California takes the safety of the supposed violence victims seriously, to the extent that the courts can issue a restraining order for protection. If the court has served you with this kind of order, it is essential to obey all its terms and conditions. Failure to do so can trigger criminal charges of restraining court order violation. A conviction for disobeying a restraining court order carries more severe consequences than other forms of criminal contempt.

However, being charged with a court restraining order violation does not mean you are guilty. Many of these charges arise out of false allegations, and that may be the case for you. Therefore, if charged, do not rush to admit guilt. Instead, you should immediately contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer to review your charges. The lawyer can mount a solid defense to convince the judge to dismiss your case.

At the Restraining Order Law Firm, we are committed to fighting for clients charged with restraining order violations in Los Angeles. We will thoroughly review your case to find the prosecution’s weaknesses that work to our advantage. We will then proceed to develop a defense strategy that will be helpful to your lawsuit. Call us immediately if arrested, and we will build a strategy to help you. Remember, our early intervention can increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.

Penal Code Section 273.6 Overview

Restraining orders are also called protective orders. They are court orders judges issue to restrain a person from harassing, stalking, threatening, or abusing another. These orders can be served either by criminal or civil courts.

In most cases, they are issued in domestic violence-related cases, such as domestic battery, corporal injury upon a spouse, child endangerment, child abuse, child neglect, criminal threats, elder abuse, stalking, aggravated trespass, damaging a telephone line, posting harmful information on the internet, annoying calls, and revenge porn. They can also be issued in cases where there is any other form of violence, harassment, or credible threat of violence, like witness intimidation and vandalism.

The form of conduct a restraining court order prohibits is based on the case details. Still, these orders will typically dictate and outline the type of conduct that is unacceptable or not permitted by the accused. An order can dictate that the accused do the following:

  • Avoid contacting the victim via email, phone, text messages, social media channels, or face-to-face.
  • Avoid harassing or using threats or force against the victim or destroying their property.
  • Keeps a given distance from the victim, their children, home, work, or other specified places.
  • Moves out from where the victim lives.
  • Must pay attorney fees for the victim or victim restitution.
  • Surrenders any guns to the police and is prohibited from buying more.

Under the state’s Penal Code Section 273.6, violating a court-issued protective order will result in criminal charges. You commit this crime when you willfully and knowingly break any terms included in a legal restraining order. Therefore, if a court has served a restraining order against you, you must adhere to all its provisions or risk facing criminal charges.

A person can violate a protective court order in several ways, triggering charges under PC 273.6. For example, you are criminally liable if the restraining order against you prohibits contact with the victim, but you continue to call or send them messages. Another instance is when a court order forbids you from using threats or force against your girlfriend, but you threaten them so they can withdraw the protective court order.

Types of Restraining Court Orders In California

There are several protective order types a court could issue. Breaking any orders can trigger the consequences described under the restraining order violation law. In addition to facing charges under 273.6, you could be subject to contempt of court charges under 166 PC.

Domestic violence protective orders are issued to shield victims from abuse or threats by their intimate or romantic partners. Civil harassment protective orders are issued to safeguard people from other people who are not their romantic partners, such as neighbors.

Dependent adult or elder abuse protective orders are served to safeguard dependent adults above 17 years and not more than 64 years and elders sixty-five years or older against any financial, physical, or emotional abuse. Workplace violence protective orders protect workers from violence and threats at the place they work.

The types of restraining orders mentioned in the above paragraph offer different degrees of protection, as follows:

Emergency Protection

If someone needs emergency protection against you, they will file for an emergency protective order (EPO). In most cases, EPOs are served at a domestic violence scene. When police officers come to a scene where there is domestic violence, they can contact the on-call judge to request an urgent EPO, which forbids the crime perpetrator from contacting, in any way, the person they have abused.

If the supposed domestic violence perpetrator has not left the crime scene, the authorities will advise them that an EPO has been initiated immediately and lasts seven days. Once one week passes, the abused person must appear before a judge to file for a TRO (temporary restraining order).

Temporary Protection

A TRO offers temporary protection for the victim. Once an EPO’s validity period ends, or if someone is facing harassment from you, they can file a TRO against you in court. A TRO could remain valid for a maximum of three weeks. For a person to request a TRO to restrain you, they have to fill out an application stating they are facing these from you:

  • Violence, harassment, or threats.
  • Infuriating conduct for no valid reason.
  • Behavior from you leading to them suffering significant emotional distress.

Per this statute, “harassment” means credible threats or violence. Before the TRO’s validity ends, the judge will schedule a court hearing to establish whether the victim requires permanent protection through a permanent restraining order (PRO). 

Permanent Protection

A PRO offers permanent protection for the victim. Before the victim obtains a PRO against you, you must attend court for a scheduled hearing, during which the presiding judge will listen to your and the victim's arguments before deciding.

Usually, the presiding judge will need evidence that your behavior makes the victim suffer bodily or emotional harm. If they eventually issue a PRO, they will set restrictions against you and determine the period for which the order will remain valid.

A PRO could remain valid for five years, but the court can extend its validity period where necessary. The court could extend the validity of a PRO for a maximum of ten years as part of the accused's sentence.

Proving The Crime of Restraining Order Violation

To convince the judge that you broke a restraining court order, the prosecuting attorney must substantiate the facts making up the crime, including:

  • A valid restraining order was served against you.
  • You were conscious that there was a restraining court order against you, including having a chance to read the court order.
  • You were in a position to obey the restraining order terms, but
  • You willfully disobeyed those terms.

Willfully here means you did so deliberately or on purpose. Whether or not you meant to hurt anybody by breaking the terms of the order does not count. Provided you knew whatever you were doing was against the order's conditions, the judge could still convict you under PC 273.6.

The elements making up the crime also provide that before you can be found guilty of breaking a protective court order, the prosecuting attorney has to show you knew of the order's existence. Knowing means you were notified of the court order and had a chance to read it.

What Happens When You Violate a Restraining Court Order?

People who disobey the conditions of the restraining court order against them will mostly face misdemeanor charges. But the prosecution may also file felony charges contingent on the facts of the case and the accused's criminal history.

You will face up to 12 months in jail, a mandatory thirty days in custody if the protected person was injured, and a thousand dollars in court fines if the judge finds you criminally liable for a misdemeanor. You may also be subject to mandatory counseling, victim restitution, making payments to a battered women's shelter, and domestic violence classes.

The crime will become a wobbler if you are accused of disobeying the restraining court order terms for the second or subsequent time within seven years, and your most recent violation entailed threats or violence. Wobblers refer to crimes the prosecuting attorney can try as misdemeanors or felonies based on the facts of the case and the accused's criminal history.

If convicted of a felony for breaking restraining order terms, you will face up to three years of incarceration, a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars, and formal probation for 12 months. If you have a past conviction within 12 months and the victim sustained an injury, you would face a mandatory minimum incarceration period of thirty days in custody.

Note that breaking a restraining court order can be further charged as a probation sentence violation offense. In this case, the judge can impose any punishment, although it will not exceed the maximum sentence for your underlying crime.

Firearm Restrictions

If there is an active protective order against you, it may dictate that you should not purchase, own, or possess a gun. If so, you will be ordered to sell your guns or surrender them to the police. If you hold onto any guns, you may face further criminal prosecution. If you buy a gun or try to buy one, you will face wobbler charges and be subject to a maximum of three years in prison if convicted of a felony.

On the other hand, if the terms of your restraining order do not prohibit you from having a gun, being convicted of violating the order may still affect your firearm rights. This is particularly true if you are subject to a felony conviction for a restraining order violation.

California statute dictates that a convicted felon cannot own, possess, or purchase a gun. That means the court will strip you of your legal firearm rights if it finds you criminally liable for a felony protective order violation. You will not face any firearm restrictions if found criminally responsible for a misdemeanor PC 273.6 violation.

The better news is that violating restraining order terms will mostly not lead to immigration consequences. There are various instances when being convicted of an offense results in the defendant being labeled inadmissible to the United States or deported. Examples are convictions for aggravated felonies and crimes of moral turpitude.

Breaking the terms of a protective court order is, however, neither a crime of moral turpitude nor an aggravated felony. You will, therefore, not be deported or marked inadmissible if convicted.

Another good news is that restraining orders do not generally appear during criminal background checks because they are practically civil matters. That means if a protective court order has been issued against you, anyone who runs a criminal background check against you will be unable to tell whether there is a court order against you.

But if you commit the crime of disobeying a protection order, that crime will go into your criminal record. In this case, anyone who conducts a criminal background check against you can tell you have a prior restraining order violation conviction. Therefore, you want to do everything you can to comply with your restraining order's terms to avoid a criminal record.

You can often have your conviction for a restraining court order violation expunged. An expungement is possible if you complete your probation or jail sentence, whichever the court imposes.

A critical point to note is that the protected party in a protective order will not have legal problems due to making contact with the restrained party. Only the person against whom a restraining court order has been issued faces criminal arrest and prosecution for disobeying the court order.

That said, you should not entertain the victim contacting you if you are the restrained person, as they may put you in trouble. On the brighter side, you could use the contact as evidence should you face charges to demonstrate that the person under protection is not afraid of you, so the protective court order is not necessary anymore.

Fighting Restraining Court Order Violation Charges

A restraining court order violation is a serious crime, but luckily, there are numerous defenses your lawyer can argue for you if you have been accused. Some of these defenses include the following:

No Knowledge of the Order

Recall that one of the elements under PC 273.6 is for the D.A. to prove you knew there was an order out against you. Your lawyer can help you argue that you were not aware a restraining order had been served against you. If you did not know the victim had filed a protective order against you, the judge should not convict you of violating it. For example, it could be that you broke the order before the police could serve it, or the person to issue you with the order could not find you to do so.

You Did Not Purposefully Violate the Order

Again, remember that the elements under PC 273.6 require that you willfully violate a restraining order to be criminally liable. The judge should not convict you if you did not deliberately break the terms of the restraining order against you. For example, if the order requires you to keep a particular distance from the victim, meeting the victim incidentally or accidentally does not constitute a violation.

The Protective Order Was Invalid

If the victim did not properly serve you with the restraining order, if you did not have the opportunity to go through it, if the order expired and the victim did not renew it, if the court had no grounds for serving the court order or lacked jurisdiction to issue the order, you are not obligated to obey its terms. In this case, your lawyer can argue that the restraining order was not valid in the first place.

Wrongful Allegations

It could be that you are the victim of false accusations. It is not unusual for someone to be wrongfully accused of breaking the terms of a restraining order. It could be that the protected person had ill motives when your romantic relationship ended badly and accused you out of jealousy or anger.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

California takes allegations of a restraining order violation seriously. If you are charged with this crime, it is crucial to retain an expert, dedicated defense lawyer as soon as possible. Your freedom, livelihood, and rights are on the line. Remember, a good lawyer may convince the judge to lower your sentence or dismiss your charges.

At the Restraining Order Law Firm, our lawyers understand how local courts operate and have in-depth knowledge of California law on restraining orders. Contact us if you have been accused of violating a protective court order in Los Angeles. We will review the facts surrounding your charges and mount a defense plan that will assist you in obtaining the most favorable results. Call us today at 424-600-7691 to set up your free, confidential consultation.