Protection orders, also known as restraining orders, are legal orders issued by a court to protect individuals from potential harm or harassment. In Colorado, these orders play a crucial role in safeguarding victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and other forms of abuse. But we have also seen protection orders used as a sword rather than a shield, mostly to the detriment of our criminal and family law clients. This article discusses the rights and responsibilities of parties involved in protection orders and highlights the enforcement mechanisms within the state’s criminal law framework.
1. Types of Protection Orders in Colorado:
Colorado offers several types of protection orders, each tailored to specific situations:
a. Civil Protection Orders:
These are protection orders that safeguard victims from harassment, stalking, sexual assault, or other threats. They may be based on domestic abuse, future and past threats of harm, stalking, sexual abuse, or other abusive behaviors. Temporary Restraining Orders are issued ex parte (meaning: with only the petitioner/protected party present in court), but the restrained person has the right to a Hearing before it is made a Permanent Restraining Order. Civil restraining orders can be issued in a stand-alone civil case in county court, or as part of a domestic relations / family law matter in district court. If the order involves mutual children and the need to co-parent, then the county court loses jurisdiction after only a year.
b. Restraining Orders in Criminal Cases:
Issued as a condition of bail or probation, these orders may restrict a defendant from contacting the victim while the case is pending or during probation. These restraining orders are called “Mandatory Protection Orders” and are known as MPO for short. MPOs are mandatory in every type of criminal case and will, at minimum, prevent retaliation against a victim or witness to the crime.
2. Safeguarding Victims through Protection Orders
The respondent has the right to receive notice of the protection order hearing and an opportunity to present your side of the story. You can challenge the issuance or terms of the protection order if there are valid reasons to do so. However, it is crucial to remember that the purpose of a protection order is to protect the petitioner from harm, and you must comply with its provisions. In many cases, protection orders may include a specific provision mandating the surrender of firearms and ammunition while the order is in effect. This measure is put in place to prevent any further escalation of violence and ensure the safety of all parties involved.
In cases of harassment, abuse, or violence, protection orders play a vital role in safeguarding victims and providing a legal means to prevent further harm. Whether you are the petitioner seeking protection or the respondent subject to the order, it is crucial to understand your rights and responsibilities within this legal framework. Additionally, in many jurisdictions, protection orders may include provisions regarding the relinquishment of firearms and ammunition to further ensure safety.
3. Enforcement and Penalties:
Violation of a protection order is a serious offense in Colorado and can lead to criminal charges. The enforcement of protection orders is taken seriously to ensure the safety of the petitioner. When a respondent/ defendant violates a protection order, law enforcement can take immediate action to protect the victim. Examples of violations include:
Physical Contact: If the protection order prohibits physical contact with the petitioner, any physical assault or altercation can lead to charges for violating the order.
Contact through Third Parties: The protection order may prohibit the respondent from contacting the petitioner indirectly through friends, family, or other third parties.
Stalking or Harassment: If the respondent engages in stalking or harassing behavior towards the petitioner, it can be considered a violation.
Weapon Possession: In some cases, the court may order the respondent to surrender firearms and refrain from possessing weapons during the order’s duration.
Contact Online: Repeatedly contacting someone online or through social media is a violation of a restraining order in many cases. However, it can be hard to prove unless the respondent uses a known profile or email address. Getting IP address info and search warrants for investigation of this type of case is generally not done unless it rises to the level or a new stalking case.
Penalties for Violation:
Violation of a protection order is typically classified as a misdemeanor, but repeated or severe violations may elevate the charge to a felony. There are slightly lower penalties for violating a civil restraining order vs a criminal MPO. Penalties may include fines, probation, or imprisonment, depending on the severity of the violation and the respondent’s criminal history.
Protection orders are crucial tools in safeguarding victims of abuse, harassment, and violence in Colorado. Both petitioners and respondents must understand their rights and responsibilities under these orders. Violating a protection order can have serious legal consequences, emphasizing the importance of adhering to the court’s instructions for the safety and well-being of all parties involved. If you need help with a protection order, COLaw Team can guide you with its experienced support.