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What to Do (And, Not Do!) When Served with Protective Orders


Date: January 20, 2011

Protective orders or restraining orders are typically issued by the courts in domestic violence issues. Petitioners generally are members of the defendant’s current or former family. Like, for instance, a spouse or partner in a live-in relationship. Or, they might have cohabited or share a child or pet but are not necessarily married. A minor, differently-abled adult, or any other family member related by marriage or blood can also request the court’s intervention for protection.

In case you’ve been served with such charges, your first move should be to contact a Maryland protective order lawyer and discuss the facts of the case with them. Remember that the law does not entitle you to any court-appointed legal representation, so you must take the necessary steps to safeguard your interests. Here are some additional dos and don’t you should keep in mind.

What You Should Do!

On receiving the documents, read them carefully to understand the orders. You may be asked to refrain from contacting the petitioner or stay out of a specified radius. Typically, protective orders also require the defendant to avoid visiting the applicant at their home, workplace, or any other public or private property. Your lawyer will advise that you gather all the relevant information that can help you in court.

  • Collect any objects and evidence that can help prove your side of the event or incident in the petition. Like, for instance, clothes, pictures, videos, or anything else that can be useful.
  • Think back at the people who were present and can act as potential witnesses. Make a list and acquire their contact information. The witnesses could provide facts and details about what really happened.
  • Put together any paper and digital documents and reports that can help, including letters, GPS records, emails, computer files, phone call records, and texts. You could prove that you did not legally threaten or physically harm the petitioner. Or, that the charges are false and you’re being implicated without having hurt anyone.

Any piece of information or evidence can support your case in court and get a dismissal. Do keep in mind that petitioners cannot take back their request for restraining orders. Prosecutors will look into the matter and build a case against you.

What You Shouldn’t Do!

Even if you’re absolutely certain that the allegations are untrue and there’s been a mistake, never try to contact the petitioner, directly or indirectly. The violation of a court order can be brought up during the hearing and make it even harder for your Lakeland criminal lawyer to defend you.

  • You might think that any evidence you have can prove the charges and build a stronger case against you. However, you must never try to destroy or hide it. The court can consider you at fault if they find that you have tampered with proof.
  • Never attempt to contact the petitioner or any witnesses testifying against you. Trying to explain your way out of the situation via messages, emails, or phone calls can worsen the situation.
  • If you’ve been asked to stay away from the kids, visiting them in school or trying to meet them at a friend or family member’s place, is also considered violating the protection order.
  • Don’t try to enter the shared home with the petitioner, but make arrangements to stay with friends.

A protection or restraining order is not an arrest. But it can have long-term consequences like getting mentioned on background checks when you’re applying for a job. Make sure to show up in court for the hearing and present your case. Contest the charges and prove your innocence.

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About the Author

Attorney James A. Abate practices Criminal Defense, DWI Defense, Business Litigation, Real Estate & Personal injury cases in Union County, New Jersey.