Are restraining orders civil or criminal? / by Andy K

Restraining orders can be either criminal or civil court orders. The common attribute they share, however, is that the consequence of violating either type of order is considered a criminal offense.

A criminal protective order (CPO) is, as the title suggests, the criminal variation of restraining order, aimed to protect victims of crime. The defendant in a criminal case is usually served papers containing a list of things they are prohibited from doing, such as calling the victim, using a third party to contact the victim, staying away from a victim, and so forth.

There are two types of civil restraining orders: a standard restraining order, and a domestic violence order.  A standard restraining order deals with situations where a person has been the target of harassment, stalking, or threats. Under these circumstances, the complaining person does not have to have been in a close relationship with the offender. For example, the parties could be neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, and so on. If the court finds that the request for protection is not based on a violation of the law, the court can assess filing fees for a civil restraining order of $435.00. 

A domestic violence restraining order, according to the Superior Court of California, requires that the victim have had a close personal relationship with the individual he or she is asking to restrain — parents, spouses, in-laws, exes, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. There is no fee for filing a request for protection, and forms can be obtained on the court’s website online or at these locations.

Once the court issues and serves a protective order in both criminal and civil matters, breaching the court order is a crime. Both forms of restraining order carry penalties of up to one year for each violation.

Asking the court for protection is a serious request and should be crafted carefully. The court requires a high burden of proof to sustain a restraining order. Call the Law Offices of Cassandra Hearn, APC to make sure your request for protection is filed correctly.