Orders of Protection
Below is a summary of information obtained from the NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.
What is an Order of Protection?
It is a legal document in which a Judge orders someone to follow specific conditions of behavior--that is, the Order tells someone things that they must or must not do.
Police can make immediate arrests if they have good reason to believe those conditions have been violated. The point of a Temporary Order of Protection is to maintain peace and provide protection until all the facts have been gathered and the case is heard in Court. After the Judge hears the case and decides that the defendant/respondent has committed an offense or endangered the person protected by the Order, a final order is issued. In NYS, Orders of Protection have an expiration date, however, given certain circumstances, Orders can be extended or renewed.
If you are the defendant/respondent:
- The Court has the right to issue an order before all the facts have been heard for the purpose of helping to protect all the parties. The fact there is an Order doesn't necessarily mean you have been found guilty of anything.
- Following the Order is your responsibility and nobody else's! If you were present in Court when it was issued, or if you have been legally served with it, then it will be enforced.
- You are breaking the law if you don't follow the Judge's conditions. It's called Contempt of Court, and you can be fined and/or sent to jail for it.
- You are the only person who can be charged with violating the Order. If it says you're to stay away from somewhere or somebody, then stay away! Even if that person has invited you in, even if you are convinced you have a good reason to contact that person--the police are going to enforce the Order the way it is written.
If you are the victim/petitioner:
- The fact you have an order means the Judge believes you are in potential or continuing danger. Courts only issue these Orders when there is a serious problem.
- The Order remains in effect as written until it is changed or terminated by the Court. It cannot be changed by an agreement between you and the other person. You can't just decide that part of it "doesn't have to count anymore." If the Order says to "stay away," it won't make a difference to the police that you invited your partner in, or were willing to try to talk. All that will matter is what the Order says.
- If your situation changes--if things get worse, or if you decide to try and reconcile with your partner--you can ask the court to change its Order. The Court can add new conditions, or remove ones that are in the current Order. However, you should remember that it's the Court's decision whether or not the Order should be changed.
- The Order has to be served on the other person--or they have to know what it says because they were in Court when it was issued--before the police can enforce it.
- Keep a copy of the Order with you. Make sure there's one on file with your local police. If your children are also covered by the Order, give a copy of the Order (and a picture of the other person) to your babysitter and to the school.
- If there is a violation, call the police. Tell them exactly what happened. They will want you to sign a statement, and you may need to return to court to tell the Judge what happened.