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Violating a Restraining Order: What Happens

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California law allows for alleged victims of harassment, abuse, threats, and other similar conduct to obtain restraining orders protecting them from contact by alleged aggressors. Subjects of the protective orders must adhere to the terms imposed by the court or face harsh penalties. Read on to learn about the penalties for violating a restraining order, and call a seasoned California criminal defense lawyer if you are subject to a restraining order, contempt order, or if you have been arrested for a crime in Southern California.

Violating a Restraining Order is a Criminal Offense

Violating the terms of a restraining order is a very serious matter. California Penal Code section 273.6 establishes that violating a protective order is a criminal offense. Violation of a protective order is chargeable as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and/or imprisonment in jail for up to a year. If the violation involves physical injury, the defendant can be punished with a $2,000 fine and a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Multiple violations lead to more serious penalties.

It’s important to note that the Penal Code defines the crime as an “intentional and knowing” violation of a covered protective order. That means that an unintentional violation of an order, such as by unexpectedly running into the protected party in public, does not constitute a criminal offense. Likewise, the act must be “knowing.” If the subject of the restraining order has not yet received notice of the order, or if the terms of the order are not clear, then the defendant is not guilty of the offense. For a violation of 273.6 to occur, the order must have been issued lawfully, the defendant must have known about the court order, the defendant must have had the ability to follow the order, and the defendant must have deliberately and willfully violated the terms of the order.

If someone alleges that you have violated the terms of a protective order, you need to talk to a seasoned criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. If left unchallenged, those allegations can lead to fines, jail time, and other consequences for your work, living situation, child custody rights, and other areas.

Types of Protective Orders and Prohibited Conduct

Section 273.6 covers all manner of protective orders, including:

  • Domestic violence protective orders
  • Civil harassment restraining orders
  • Elder abuse protective orders
  • Workplace violence protective orders

The type of conduct that is prohibited will depend upon the specific terms of the protective order. Protective orders can include a variety of mandates and prohibitions, including:

  • No in-person contact
  • No contact via phone, text, email, social media, or other means
  • No visiting the protected party’s home or place of work
  • No contact with the protected party’s children or other family members
  • Maintaining a minimum distance between the subject and the protected party

There is a range of protective orders available under California law. Some do not totally prohibit any contact, instead prohibiting certain conduct such as harassment, threats, violence, or stalking. Violation of these “peaceful contact” orders can subject a defendant to criminal liability both for violating a protective order and for the underlying criminal conduct.

Get Help After a Southern California Arrest

If you are facing penalties for violating a restraining order or other criminal charges in Los Angeles or Southern California, call McReynolds Vardanyan, LLP, in Glendale at 818-855-2115. Our California criminal defense attorneys will fight for your rights and your freedom throughout every step of your case.

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