Protective orders are also called "restraining orders." They are a piece of paper that requires a named individual to stay a specified distance away from a named victim, for a certain amount of time. Protective orders are legal documents issued by a court to protect the health and safety of a person who is alleged to be a victim of any act involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places that person in fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.
This article provides a brief overview of protective orders in our nation's capital.
Civil Protective Orders in D.C.
A person can petition the Domestic Violence Division for a civil protection order against an individual who has allegedly committed or threatened to commit an intrafamily offense, sexual assault, trafficking in labor or commercial sex acts, or sex trafficking of children.
A temporary protection order (TPO) can be issued the day that you file your petition without the abuser being present in court -- this is what is meant by an ex parte order. The judge can give you this temporary order if they believe that the safety or welfare of you or another member of your household is in immediate danger from the abuser. The order can last up to 14 days.
Once you return to court, the judge can extend the temporary protection order for an additional 14-day period until the final court hearing or trial is completed.
Persons Entitled to Civil Protective Orders in D.C.
Any person who is involved in one of the following relationships with another party may be entitled to a protective order upon proof:
- Someone you are or were married to, in a domestic partnership with, or in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship with;
- Someone related to you by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership;
- Someone you have a child in common with; and
- Someone who share(d) a home with (i.e., a roommate) and with who you have maintained a close relationship, beyond mere acquaintances.
California Protective Orders Laws: At a Glance
The following table highlights the main provisions of D.C.'s protective orders laws, with links to additional articles and resources.
||§ 16-1001 et seq. of the D.C. Code
|Activity Addressed by Order
- Directs the respondent to refrain from committing or threatening to commit criminal offenses against the petitioner and any other people specified by the order
- Requires the respondent to stay away from or have no contact with the victims
- Requires the respondent to participate in psychiatric or medical treatment or appropriate counseling programs
- Directs the respondent to refrain from entering, or to vacate, the dwelling unit of the petitioner when the dwelling is:
- Marital property of both parties
- Jointly owned, leased, or rented and occupied by other parties
- Owned, leased, or rented by the petitioner individually
- Jointly owned, leased or rented by the petitioner and a person other than the respondent
- Directs the respondent to relinquish possession or use of certain personal property owned jointly by the parties or by the petitioner individually
- Awards temporary custody of a minor child(ren) of the parties
- Provides for visitation rights with appropriate restrictions to protect the safety of the petitioner
- Awards costs and attorney fees
- Order the Metropolitan Police Department to take such action as the judicial officer seems necessary to enforce its orders
- Directs the respondent to relinquish possession of any firearms or ammunition and prohibits the respondent from having possession or control of, purchasing, or receiving any firearm/ammunition while the order is in effect
- In connection with an animal owned, possessed, or controlled by the petitioner:
- Directs the ownership, possession, or control of the animal
- Orders the respondent to stay away from the animal and refrain from possessing, controlling, harming or threatening to harm, or otherwise disposing of the animal
- Directs the respondent to perform or refrain from any other actions as may be appropriate to the effective resolution of the matter
|Duration of Order
- Temporary Protection Order: remains in effect for an initial period not to exceed 14 days (the court may extend a temporary protection order as necessary to complete service and hearing on the petition, in 14-day increments up to 28 days for good cause, or for a longer time with the consent of both parties)
- Civil Protection Order: remains in effect for an initial period not to exceed two years (a judicial officer may, upon motion of any party, extend, modify, or vacate an order for good cause)
|Penalty for Violation of Order
||Misdemeanor: fine, maximum $1,000, and/or imprisonment: maximum 180 days
|Who May Apply for Order
- A person age 16 or older may petition for an order against a person who has allegedly committed or threatened to commit: an intrafamily offense (where the petitioner is the victim, or if the victim is an animal, an animal that the petitioner owns, possesses, or controls); sexual assault where the petitioner is the victim; trafficking in labor or other commercial sex acts where the petitioner is the victim; or sex trafficking of children where the petitioner is the victim
- A minor who is at least 13 but not yet 16 may petition for an order against a person who has allegedly committed or threatened to commit: an intrafamily offense (where the petitioner is the victim, or if the petitioner is an animal, an animal that the petitioner owns, possesses, or controls); sexual assault where the petitioner is the victim; or sex trafficking of children where the petitioner is the victim
- Parents, legal guardians, and legal custodians of minors may file petitions on the minor's behalf
- At the request of a minor, a petition may be filed on the minor's behalf by a person 18 or older to whom the minor is related by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage or domestic partnership, or a sexual assault youth victim advocate
|Can Fees Be Waived?
||No fee to file
|Order Transmission to Law Enforcement
||Metropolitan police department
|Civil Liability for Violation of Order
||Contempt of Court
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Research the Law
D.C. Protective Orders Laws: Related Resources
Get Help with a Protective Order Today
If someone is hurting or threatening to hurt you, there are resources available when you're ready. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for 24/7/365 support at 800-799-7233. If you've been abused or fear someone may abuse you in the near future, you may want to get a protective order.
Please contact a D.C. domestic violence attorney for help.