective order is a legal document that is issued by a judge which is put in place in order to protect a victim’s health and safety, in circumstances where it is felt that they are at risk of serious harm.

There are three types of protective order that can be implemented by the courts:

  1. Emergency Protective Order – can last up to 72 hours.
  2. Preliminary Protective Order – can last up to 15 days.
  3. Protective Order – lasts up to 2 years.

Emergency Protective Order

An Emergency Protective Order (EPO) lasts up to 72 hours and can be requested by any law enforcement officer and/or victim, whereby they feel emergency action to prevent harm should be taken. These can be issued by any judge from the Circuit Court, General District Court or by a Magistrate and can be both written or oral. The only incident in which the above order would not last 72 hours is if the expiration date falls upon a day in which court is not in session, thus it will be carried over to the next in court date.

Preliminary Protective Order

A Preliminary Protective Order (PPO) can be requested by any person who claims they are a victim of abuse and henceforth, are at serious risk of further abuse. They must file a petition to do so and the court can issue a PPO on the basis of a sworn testimony by the victim. In order for this to be issue it must be established that there was probable cause that recent harm has occurred. Within 15 days of the PPO being issued, there must be a second hearing held in order to establish whether there is enough cause to continue the order (for up to 6 months, if the accused did not personally appear) or whether it can be diminished.

Protective Order

A Family Abuse Protective Order (PO) is the more serious form of action that can be taken against an alleged abuser. In order to attain this form of order, which can last up to 2 years, the abused must prove in a court of law that an act of family abuse took place and the order is necessary in regards to the health and safety of themselves and their family. Once this has been established (accompanied by appropriate evidence), the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court are able to place the order, which can then be extended by 2 years in relevant cases.

When does somebody need a protective order?

A protective order is required where the alleged abused’s health and safety is deemed to be at risk. This is specifically whereby the actions of the accused constitute an ‘act of family abuse’. In order for the order to be considered, the act of abuse should cover some or all of the following:

  • An act that involved unnecessary threat, force or violence.
  • An act that results in bodily harm upon the abused, with the threat carrying over of further harm in the form of injury, sexual assault or death.
  • Whereby it is committed by a person against a specific person, or a family.
  • Inclusive of acts such as stalking, forceful detention and criminal sexual assault.

At the point in which a person has experienced any and/or all of the above, they have presented a reasonable case as to why there is a need for a protective order to be put in place.

Once it has been established whether an order is required, the order will be immediately entered into the Criminal Information Network database, thus making it easily accessible where required. During the point in which an order is established, the accused is no longer allowed to possess, sell or transport firearms (a breach of this could result in additional charges). The petitioner has the right for their address to remain confidential and the said petition can be filed in any venue, it does not apply solely to the venue in which the abuse occurred. It should be noted that a change in state does not void the terms of the order, it remains in place irrespective.

What happens when a person has been served?

When a person has been served a protective order, they have a responsibility to comply with all of the associated terms. Any breach of this could result in criminal charges being brought against them. They are required to attend relevant hearings and not doing so can result in extensions to the order. It is important to remember that the order does not come into force until the accused has been personally served it by a member of law enforcement. The time between the serving and the hearing is the time that the person who has been served with the order has to accumulate any evidence that could pertain to the need for the order to be dissolved, to be heard in court.

It is important when considering what a protective order is, to understand that it comes in several forms, and each of them are there to serve slightly different purposes and have different terms. All of which, however are ultimately in place in order to ensure the health and safety of the petitioner.

If you are in need of a protective order, it is important to speak with an attorney. Contact our Fairfax lawyer, Randall J. Borden.

About the Author
Randall J. Borden is a seasoned attorney with over 30 years of legal practice in Virginia, specializing in family law. His extensive experience encompasses a broad range of family law matters, including but not limited to, Custody, Child Visitation, Divorce, Property Settlement, and Spousal Support. Randall's approach to law is client-focused, ensuring that each individual receives personalized attention and tailored legal strategies that best suit their unique situation. Throughout his career, Randall has built a reputation for being a tenacious advocate for his clients, while maintaining a level of compassion and understanding that is crucial in family law cases. His commitment to providing high-quality legal services is evident in his thorough preparation, meticulous attention to detail, and unwavering dedication to securing the best possible results for those he represents.