A protective order, more commonly known as a restraining order, can have long-term consequences that neither the person filing the order nor the person whom the order applies to can anticipate. Even if the former has a change of heart and wants it removed, it can be difficult to dissolve or expunge a restraining order in Colorado. If you’re considering filing a restraining order or have reason to believe that a restraining order may be taken out against you, here’s what you need to know ahead of time.
There’s More than One Kind of Restraining Order
Protective violence orders can be obtained to protect against anyone who has been violent or threatened to be violent, but they’re most frequently issued in domestic violence cases. There are several different types of protection orders in the state of Colorado, but their shared goal is to protect victims of domestic abuse by threatening legal consequences if the alleged abuser comes into contact with their alleged victim. The three most common types of protective orders are:
Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): A TRO does not require concrete evidence of domestic violence; all that an individual needs to do is go to their county clerk’s office to fill out a complaint, which a judge will review before listening to the individual’s story. Based on the complaint and testimony, the judge will decide whether or not a temporary restraining order is necessary. Because of the relative ease of obtaining a TRO, there may be cases where a partner or ex-spouse takes out a restraining order as an act of revenge.
Permanent Restraining Order (PRO): Whenever a judge issues a TRO, they also schedule a hearing for a PRO. At this time, the defendant is given the opportunity to argue against having the restraining order made permanent. It’s highly advisable for the defendant to retain a domestic violence attorney, as a PRO can negatively impact the rest of his/her life.
Emergency Protective Order (EPO): This type of order is issued at the request of a police officer who asserts that there are reasonable grounds to believe the alleged victim is in danger of domestic abuse (and cannot immediately get to a court during regular hours). EPOs typically only last three days, and the alleged victim will have to file for a TRO before it expires.
How Restraining Orders Work
Although the types of restraining orders described above entail an alleged victim filing a complaint, it is possible for a restraining order to be issued without a complaint ever being filed. A court may issue a mandatory protective order after a criminal hearing if the judge has reason to believe that a witness or victim may be in danger of future harassment, intimidation, property destruction, or violence.
The specific requirements of a restraining order will vary from case to case and depend on the judge’s decision, but some common requirements of a restraining order include:
• Staying away from the victim’s home or other locations they are known to spend time, such as their workplace
• Staying away from the home, child care facility, or school of a child under the protection order
• Prohibition of direct or indirect contact with the alleged victim (including phone calls, texts, emails, or even messages sent through a third party)
• Transferring mutually-owned property such as a home or car to the name of the alleged victim
• Child support or spousal support
• A mandatory counseling or intervention program for the alleged abuser
Unintended Negative Effects of Restraining Orders
Restraining orders can end up having far-reaching, unintended consequences for both the alleged victim and alleged abuser, and it’s important to recognize these effects before filing one. The first potential danger for the victim is that their abuser won’t recognize the restraining order and will retaliate out of anger before the police can apprehend him or her. On their website, the Colorado Bar Association points out that restraining orders are only as good as the abuser’s willingness to obey the law, and victims need a safety plan that includes a safe place to go to get away from their abuser if necessary.
In other cases, the alleged abuser may not have actually committed an act of domestic violence, and the alleged victim is filing for a restraining order as an act of revenge or in response to a perceived threat. Unfortunately, protective orders can take a heavy toll on the alleged abuser’s life. Negative effects of a restraining order may include:
• Having the protective order show up whenever the alleged abuser needs to have security clearance or a background check
• Difficulty renting an apartment or house
• Being forced to give up any firearms
• A negatively impacted credit record
• Difficulty finding work or going back to school
• Lifelong stigma
Ending a Restraining Order
Sometimes, an alleged victim might file for a restraining order and later wish to dismiss it, only to discover that terminating a restraining order in Colorado can be a long and arduous process. Once the alleged victim has decided that he/she wants the restraining order terminated, he/she will need to make in-person contact with the Office of the District Attorney. The DA will then direct them to the ALERT (Awareness Leads to Education and Responsible Thinking) program, which must be completed before going further. Lastly, the DA will evaluate whether or not they think it’s a good idea to terminate the protection order.
Because of the difficulty of terminating a restraining order, it’s better to avoid them in the first place, unless you feel that one is absolutely necessary. If you have a TRO against you or you are someone who filed a TRO and now wants to take it back, you should contact a domestic violence attorney as soon as possible to prevent the restraining order from becoming permanent. A skilled domestic violence attorney may be able to convince the judge a permanent restraining order is unnecessary or work out a deal where the restraining order is dropped if the alleged abuser agrees to attend counseling.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.