Protective Orders are civil court orders meant to protect victims who have experienced or are reasonably in fear of physical violence, sexual assault or stalking by another individual. A special kind of Protective Order, called a Family Abuse Protective Order, exists for victims who have experienced or are in fear of physical threat/violence, sexual assault or stalking by a family member. Both these petitions are not particularly complicated to obtain, but it does take a bit of legwork and fortitude.
Though the information below describes how one might attain a protective order on their own, there are Victim/Witness service providers available through the University Police Department, the City of Charlottesville, and Albemarle County who can assist with this process.
You may qualify for a Family Abuse Protective Order if your abuser:
- Has lived with you in an intimate partner relationship in the last 12 months
- Shares a child with you
- Is a current or former spouse
- Is your parent, stepparent, child, stepchild, brother, sister, or grandparent (whether or not they live with you) or in-laws (who live in the same house as your abuser)
If the above apply to you, you may start the Protective Order Process at the Court Services Unit in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Circuit Court at 411 E. High Street, or at the Magistrate's Office at 1600 Avon Street Ext. (434-977-0220). If you aren't sure if you live in the city or county, you can ask the clerk for that information.
If you do not believe you qualify for a Family Abuse Protective Order, you may still qualify for a Protective Order against your abuser through General District Court. You may start the Protective Order Process at the Charlottesville General District Court Clerk’s Office at 606 East Market Street (434-970-3388) if you live in Charlottesville City. If you live in Albemarle County, you may start the process at Albemarle County General District Court Clerk’s Office at 501 E. Jefferson Street, Suite 138 (434-972-4007). You may also start the process for either city or county orders at the Magistrate’s Office at 1600 Avon Street Ext. (434-977-0220). If you are unsure of whether you live in the city or county, call one of the Clerk’s Offices, and they should be able to help you.
When you file for either a Protective Order or a Family Abuse Protective Order, bring the following information:
- A brief description of when and how you were abused or stalked
- The abuser's name
- The abuser's social security number, if you know it
- A physical description of the stalker/abuser, and
- An address where the stalker/abuser can be found.
When you start this process, it is important to note that there are three kinds of protective orders (for both Family Abuse and Non-Family Abuse):
Emergency Protective Orders
An Emergency Protective Order (EPO) may prohibit the abuser from entering your home or apartment, or abusing you in the future. You can get an EPO through the police officer who responds to the scene of a domestic violence call (who would call a judge or magistrate). You can also go to the magistrate yourself and request an EPO on your own. This order lasts 72 hours, unless the 72 hour period expires at a time that the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court is not in session. In that case, the order is extended until 5:00 p.m. on the next business day that the J&D Court is in session.
Preliminary Protective Orders
A PPO is similar to an emergency protective order, but it lasts up to fifteen days and may be obtained through the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Service Unit (for Family Abuse) or through General District Court (for abuse by a non-family member). For Family Abuse PPOs in both Albemarle County and Charlottesville, this office is on the second floor of the J&D District Court at 411 East High Street (434-979-7191). For general PPOs, the City Clerk’s Office is located at 606 East Market Street (434-970-3388) and the County Clerk’s Office is located at 501 E. Jefferson Street, Suite 138 (434-972-4007).
Permanent Protective Orders
Permanent protective orders (PO) may prohibit the abuser from contacting you, entering your home, apartment, or residence hall, or further attempts to cause you harm. This order may also require the abuser to provide for your housing and/or medical treatment or require the abuser to attend counseling. You may also request to have temporary use of a car that you both jointly own. The order lasts up to two years and must be obtained after a full hearing in either Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court or General District Court. You will know where your hearing will be held once you have obtained the appropriate PPO. After the two-year period, the PO can be renewed.
Getting Your Protective Order
You will need to go to court to get a PPO or PO. You do not have to press charges to get a protective order. This is not a criminal matter.
Important things to say when testifying or making a statement in court:
- Be very specific in your details when describing the stalking or abuse, including date(s), time(s) of day and other details. If you use the tracking form from this website, this will help in keeping accurate notes.
- Describe exactly what the stalker/abuser said and did to you, and make it clear that you are afraid and for what reason(s).
- Describe any injuries to you or anyone else, and any property damage caused by the abuser/stalker (including injuries to any pets, destruction to valued objects, etc.)
- Show the judge or magistrate any pictures of injuries or property damage.
- For your permanent Protective Order hearing, have any witnesses testify to the abuse, stalking, injuries, or property damage.
General Information You Should Know
A hearing for a protective order is a civil case, not a criminal case. This means that the stalker/abuser will not receive any jail time as a result of the order. However, if he/she violates the order, the abuser can be charged with violation of a protective order, which will result in jail time (Virginia Code Section § 16.1-253.2).
It is very important to keep a copy of the protective order with you at all times. Keep copies of any of the batterer's criminal convictions. Show these to the police officer, magistrate, prosecutor, or judge if he/she violates the order.
It isn't necessary for the abuser to be charged or arrested for any crime for a survivor to request a protective order. If you have questions about protective orders and how to request one, contact the Victim/Witness service providers noted above.
Once the protective order has been issued:
- Remember that a protective order is a piece of paper that must be respected by the stalker/abuser to be effective. It is also only enforceable after a sheriff's deputy or police officer has served it on the stalker/abuser. After it has been served, if you feel you are in danger, or if the abuser/stalker does not comply with it, call the police immediately (911). If they arrive in time to witness the abuser's violation of the order, they can make an immediate arrest. If not, you may need to get a criminal warrant from the magistrate.
- When you get your copy of the order, make sure it says exactly what you want. If there are errors, it is unclear, it has not been signed, or boxes don't appear to be checked, ask the bailiff or your advocate for help.
- Keep a copy with you at all times. This is important if the abuser/stalker violates the order and you must call the police or seek help from other authorities.
- Give a copy to the Dean of Students office (if you are a student), your RA (if you live on Grounds) and your supervisor at work if you are employed.
- If children are included, make sure anyone responsible for them has a copy.
- If you are planning to or are considering leaving the state, make sure you get a certified copy of your order from the clerk's office. Federal law requires recognition of one state's protective order by others.