Protective Order Process

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What is a Protective Order?

A protective order is an order from a judge telling someone (the respondent) to have no contact with you (the petitioner). The order itself is not a criminal charge, but a civil order. It is not required to obtain a criminal warrant in order to petition for a protective order. If the respondent violates the order by having contact, the respondent can be charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail.

 

Am I eligible for a Protective Order?

If you have recently been assaulted or threatened with bodily harm, you may be eligible. The abuse can include forceful detention, sexual assault, physical assault, or stalking.

 

What can a Protective Order do?

A protective order can do the following:

  • Order the person to have no contact or only certain types of contact with you and other family/household members you designate
  • Grant you exclusive use of a residence or vehicle you share
  • Provide you with temporary custody of children
  • Order other relief necessary to protect your health and safety, such as:
    • Ordering the respondent not to terminate utilities
    • Prohibiting the respondent from coming to your place of employment



What can a Protective Order not do?

A Protective Order is a piece of paper. It cannot protect you unless the respondent respects it. Violations of the protective order must be reported for it to be enforced, and the order is only enforceable if a copy has been served on the respondent. A protective order is one of many tools you can use to keep yourself safe. For more information on safety planning, refer to the domestic violence section of our website or call our office for safety planning assistance.


 

Types of Protective Orders

Family Abuse Protective Orders – You are eligible to petition for this type of protective order if you have any of the following relationships with the respondent:

  • A spouse or former spouse
  • Someone you have a child in common with
  • Someone you have lived with in the last year in an intimate partner relationship as your boy/girlfriend
  • Parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, grandparents, grandchildren, regardless of whether these people live in the same home, or in-laws that reside in the same home

 

Where do I go to petition for a Family Abuse Protective Order?

If you need a protective order right away, a magistrate can issue an Emergency Protective Order that lasts up to 72 hours. The magistrate’s office is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is located next to the jail on Avon Street Extended. If you already have or want to skip the Emergency Protective Order, the next step is to petition for a Preliminary Protective Order. Go to the Charlottesville/Albemarle Court Services Unit; once there, you will meet with an intake officer, who will help you with the paperwork. Court Services Unit is located at 401 East High Street (see “directions to court” for a map). It is not currently required to schedule an appointment, but we strongly recommend that you call ahead (434-979-7191) to ensure an intake officer is available to assist you. You will need to tell them about any incidence of recent abuse or threats that have put you in fear. If you are able to petition before 11:30 a.m., you will appear in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court at 1:30 p.m. for a brief Preliminary Protective Order Hearing with a judge. You will give sworn testimony describing the abuse, verbal threats, and/or injury as specifically and concisely as possible. If you have any pictures, text messages, emails, etc. to submit as evidence to the court, make sure to save them and bring them with you. If the judge finds probable cause that abuse/threats occurred to put you in fear of bodily harm, he/she will issue a Preliminary Protective Order. The order will need to be served on your partner/family member to become enforceable, so it will be important that you provide location/residence information for them. The Preliminary Protective Order is only good for up to 15 days, until the date of the Permanent Protective Order hearing. Your partner/family member will receive notice of this hearing and may attend. It is not required, but either of you can bring a lawyer. (If you can’t afford one, please contact our office for a referral.) At this hearing, you will again be asked to provide sworn testimony of the abuse/threats. The respondent or, if they have one, their lawyer will have the right to ask you questions. If the judge finds there is enough evidence to believe this person puts you in fear of bodily harm, he/she will issue a Permanent Protective Order, which is valid for up to two years. You can petition for the Protective Order to be extended for another two years before the current order expires.

Call our office at (434) 970-3590 if you have additional questions or would like assistance with the protective order process. When available, a Victim/Witness advocate can accompany you to petition and/or to court.

 

Protective Orders Involving Juveniles - if the petitioner OR the respondent is a juvenile, you must go through the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Services Unit to petition, regardless of your relationship to the respondent (see Family Abuse Protective Order section for information about where to go).

 

General District Court Protective Orders – There are no relationship requirements for this type of protective order.

 

Where do I go for a General District Protective Order?

If you need a protective order right away, a magistrate can issue an Emergency Protective Order that lasts up to 72 hours. The magistrate’s office is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is located next to the jail on Avon Street Extended. If you already have or want to skip the Emergency Protective Order, the next step is to petition for a Preliminary Protective Order. To petition for a Preliminary Protective Order, go to the Charlottesville General District Court Clerk’s Office, located inside the lobby of the Charlottesville Police Department at 606 East Market Street. The clerk will help you with the paperwork and tell you what time to appear in court before the judge. In some cases, a Victim/Witness advocate can assist you with the petition; please call ahead if you would like help with this process. The judge usually hears Preliminary Protective Orders at 10 a.m. every day except Wednesday, when hearings are at 9 a.m. Please be aware that it can sometimes take an hour or more before the judge can get a space in the docket to hear you. Once before the judge, you will give sworn testimony describing the abuse, verbal threats, and/or injury as specifically and concisely as possible. If you have any pictures, text messages, emails, etc. to submit as evidence to the court, make sure to save them and bring them with you. If the judge finds probable cause that abuse/threats occurred to put you in fear of bodily harm, he/she will issue a Preliminary Protective Order. The order will need to be served on the respondent to become enforceable, so it will be important that you provide location/residence information for them. The Preliminary Protective Order is only good for up to 15 days, until the date of the Permanent Protective Order hearing. The respondent will receive notice of this hearing and may attend. It is not required, but either of you can bring a lawyer. (If you can’t afford one, please contact our office for a referral.) At this hearing, you will again be asked to provide sworn testimony of the abuse/threats. The respondent or, if they have one, their lawyer will have the right to ask you questions. If the judge finds there is enough evidence to believe this person puts you in fear of bodily harm, he/she will issue a Permanent Protective Order, which is valid for two years. You can petition for the Protective Order to be extended for another two years before the current order expires.

 

What happens if the order is violated?

If the respondent violates the order by contacting you by phone, email, Facebook or a third party, or by violating any other condition of the protective order, you can file a police report and go to the magistrate’s office to swear out a criminal warrant. If the respondent has put you in fear of immediate danger, call 911. The non-emergency number for Charlottesville police is (434) 977-9041. It is important to document and save any evidence of the violation (ex: preserve text messages and voicemails; keep an incident log). If the respondent is convicted of violating the protective order, he/she faces a mandatory 1 day minimum jail sentence, and the court is required to issue a new protective order.

 

Note: Protective Orders are only enforceable against the respondent; as the petitioner, you cannot be charged with violating your own protective order. However, if you initiate or engage in contact with the respondent, it can make it more difficult to obtain a Permanent Protective Order or a conviction if the respondent violates the protective order. If you have a current protective order in place and you want to change the conditions or dissolve the order entirely, go to the clerk’s office in the appropriate court to file a motion to amend or dissolve the protective order.