Violating a criminal protective order, sometimes called a “restraining order,” amounts to contempt of court and is a criminal offense under California Penal Code 166(a)(4).
Watch this video to understand:
- What is and is not allowed under a protective order
- The difference between a restraining order and a protective order.
- If a case is dismissed will the protective order automatically be removed?
Judges can issue protective orders in connection with both criminal and civil cases and often issue protective orders in connection with California domestic-violence related offenses.
A violation of a civil restraining order is prosecuted under penal code 273.6 and is still a crime even though the order was issued in civil court.
The Elements The Prosecutor Must Prove
In order to convict a defendant of violating a civil protective order, the prosecutor must prove:
Defenses To Charges Of Violating A Protective Order
Fortunately, there are several effective defenses to charges of violating a protective order:
You Lacked Knowledge Of The Protective Order
If the defendant did not know that there was a protective order in place, then he cannot knowingly violate the order.
This includes having the opportunity to read the order even if you did not actually read the order3.
You Lacked The Intention To Violate
Even if the defendant had knowledge of the protective order and its terms, the defendant still cannot be convicted of violating the order if his alleged actions in violating the order were not intentional.
What If The Meeting Was Intentional?
If the defendant intentionally went to see his wife in violation of the order, knowing that he would see her, the prosecutor can prove the necessary intent.
This is true even if the victim asked the defendant to meet them. The victim’s invitation to meet is not a defense to violating a protective order.
You Were Falsely Accused
Another available defense is a false accusation.
In some cases, a defendant can show that the alleged victim was simply lying when she reported that the defendant contacted her in violation of the protective order.
In the absence of corroborating evidence, the case may be reduced to he said/she said situation in which the prosecutor may have a difficult time carrying their burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Penalties For Violating A Protective Order
Protective order violations are usually charged as misdemeanor offenses.
A misdemeanor offense carries a penalty of up to one year in county jail, probation, fines of up to $1000.
The crime can be charged as a felony under certain circumstances, depending on whether the defendant has previously been convicted of violating a protective order and whether the alleged violation resulted in any injuries to the victim.
Penalty For Felony Violation of a Protective Order:
The penalties can be even more severe, including time in state prison, and fines of up to $10,000.
How We Can Help
As a former prosecutor, Diana Weiss Aizman of the Aizman Law Firm has extensive experience and unique insight into the defense of charges of protective order violations.
Contact the Aizman Law Firm right away if you are charged with violating a protective order under PC 166(a)(4).
- Order Must Be Lawfully Issued. Pen. Code, § 166(a)(4); People v. Gonzalez (1996) 12 Cal.4th 804, 816–817 [50 Cal.Rptr.2d 74, 910 P.2d 1366]; In re Berry (1968) 68 Cal.2d 137, 147 [65 Cal.Rptr. 273, 436 P.2d 273] [↩]
- Knowledge of Order Required. People v. Saffell (1946) 74 Cal.App.2d Supp. 967, 979 [168 P.2d 497] [↩]
- Must Have Opportunity to Read but Need Not Actually Read Order. People v. Poe (1965) 236 Cal.App.2d Supp. 928, 938–941 [47 Cal.Rptr. 670]; People v. Brindley (1965) 236 Cal.App.2d Supp. 925, 927–928 [47 Cal.Rptr. 668], both decisions affd. sub nom. People v. Von Blum (1965) 236 Cal.App.2d Supp. 943 [47 Cal.Rptr. 679] [↩]