What is a Protective Order
Sometimes referred to as a “restraining order”, a Protective Order serves as a keep-away order prohibiting the Respondent from engaging in certain conduct with respect to the complaining individual. The conduct can include not contacting, staying away, not harassing or stalking, and can even include custody and visitation changes as well as the assessment of child support. There are two types of Protective Orders:
The initial Protective Order is called an “ex parte” because only the complaining individual is present. The order is issued based upon their information only and you are not given a chance to defend yourself against the allegations. Because it is one-sided, an ex parte is only short term. Pursuant to statute, a hearing with both parties must be held within 15 days (or longer if good cause is shown) in order to upgrade the restraining order to the next type.
Full Order of Protection:
A full order of protection can last up to a year and can be renewed. It can be established only after a hearing where both parties are provided the opportunity to put on evidence and be heard.
The Basic Protective Order Law
A Protective Order can be sought for a variety of reasons. I will focus on the two most common reasons: Stalking and Harassment.
A newcomer to the Protective Order statutes, a stalking order can be obtained against anyone. This is in direct contrast to the remainder of the grounds, which can only be sought against former or current family members or domestic partners. In order to establish stalking, the other party will have to show that the Respondent purposefully and knowingly engaged in a course of conduct over a period of time directed at the complaining individual that caused alarm, i.e. reasonable fear of physical harm.
Used against former or current family members or domestic partners, a protective order for domestic abuse based upon the “harassment” claim is also one of the most misused allegations. In order to get the protective order, the party will have to show that the Respondent purposefully and knowingly engaged in a course of conduct over a period of time directed at the complaining individual that caused substantial emotional distress and said distress was reasonable.
In both Stalking and Harassment, the case is going to hinge upon the effect of “alarm” and “substantial emotional distress”. While somewhat lenient in the Associate Circuit Court, cases are frequently overturned on appeal for not meeting the standards for “alarm” or “substantial emotional distress”. It is the biggest area of litigation involved in a Protective Order.
Why Should I Fight a Protective Order?
A Protective Order is a civil case, it is not a crime. And ultimately most people regard it as simply a “piece of paper”. However, there are far more ramifications than just that. The Appellate Court has frequently noted the “stigma” associated with have a protective order issued against oneself. In a misused case, where the allegations were false or otherwise didn’t warrant an order to be issued, the fact that the complaining individual received an order is frequently used as a weapon against the Respondent. It can result in a bad reputation in the community as knowledge of the order is leaked.
It can also result in future criminal charges.
If you had an abusive individual stage a Protective Order against you, then you should consider yourself at risk for that person to also falsify claims of violating that Protective Order, a crime punishable by jail time. It’s not something to be ignored. It’s not something to take lightly. If you have unfounded allegations pressed against you, be prepared to fight for yourself.
Your Next Step
If you have more questions about defending against a Protective Order in Missouri, contact my office for a free consultation on your case. My firm is accepting cases in St Louis, Jefferson County, and Saint Charles Counties. You may contact me via telephone at 314-782-3500 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org