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Can Facebook Contact Violate a Restraining Order?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

You're online and your social network serves up a profile. It's someone you know and loathe: that person who also has a restraining order against you. Can you tag or comment or contact them in any way?

No. It is far better to be safe than sorry when it come to no-contact orders. Contact via social media is most definitely contact. A judge in New York last week ruled that commenting on a Facebook page can violate a protective order even if the post has no profanity or threats, the American Bar Association reports.

The Ruling

In the case at hand, the judge was ruling on a motion to dismiss a criminal contempt case, a claim that a protective order was violated with a posting on Facebook. The accused posted in a link to the protected woman's profile, "You and your family are sad ... You guys have to come stronger than that!! I'm way over you guys but I guess not in ya agenda."

Her lawyer argued that the court order didn't specifically ban contact via the social network. But the argument failed, and the ruling is instructive.

Contact IRL

In real life, violation of a restraining order can result in severe consequences, including jail. The circumstances that led to the order will dictate terms of contact or lack thereof, so there is no way to say what every person should do to stay within bounds. But just as you should avoid contact in town or out generally, you should do so online.

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 real crimes with virtual ones and assume you will get away with it. We live in the hyper-real, 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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