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Virginia Protective Orders Laws

Protective orders, also called "restraining orders," require a named individual (typically, those charged with domestic violence or stalking) to stay a specified distance away from a named victim, for a certain amount of time. They are technically legal documents issued by a judge or magistrate 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 laws in Virginia.

Protective Orders In Virginia

In the Commonwealth there are three (3) kinds of protective orders that can protect you and others in your family or home:

  1. Emergency Protective Order (expires at the end of the third day following issuance or the next day court is in session, whichever is later).
  2. Preliminary Protective Order (lasts 15 days or until full hearing).
  3. Protective Order (may last up to two years).

The following table highlights the main provisions of Virginia's protective order laws, with links to additional articles and resources. Additionally, read the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services provides a helpful guide for victims.

Code Section  § 16.1-279 et seq. of the Code of Virginia
Activity Addressed by Order Enjoin contact; exclude from a dwelling or provide alternative housing; regarding minors: visitations; use of the motor vehicle; temporary custody and child support; granting the petitioner the possession of any companion animal; granting the petitioner exclusive use and possession of a cellular telephone number or electronic device; may enjoin the respondent from using a cellular telephone or other electronic devices to locate the petitioner; granting the petitioner temporary possession or use of a motor vehicle owned by the petitioner alone; requiring that the allegedly abusing person provide suitable alternative housing for the petitioner and any other family or household member and requiring the respondent to pay deposits to connect or restore necessary utility services in the alternative housing provided
Duration of Order Emergency: 72 hrs. after issuance; Final: two years
Penalty for a Violation of Order Contempt of court and Class 1 misdemeanor; if prior offense committed within five years of the prior conviction and when either the instant or prior offense was based on an act or threat of violence, shall include a mandatory minimum term of confinement of 60 days; any person convicted of a third or subsequent offense of violating a protective order when the offense is committed within 20 years of the first conviction and when either the instant or one of the prior offenses was based on an act or threat of violence is guilty of a Class 6 felony and the punishment shall include a mandatory minimum term of confinement of six months
Who May Apply for Order Any person or the court; spouse, ex-spouse, parents, children, step-parents and step-children, siblings, half-siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, persons who have a child in common, regardless of residence; in-laws, who live in the same home; and co-habitants and those who have co-habited in the past year and their children
Can Fees Be Waived? There is no filing fee in Virginia
Order Transmission to Law Enforcement Order will be entered and transferred electronically to the Virginia Criminal Information Network with the respondent's identifying information; a copy of a preliminary protective order containing such identifying information shall be forwarded to the primary law enforcement agency responsible for service and entry of protective orders
Civil Liability for Violation of Order Yes, 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.

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Virginia Protective Orders Laws: Related Resources

More Questions About Virginia Protective Orders Laws? Ask a Lawyer

If someone is hurting or threatening to hurt you, there are resources available for you 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 Virginia domestic violence attorney for help.

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