A restraining order is a court order filed in civil court that is meant to keep one person from harassing another. It is not the same as filing charges and you do not need law enforcement or a lawyer to start the process.
There are different types of restraining orders. This page provides overviews of restraining orders that deal with domestic violence. The laws that pertain to domestic violence are different from laws for family members, strangers, employees, etc.
There are a lot of great places on the web that can help you with the process, but we like WomensLaw.org the best. It is a great site and will answer most of your questions.
You can get these forms either from the court house, the Self Help Center at the court house, the local Victim Witness program, or through the advocates here at HDVS. Learn more at www.humboldt.courts.ca.gov/sh/domesticviolence.htm
In general, there are a few things you need to know when you are deciding whether or not to file for a restraining order:
This is a hard question to answer–in theory, yes. For many abusers, the ordeal of going to court and the threat of jail is enough to convince them to leave you alone or begin to act more civilly. For others, it is only a piece of paper and they are going to do what they are going to do. There is no way to predict how someone will react. Even if they say they will not pay any attention to it, it may just be a bluff–they may end up following the restraining order and you can move on with your life.
In the end, in most cases, it is very helpful to have a restraining order on file. Even if you think they will not pay any attention to it, having this document can help you access benefits you may not have been able to otherwise, like housing assistance or victim’s compensation. It also gives law enforcement authority to remove the restrained person if they violate the restraining order. In the end, you are the expert in your situation and you will have to decide what is best for you and your family.
If you have questions or concerns, speak with an advocate before you file.
An EPO can only be obtained through law enforcement after a crime has been committed. It can only be obtained after the officer has consulted with a judge. It is good for approximately five days and is usually very specific in what it covers. It does not permanently change custody, child support, or rights to housing. It is meant to instruct the abuser to stay away from the abused person long enough for that person to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order through the Court system. You do not need an EPO to obtain a TRO.
A TRO is the first step in obtaining a more permanent Restraining Order (RO). It does not accuse anyone of a crime. In general, a TRO takes about 3-5 days to obtain but is not made permanent until it is ordered so by a judge at a hearing. You must go to all hearing dates or the order will be dropped and you will have to re-file. Anyone can file for a TRO, including the person you want protection from filing against you.
A RO is the final, approved agreement of the TRO which has been ordered by a judge after the hearing. It does not accuse anyone of a crime and will be in effect for 1-3 years, as determined by a judge. A violation of the order by the restrained person is a felony.
A CPO is ordered by the court as part of a criminal trial. It carries more weight than a RO because it is usually part of someone’s probation or parole. In most cases, the victim is consulted by the prosecuting attorneys or a victim’s advocate to determine the terms of the CPO, but not always. It tends to be permanent or for the duration of the probation. If you have been involved in a criminal trial, contact the District Attorney’s office or Victim Witness program nearest you to determine if there was a CPO issued for you.