Protective Orders

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What is a Protective Order in Virginia?

A Virginia Protective Order is a legal order issued by a magistrate or a judge for the health and safety of an abused person and his or her family or household members. To qualify for a protective order, you must have been, within a reasonable period of time, subjected to an act of violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places you in reasonable fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.  Va. Code §16.1-279.1 and Va. Code §19.2-152.10

Virginia Protective Orders used to be limited to family or household members, but recent legislative changes have made Protective Orders available to individuals even if you are not family or household members, if you otherwise meet the criteria under the statute. Protective Orders can be broad, limiting contact with an individual (even through third parties), removing someone from the home, granting the use of a vehicle to someone, and affecting child custody among many other options that a judge may award.  

If you a victim and your health and safety is at risk, a Protective Order may be essential to preserving your safety. In this scenario, you would seek out a Protective Order as the “Petitioner.” Our office can advise you through the process and represent you in Court hearings. Having experienced counsel can be essential to ensuring you are able to put forth the best possible case to secure a Protective Order.

If, on the other hand, you are wrongfully accused and someone is pursuing a Protective Order against you, then you are defending against the Protective Order as the “Respondent.” In addition to the immediate impact of the Protective Order, a Protective Order often has severe collateral consequences. These may include negatively affecting your security clearance, your employment, and your recreational activities. It is essential to have qualified counsel represent your interests to ensure that you are not wrongfully issued a Protective Order 

Three Types of Protective Orders

Emergency Protective Order (EPO)

There are two ways to get an EPO. One is if a police officer requests an EPO after an arrest is made for acts of violence or family abuse. The second way is if an EPO is requested by an abused person in front of a magistrate. An EPO will last 72 hours. The date and time the EPO is valid can be found on the order.

An EPO can do the following:

  • Prohibit all contact with victim or victim’s family or household members
  • Prohibit acts of violence, force, or threat resulting in injury to person or property
  • Grant temporary possession of residence to the abused
  • Grant temporary custody of children to the petitioner

Preliminary Protective Order (PPO)

A judge issues a preliminary protective order at the end of the 72 hours. A PPO lasts for 15 days or until the final permanent protective order hearing. A judge can impose the following conditions on the respondent (abuser):

  • Prohibit contact with the victim or victim’s family or household member
  • Prohibit further acts of violence
  • Temporary custody of pets to the petitioner
  • Temporary custody of children to petitioner
  • Grant temporary possession of residence to petitioner
  • Require that the respondent to maintain utility services for the household
  • Grant temporary possession of a jointly owned vehicle to the petitioner

Permanent Protective Order (PO)

A PO can only be granted by a judge after a full hearing where the respondent (or the accused) has had a full opportunity to be heard. This is a trial to determine whether a PO is needed. A judge can grant a PO for up to two years. The judge will subpoena the respondent to be at the hearing. You both will be asked to describe your side of the story. This two-year PO can be extended for another two years if a judge finds that it is necessary. There is no limit to the number of PO extensions.

In addition to all the other conditions outlined above, a judge can order respondents to participate in treatment, counseling, or other programs required by the Court.

Where do I go to request a Protective Order?

If the person that is harming you is a family or household member, your significant other, or if you or the respondent is a minor, you will need to file for a petition in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. All other types of protective order requests must be made at the General District Court Clerk’s office.

Virginia has a special protective order for family abuse (Va. Code 16.2-228 & 16.1-279.1). Family abuse is any act involving violence, force or threat that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury and that is committed by a person against their family or household member.

Family or household member includes:

  • Spouse, ex-spouse, parents, children, step-parents, siblings, grandparents, persons who have a child in common, in laws, co-habitants or those who have cohabited in the last year.

Any person subjected to a permanent family abuse protective order, is prohibited from possessing firearms (Va. Code 18.2-308.1:4). Virginia’s firearm possession prohibition only applies to family abuse POs issued under Va. Code 16.1-279.1. It does not apply to EPO, PPO, or other types of protective orders.

FAQ about Protective Orders in Virginia:

Do I have to press criminal charges to get a protective order?

No, a protective order is a civil order and does not require that you press charges. You may press charges against your abuser but that is a separate procedure than a civil protective order.

Is a protective order from another state valid in Virginia? If I go to another state, will my Virginia Protective Order be valid there?

Yes. Federal law requires that states enforce each other’s protective orders. You must register a certified copy of your protective order with the JDR or GDC court in the city or county where you will be residing for enforcement.

Can you drop a protective order in Virginia?

Yes, at any time, you can petition the court to dissolve or modify the protective order.

What happens if you don’t go to the full PO hearing?

The PPO will end on the day of the hearing and you will not get a permanent PO.

What if the person against whom the PPO was issued does not come to hearing?

You can still get a PO if you are at the hearing and are able to tell the judge why you need it.

What if the person does not obey the PPO and shows up at my work or house?

Call the police and that person will be arrested for violating the PPO.

Do you need an attorney?

While you do not need an attorney to petition the court for an EPO or PPO, we would highly recommend getting an attorney for the final PO hearing. Protective Orders, because they curtail a lot of rights of the respondent, also require that you are able to prove your case in front of a judge. Oftentimes, these cases don’t have a large amount of evidence and come down to a he-said, she-said situation. In this situation, it is absolutely important that you hire an attorney who is skilled at evaluating your case and fighting for your rights and safety in front of a judge. Fighting for your safety can be an overwhelming process in a situation like this. Talk to an attorney from our office today for a free case consultation.

Contact Our Protective Order Attorneys for a Consultation

Our experienced attorneys can consult with you, advise you, and represent you through the Protective Order process, whether you are a Petitioner or Respondent. Contact our office today to set up a consulation.