Your Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney request your free consultation

Posted on December 27, 2016 in Crime,Domestic Violence

Do Restraining Orders Work?

A restraining order (or order of protection) is something the court may impose to protect domestic violence victims from their perpetrators. A restraining order can prohibit an abuser from making any kind of contact with the victim, preventing him or her from coming within a certain distance of a home, workplace, school, or other location as well as trying to make communication via phone, text, email, social media, or regular mail. In many dangerous domestic violence or abuse situations, Phoenix domestic crimes attorney says there is always one question that haunts victims: do restraining orders work?

Terms and Conditions of a Restraining Order

As long as the perpetrator obeys the rules of a restraining order, it will protect the victim from further harm and abuse from the person. A restraining order is a legal document that prohibits the abuser from contacting the victim, thus effectively putting an end to any form of physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse that one of the partners may have perpetrated when the couple lived together. Here is what a protective order can do:

  • Forbid a person from coming within a certain amount of feet of a home, workplace, school, or other location
  • Prohibit a person from contacting the spouse, children, or other individuals on the order
  • Provide the victim with legal recourse actions for up to 12 months if the person violates the restraining order

With the help of a defense attorney, a victim must petition for the courts to reinstate a restraining order at the end of every 12 months. Otherwise, the order will expire and no longer protect the victim from contact. If the petitioner does not serve the restraining order within one year, it expires. A restraining order does not settle landlord/tenant disputes. Unfortunately, a restraining order cannot guarantee a person’s safety.

Pitfalls of Restraining Orders

Restraining orders only work if the perpetrator respects the law, however, there are various restraining order pitfalls. Not everyone cares about the legal repercussions of breaking a restraining order. Many abusers have already proven that they do not hold great stock in abiding by the law, listening to police, or fearing penalties for their actions. Still, Arizona courts charge penalties for violating a restraining order to dissuade people from breaking them. Depending on the circumstances, violating the terms of a restraining order results in penalties of:

  • Immediate arrest
  • Being held in custody until a judge determines release conditions
  • Class 1 misdemeanor charge
  • Up to six months in jail
  • Fines of up to $2,500
  • Surcharge of 84%

In Arizona, no matter how many times an individual violates the terms of a restraining order, it will still be a misdemeanor charge. In many cases, the courts do not penalize the violator with maximum fines or jail time. The judge makes a sentencing decision based on what will keep the victim safe and hold the offender accountable for his or her actions. If a perpetrator believes violating the contract is worth the potential penalties, the law will not stop him or her from contacting or harming the petitioner.

A restraining order is not a magical solution that can keep a victim safe – it’s a legal document that can be effective to ward off law-abiding citizens. It’s up to the victims to know their abusers and what will and won’t work against them. It’s also a petitioner’s responsibility to report every single restraining order violation to police, including home drive-bys, phone calls, and text messages. If the victim is not diligent, the police can’t be either.

In some cases, a restraining order can make a situation worse. It may inflame the perpetrator and make his or her violence against the victim worse. It can also give victims a false sense of security so that they let their guards down. Over-reliance on a flawed system can lead to repeat abuse or even a victim’s death.