What should a defendant do after being charged with protective order violations?
In Utah, protective orders most often arise out of a private conflict between two people with a personal relationship. However, after an order is filed, the matter is no longer private or interpersonal. Violating a protective order is part of domestic violence law and is a criminal offense with serious criminal consequences. Many people are surprised to learn that they can be charged with protective order violations, even if their contact with the protected person has not been violent or threatening.
If you have been charged with violating a protective order, your best option is to consult with a criminal defense lawyer with experience in domestic violence law at Intermountain Legal in Salt Lake City, Utah. Because police have to make quick decisions about whether a violation has occurred, an experienced lawyer can look at the evidence and determine whether a mistake was made. An attorney also helps you understand your rights and determine the best way to proceed to minimize the consequences of the charges.
Laws governing Utah no-contact orders and ex parte protective orders
A protective order is a court order signed by a judge and has the force of law. There are civil orders and criminal no-contact orders. In Utah, they vary in content. Some orders prohibit all contact between the protected person and the person who is restrained. Others allow for limited contact for a specific purpose, such as arranging for parent time when the two parties have children together. Some limit contact to a specific kind of communication, such as texting. It is important to understand the terms, because even the smallest violation is a criminal offense.
The requirements for protective orders are simple:
- The petitioner order must be over 16 years old
- There must be an incident of domestic violence
- The two parties must be related by blood or marriage, have a child or unborn child together or have been cohabitants at some point
In Utah, cohabitation includes any situation where the two people lived together in the same residence. If the person who needs protection is a minor child in immediate danger of abuse, any interested party can initiate the process.
In many cases, the alleged abuser is not given a chance to tell his or her side of the story and is not notified of the order until after it is signed by a judge. This is called an ex parte protective order. Utah judges routinely sign these orders without verifying the facts of the underlying abuse because they don’t want to take the risk that the person asking for the order will be hurt. In these cases, the other party has an opportunity to appear in court later at a hearing to contest the order. In between its signing and the hearing, the order is in force, and any prohibited contact initiated by the restrained person is a criminal offense.
Consequences of a violation
Utah law requires that police officers make an arrest every time there is probable cause that an order is violated. No warrant is required for this kind of arrest, and a restrained person who violates an order may be immediately taken to jail. Usually, violation of a protective order is a Class A misdemeanor in Utah, with penalties including up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Protective order violations are considered crimes comparable to negligent homicide or assaulting a police officer.
Repeated violations are even more serious. Utah law makes a second violation within five years a third-degree felony with penalties of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Contact a skilled legal team today
If you have been charged with violating an ex parte order, civil protective order or criminal no-contact order in Utah, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Intermountain Legal online or by calling 801-990-4200. The firm has handled hundreds of domestic violence cases in Salt Lake City, Park City and all over the state of Utah. Our attorneys offer a free consultation where we listen to the facts of your case and discuss whether the police had probable cause for an arrest. Even if the arrest was justified, Intermountain Legal uses our expertise and the relationships we have built with prosecutors and judges to help you minimize the consequences of protective order violations.