If a person feels that they are the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, physical assault, or if they generally are just in fear of personal harm from another, they can go to civil court to get an order of protection, which legally restrains the person that they are afraid of from being in the same place as them and/or even contacting them at all.
Procedurally, this is normally a two-step process. In Colorado, the first step to obtaining a civil protection order is to file a Complaint requesting the protection order with a civil court. The person who is filing a Complaint seeking a protection order is called the Petitioner, and the person who would be restrained by the protection order is known as the Respondent. In the Complaint, the Petitioner will allege whatever facts he or she is basing the need for the protection order on. Many clerks at civil courts have forms they will give out to make this process easier on those who are seeking an order of protection.
Once the Petitioner has filed a Complaint seeking a protection order, the Petitioner will usually go before a Judge on that very same day, often very shortly after filing the Complaint. The purpose of this is so that the Judge or Magistrate can go over the allegations in the Complaint with the Petitioner and ask the Petitioner any questions that the Judge may have. Based on the allegations in the Complaint and/or the testimony given by the Petitioner to the Judge, the Judge or Magistrate may grant what is known as a TPO, or a temporary protection order. Usually, the Respondent is not present for this initial hearing, as they have had no notice of it.
From the Petitioner’s point of view, there are some advantages to this process, the first being how speedy it is. If someone is in real danger or is the victim of abuse, this is a relatively quick and easy avenue for victims to get some legal protection to help ensure their safety from their abuser.
However, there are some disadvantages as well. Oftentimes Petitioners have to go alone to Court and deal with the task of both filing a Complaint and dealing with a Judge all on their own. If the Judge grants the temporary protection order, the Petitioner will then be tasked with arranging for the temporary protection order to be served on the Respondent, and the order will not officially take effect until this is done, as the Respondent will not legally be held to the restraints of the order until they are legally made aware it exists. Finally, if the Judge does grant the temporary protection order, the Respondent does not immediately go to jail. However, a violation of the temporary protection order is a crime.
From the Respondent’s point of view, this process may seem unfair and unjust. First, the temporary protection order is oftentimes issued well before the Respondent is even aware that it is being sought. This means that the Respondent is most likely not present at the initial hearing, and therefore gets no opportunity to have his or her side of the story heard. For many folks, this seems very unfair. Before they have their day in court, an order is issued restraining them, and it is normally at the very least a bad look amongst friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances who may find out about the temporary order.
The temporary order will usually last for up to 14 days, at which time the Petitioner must return to court for another hearing if they would like to convince a Judge that a permanent restraining order should be granted. Judges are traditionally much more hesitant to grant these, as they have long lasting and serious implications. Oftentimes the Respondent will show up to these second hearings to defend themselves, and both sides may end up calling witnesses to testify no their behalf.
If you are a victim of abuse or harassment and you would like to file for a civil restraining order, it can be very advantageous to have an attorney on your side. Attorneys know the law, are familiar with the paper work and process, and can help you with everything from subpoenaing witnesses, making sure your story gets told comprehensively and efficiently to the Court, helping with service of process, and generally just making sure everything gets done correctly under the law. If you are a victim, you are most likely already very stressed. An attorney can take a lot of this stress off of your shoulders.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being a Respondent in a civil protection order case, you almost certainly will want legal representation. Being restrained from being around or contacting a certain person is enough of a difficulty in and of itself, but the implications that go along with having a permanent protection order issued against you can be serious, damaging, and long lasting. If you are a Respondent in one of these matters, it is wise to hire an attorney to represent your interests in court. Oftentimes, when a Petitioner files for a civil protection order, it is warranted under the law. In other instances, it is not. Judges will often grant temporary protection orders simply out of an abundance of caution. It is important as a Respondent to put on the best defense possible so that you have the strongest opportunity to avoid having a permanent protection order hanging over your head.
In short, no matter what side of the aisle you fall on in a protection order case, it is wise to contact an attorney to help guide you through this difficult situation. The Attorneys of Highlands Ranch are experienced in these matters. Call us for a free consultation.