Orders of protection offer an important legal recourse to protect victims of harassment and domestic violence from further harm.
It is possible for an order of protection to be granted unfairly, so it is important to consult with a qualified attorney to understand your legal options in such a situation.
What is an order of protection?
An order of protection is one of three types of protective orders issued by Arizona. Often known as a “restraining order”, it is a civil court order designed to protect a person from continuing acts of domestic violence.
Domestic, or family violence includes but is not limited to an act by a family or household member that is:
- Intended to physically or emotionally harm another member of the family
- A serious threat of physical or emotional harm; or
- Abuse of a minor or child.
The person seeking protection must submit a petition to the court for an order of protection or injunction against the defendant and is granted an ex parte hearing at the time of the submission of the petition. This paperwork must include specific statements regarding the domestic violence, including the dates when the acts occurred.
When the petition is filed, the court conducts the ex-parte hearing on the petition (ex-parte means the defendant or person for whom the order of protection is sought to protect against is not present).
If the petition is granted, and an order issued, notice of the order must be served on the defendant, at which point the defendant may request a hearing, which is typically set within five (5) to ten (10) judicial days of the request for hearing filed by the defendant. At the hearing, the person seeking to uphold the order of protection may present evidence, such as police records, phone logs, text messages, and testimony about the incident(s) in question and detailed in the petition.
The court will issue an order of protection or injunction if the court finds that the defendant has committed or will commit an act of violence against the petitioner. These orders are valid for twelve (12) months from the date of issuance. If the parties are able to reconcile, the person who requested the order can file a motion with the judge to modify or dismiss the order (if contact is permitted between the parties).
Arizona also issues injunctions against harassment if the parties are not related and are not family members, which protects the petitioner from stalking, as well as injunctions against workplace harassment, which protect employees from harassment at work.
What are the consequences of receiving an order of protection in Arizona?
If someone has obtained an order of protection or injunction against you, you must review the terms carefully. You could be ordered not to:
- Contact the person by phone, email, text, or messaging application
- Enter your shared home
- Own, purchase, possess a firearm, or be in the presence of someone in possession of a firearm while the order is in effect
- Go within a certain distance of the person’s work or school
Orders of protection are civil orders, meaning that they will not show up on a criminal background check if you adhere to the terms.
However, violating an order of protection is a crime. You can be charged with a misdemeanor and be detained. If you are convicted, you may pay a heavy fine or end up spending several months in jail – even if you only contact the other party over the phone.
If you violate an order of protection, it can be hard to raise a good defense. Even if the other party initiated contact or invited you over, the order is still in place. It is your job to obey the terms no matter what.
How can I contest an order of protection?
Even though courts prefer to leave orders of protection in place after they have been issued, they do recognize that judges can make mistakes.
To challenge the order, the defendant must file a request for hearing with the court. If the order prohibits the defendant from entering his or her home, the motion will be heard within five (5) days; otherwise, it will be heard within ten (10) days.
If you want to challenge the order of protection in court, it is important to follow all the requirements until the hearing, even after you request the hearing. Violating the order will imply that the order was necessary in the first place.
At the hearing, the defendant will be able to present evidence in his or her favor, showing that the alleged incidents did not, or could not have occurred.
After the hearing, the judge may modify the original order or issue reciprocal orders, prohibiting both parties from harassing each other.
If an order of protection was issued against you, it is time for serious reflection. There are many resources available, including Futures Without Violence that can help end the cycle of domestic violence. Even if, in your mind, the order was issued unfairly, working with a therapist or program can help you gain deeper insight into your situation.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. If you have unfairly received an order of protection against you, contact our experienced family law attorneys today to understand the consequences of this order and to determine your options for contesting it. Our attorneys offer many legal services that can help families in a variety of situations.