Court Activity: Restraining Orders in Virginia

141205 -- Arlington Circuit Court Building“Restraining Orders” in Virginia are called “Protective Orders.” Many people think that one can obtain a restraining order against another simply because a person is “bothering” him or her. However, Virginia Protective Orders are not so broad. They are designed to protect someone from another who has made a threat of force or violence. Once issued and served, if the target makes a future contact with the complaining witness, it is a crime.

Today, May Law partner, Mike May, successfully appeared to defend a client against a petitioner seeking a Permanent Protective Order in Falls Church. (Falls Church uses the same judges as in Arlington. It covers cases that are based in that small city). Following cross-examination of the petitioner, the A&O attorney “moved to strike,” which is a procedural motion arguing that the petitioner failed to prove his case. The judge agreed and the Protective Order was dismissed before the respondent even had to testify. The evidence did not show any threat of force or violence.

Under Virginia Code § 19.2-152.10, a Court can enter a Permanent Protective Order “to protect the health and safety of the petitioner and family or household members of a petitioner.” When someone asks the Court for a Permanent Protective Order, he/she is asking the Court to use its power to compel the respondent (i.e. the person who is alleged to be the threat or abuser) to refrain from acts of violence, force or threat of violence. A Permanent Protective Order can also prohibit the respondent from having contact with the petitioner or his/her family, and it can last up to two full years.

In order to obtain a Permanent Protective Order, the petitioner has to demonstrate that the respondent has participated in acts of violence, force or threat resulting in bodily injury or placing the petitioner in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.

Virginia’s version of a restraining order, a Permanent Protective Order, is a very serious matter, whether you are requesting one or defending against one. It is always a good idea for one to have a competent attorney represent him or her in such matters.