Order for protection vary in length and purpose, they are sometimes called OFPs, harassment order, or restraining order. Often times orders for protection are brought against an individual accused of harassment, assault, domestic abuse, stalking or terrorist threats.
While the orders are supposed to protect a victim in return, they may also be applied for unnecessarily. They are unfortunately sometimes a form of retaliation during breakups, divorces, or other stressful matters. The worst scenario is when an order for protection is placed for as a strategy to gain leverage over someone in a future civil matter such as a divorce proceeding or custody dispute.
Orders for Protection may be long term or short term
They can last up to two years. They prohibit contact with the person who filed the order and often also includes other people like extended family, children or grandchildren. Usually, the order requires you to keep a specific distance between the protected person(s) and yourself until the order expires. And it means that you can’t send messages through friends, mail letters, call, text or send email to the protected person(s).
There may be “collateral damage” to your life if you possess a firearm while you have an order for protection against you. You may be ordered to stay out of your own house if the victim(s) also live there, and you can be prevented from seeing your children if they are named in the order. Even though sometimes people don’t realize that they can be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm, even for hunting; or you could be denied employment or housing because the order is on your record. Lastly, if you are not a full citizen, you could experience immigration status problems.
You will not know when a restraining order is issued against you. The initial restraining order can be issued ex-parte, meaning the person who claims that he or she is in fear of bodily or physical harm can get an order against you and you have no right to say anything. So, you will not be officially called or notified of a restraining order until you are served. The Court will hold the hearing in 10 days but you must be served notice of the hearing. Have it in mind that you cannot violate a restraining order if you have not been properly served. Once you are served, you must appear at court on the assigned date and time to avoid other charges filed against you.
At the hearing, you will have an opportunity to speak with the judge why the restraining order should not be issued. You need to contact an attorney to represent you at the hearing. It is common that people who represent themselves usually end up admitting things at the hearing when questioning the witness(es) on cross-examination. It is very important to have an attorney at the order for protection hearing if you have criminal charges pending against you.
You have a right to a lawyer at this hearing, and you may also come with witnesses. You or your lawyer can cross-examine the person who is seeking the restraining order against you to show that the person is not afraid of you. Your lawyer may speak on your behalf in the interim, abide by the restraining order. If the plaintiff claims he or she does not have a plan to go forward with the order, it’s your record and your future at stake.
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