Civil Protection Order vs Restraining Order

Updated on April 12th, 2024 at 09:27 pm

In DC, while both a civil protection order and a civil restraining order are civil in nature, they are not the same.

A restraining order is much broader in application and is applicable to anyone. A civil protection order only applies to those within an intrafamilial relationship, such as domestic partners, immediate family, intimate party (e.g., sexual relationship), or a roommate. Civil protection orders commonly involve domestic violence or sexual abuse. 

Further, a restraining order is a request to compel a person to do something (often, not to do something) and does not necessarily require a person to stay away from the other party unless it is requested or deemed necessary.

Are Restraining Orders Public Record in DC?

No. The restraining order itself is a civil order that is only obtainable through the court upon eligible request and may not impact public affairs such as employment. While the order is not publicly discoverable, if evidence such as a criminal record, arrest, or conviction was used to support its creation, that outside information may be discoverable separately.

What Proof Do I Need for a Restraining Order in DC?

For a civil protection order, a preponderance of the evidence standard of proof is used, meaning it is more than 50% likely that the offending party committed a crime against the petitioning party. 

This can include text messages, social media, direct messages, voicemails, emails, medical records, police reports, and even witness testimony during the court hearing. The purpose of providing such evidence should not be to punish the offending party but to restore the well-being of the impacted party.

How Long Does a Restraining Order Last in DC?

A civil restraining order can last up to two years if not specified and may be extended, modified, or nulled after it is ordered so long as the court finds good cause. A temporary restraining order lasts up to 14 days and can be ordered during the period before the Court decides on the case.

Are Civil Protection Orders Public Record in DC?

No. Like restraining orders, protection orders are civil in nature, and closed records are only obtainable through the court upon eligible request. A civil protection order should not come up during criminal record checks. However, some employers, like Government entities or law enforcement, may be notified of a pending civil protection order that could impact employment.

How Does a Protection Order Work?

A protection order is granted by the District Court after a petition is filed by the petitioner (person seeking the order) against the respondent (person receiving the order). In DC, there is no fee to file for a protective order, nor is legal counsel mandatory. The respondent must hold an intrafamilial relationship with the petitioner and must have committed, or attempted to commit, a crime against them.

The respondent has the equal right to legal representation and may defend themselves against any allegations made during the court hearing. The judge determines that a protection order is needed by concluding that there is good cause for such an order.

Once an order is in place, the respondent is ordered by the court not to threaten, stalk, or harass the petitioner for up to two years unless extended at a later date. If the order is violated before expiration, either the prosecution or petitioner can notify the court directly. If the court finds that the respondent violated the order with threats of violence or acts of violence, the respondent could be held in contempt as a criminal misdemeanor, holding up to 180 days of jail time, a $1000 fine, or both.

Civil contempt can also be filed for violation of a protection order.

Prior to the civil protection order hearing, a petitioner may petition for a temporary protection order for the time lapsed before the court can hear on the issue. If the judge finds there is a need for the order due to an immediate threat to the petitioner, a temporary protection order is given for up to 14 days.

At any time after the filing of a CPO petition, the respondent may consent to the order without admission of guilt to the petitioner’s allegations.

Does a Protection Order Ever Expire in DC?

Yes. A protection order can last up to two years but can be extended if requested and deemed necessary by the presiding judge. Further, a protection order can be extended, vacated, or modified after its creation if the court finds good cause.

Contact Civil Law Attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel

While both involve civil litigation, protection and restraining orders are not the same. Protection orders have the goal of preventing a crime, or future crime, from an intrafamily member, such as domestic violence or sexual abuse. Intrafamily members include romantic partners, roommates, or direct family.

Restraining orders attempt to prevent a wide array of conduct that may immediately harm the seeking party irreparably. Restraining orders are not locked to a class of people and can be sought for anyone who is harming a person sufficiently.

While an attorney is not required to file either type of order, obtaining a DC CPO Lawyer as soon as the next business day can ensure that your rights and best interests are represented in the courtroom. As the petitioner, obtaining an attorney can ensure that the terms of your order are curated exactly to your needs, and an attorney can help you navigate how to approach the situation of a violated order.

As the respondent, if there are any ongoing separate criminal cases, obtaining an attorney can ensure that the terms of either type of order are understood to prevent additional criminal charges or prevent the reason for the prosecution to resist a favorable outcome in those outside cases. Further, obtaining legal counsel can ensure that the defense of any criminal charge is not burdened by civil order rulings and that other legitimate concerns, such as child custody or other civil judgments, are not at risk.

Contact Bruckheim & Patel today at (202)930-3464!


About Bruckheim & Patel

As a former Prosecutor, Michael Bruckheim has experience on the other side of the aisle. Prior to founding his law office in 2010, Mr. Bruckheim enjoyed a diverse career in litigation at the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG) serving for over 11 years. He began his OAG career as a prosecutor in the Criminal Section where he conducted numerous bench and jury trials in traffic and criminal misdemeanor matters. Mr. Bruckheim was promoted and served as Chief of the Criminal Section at the OAG where he supervised the prosecution of DUI offenses in the District and directed a staff of over 20 attorneys.

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