What is a Protective Order?
A civil legal order issued by a magistrate or judge that is meant to protect the health and safety of an abused person, as well as that person’s family or household members. It generally forbids the abuser from contacting the abused person, forbids any further violence or threats of violence, and other conditions the judge deems necessary for the petitioner’s safety.
How is a protective order different from a University No-Contact Order?
A protective order is enforced by the police and the criminal courts. A violation of a protective order can result in a criminal sentence. It is also enforceable across state lines, and is in force regardless of either person’s status as a student.
A no-contact order prohibits contact between two students and is enforced through the University’s judiciary system. The force of the order is dependent on either party’s status as a student. For more information about no-contact orders and other interim measures, see the Student Resource Guide, or contact the Office of the Dean of Students.
Who can apply (petition) for a protective order?
Anyone who has been subject to an act of violence, force or threat that causes injury or causes reasonable fear of injury, sexual assault or death. Protective orders are not just for cases of domestic violence. Non-married persons can also request a protective order.
Do I have to file criminal charges against someone to obtain a Protective Order?
No. A protective order is a civil order, not a criminal charge. Criminal charges can be pressed in addition to filing for a protective order, but you do not have to press charges to request a protective order.
Where do I go to petition for a Protective Order?
Where you petition depends on your relationship to the abuser (respondent):
- If the respondent is a family or household member (spouse, ex-spouse, sibling, parent, child, co-habitants of the home, or other family member), you petition for a protective order in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
- If the respondent does not live with you, does not have a child with you, or is not related to you, you may petition in General District Court.
For help petitioning for a protective order, you can contact any of the following resources:
Do I need a lawyer to file for a protective order?
No. But you can receive free assistance filing and petitioning from several local offices, such as the Victim-Witness Program and Legal Aid. The Office of the Dean of Students can work with you to put you in touch with the appropriate office to help you file.
There are three types of protective orders:
An Emergency Protective Order (EPO) is a short term order often requested by a police officer following an arrest. A judge or magistrate can issue an EPO, and it remains in effect for 72 hours, or until the next court day is in session. It prohibits contact and any further violence while the order is in effect.
EPOs are issued when Following the issuance of an EPO, many petitioners will file for the Preliminary Protective Order to extend the protection.
A Preliminary Protective Order (PPO) is a slightly longer protective order that lasts up to 15 days, pending a hearing for a full Protective Order. You do not have to have an EPO to file for or obtain a PPO. It is obtained when the abused person (petitioner) files for the order, and then gives a sworn statement in front of a judge to describe the acts or threats of violence.
The PPO remains in effect pending a full hearing (usually within 15 days). A PPO prohibits contact by the abuser (respondent), any further violence or threats, and any other conditions the judge deems necessary for the petitioner’s health and safety.
At a hearing where both the petitioner and respondent are present and given the opportunity to describe what happened, a judge can issue a full Protective Order (PO) that may last up to 2 years. A PO provides for all the same protections as a PPO, just for a longer period of time.
What happens if the abuser violates the protective order by contacting me, threatening me, or hurting me?
If you believe a protective order has been violated, you should call the police. It is good to carry a copy of the protective order with you at all times, as well as provide copies to your employer, the university, or other people you are in frequent contact with.
A violation of a protective order is a misdemeanor crime (or felony if the violation involves violence). It is punishable by time in jail. For more information, see § 18.2-60.4. Violation of protective orders.
NOTE: A protective order is one way to protect against violence, but should not be relied on in place of making a safety plan.
For more information about Protective Orders and how to obtain one:
Assistance with Protective Orders
Protective Orders in Virginia: A Guide for Victims by the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS)
What You Need to Know About Protective Orders by the Virginia Court System