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Can Facebook Contact Violate a No-Contact Order? What About a Restraining Order?

By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. | Last updated on

No-contact orders typically live at the border of family law and criminal law. A no-contact order is usually the result of allegations of domestic violence, although they can arise in other circumstances such as stalking and harassment.

The recipient of a no-contact order may not fully understand what it entails. Does no contact include sending an apology through a social media platform? Or sending a friend request on Instagram? Or using an indirect method, such as tagging on a Facebook post?

The short answer is yes. It is far better to be safe than sorry when it comes to no-contact orders. Contact via social media is most definitely contact and should be avoided.

There is a longer answer, however. Read on to learn more.

State Laws and Terminology

Unfortunately, understanding the difference between restraining orders, no-contact orders, and orders for protection can be hard. Sometimes these terms are interchangeable. Other times they mean different things and arise in different circumstances (such as in cases of divorce vs. criminal cases). States use different terminology, so it is important to understand your state laws to get an idea of what the court order means for you.

States often label what we used to think of as restraining orders as "protective orders" or “orders of protection" and these come in different types. A temporary (or emergency) protective order, for example, usually lasts for a short time (a couple of days at most) and can prohibit the person who has it issued against them from doing specific things, like going to a shared house. Temporary restraining orders (TROs) usually arise after a domestic disturbance or in divorce cases. TROs may include no-contact orders, but not always. A TRO may require the defendant to turn over their gun, for example, or simply to exit the home, but not completely eliminate all contact.

A no-contact order, however, is exactly what it sounds like. It prohibits all contact. The protected party in a no-contact order can include a domestic partner, children, or a crime victim. A no-contact order is more common for criminal defendants after they have been accused of a crime such as domestic violence, stalking, harassment, or sexual assault.

The Terms of a No-Contact Order Can Be Unique

A no-contact order may specifically mention social media, particularly if that has been an issue of concern in the past. But even when a no-contact order fails to mention social media accounts, it is best to stay away. As with any potential criminal case, it is a very good idea to consult with your criminal defense attorney for legal advice before doing anything that may put your future at risk. Violating a restraining order, even if unintentionally, is a misdemeanor on its own. It can result in significant penalties, including additional criminal charges and jail time.

Violation of the Order

The circumstances that led to the no-contact order will dictate terms of contact or lack thereof, so there is no one rule to say what every person should do to stay within bounds. But one guideline is that if it would be out-of-bounds in the real world, it's most likely out-of-bounds online. If phone calls and visits are prohibited, then it is extremely risky to send emails, text messages, and social media posts.

We are relentlessly warned that our online activities can and do bleed into our "real lives." Young people hear that colleges will see what they post. Prospective employees are reminded to be careful online for fear loose lips will hurt their chances of finding work.

The same certainly goes for a person with a no-contact order. Do not replace crimes in the real world with virtual ones and assume you will get away with it. We live in a time when there is little distinction between the world and the web. The virtual is real and you can feel the consequences of your online activity everywhere.

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