Restraining orders, also known as protective orders, are considered serious legal matters as they are designed to protect people from abuse and violence. Violating a restraining order can lead to criminal charges. A conviction may result in harsh penalties and a criminal record that can follow you for a lifetime.
If you have been arrested or charged with violating a restraining order in Richmond, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away to discuss your legal options.
What Is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order or protective order refers to a court order that places limits on or prohibits interaction between individuals. Specifically, a restraining order is intended to protect a person who has been or allegedly been the victim of domestic violence.
In Virginia, a protective order may come in one of three forms:
- Emergency protective order – A protective order that can be issued upon the request of an individual who alleges that they have been the victim of violence or a threat of violence. An emergency protective order expires within three days of issuance or on the next day of the court session, whichever is later.
- Preliminary protective order – Issued by a court prior to a full hearing, upon a finding that the person seeking the protective order has made a prima facie claim of violence. A preliminary protective order lasts for up to 15 days.
- Final protective order – Issued by the court after a full hearing upon a finding that the person seeking the order has been the victim of domestic violence and that a protective order is needed to protect them from future violence. A final order can last for up to two years.
Violating a Restraining Order
Under Virginia law, violating a protective order taken out against you will likely be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, a violation may be charged as a Class 6 felony if you:
- Committed stalking
- Furtively entered the home of the protected party when they were present or waited in the home until the protected party arrived
- Committed assault upon the protected party that inflicted serious bodily injury
- Were armed with a firearm or deadly weapon when you violated the protective order
Criminal Penalties for Violating a Restraining Order
If you are convicted of violating a protective order as a Class 1 misdemeanor, you may face criminal penalties that include:
- First violation: Up to 12 months in jail, fine of up to $2,500
- Second violation within five years of a prior violation: 60 days to 12 months in jail, fine of up to $2,500
Third or subsequent violation within a 20-year period is considered a Class 6 felony, when the act or threat of violence is involved. A felony conviction for violating a restraining order carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, along with a potential fine of up to $2,500.
Common Defenses for Restraining Order Violations
When you are facing charges of violating a protective order, possible defenses you may be able to raise in your case include:
- You were not served with the order.
- You did not commit the conduct that allegedly violated the restraining order. For example, if you are alleged to have approached the individual protected by the order, you may present alibi evidence showing you were somewhere else when the alleged violation took place.
- The alleged conduct did not violate the terms of the order.
- You unintentionally or incidentally violated the order, or you had no intent to abuse or harass the protected individual. For example, if you were driving to work and your vehicle happened to end up behind the car of the protected individual on the highway.
How Bain Sheldon Could Help
If you have been accused of violating a restraining order in Virginia, Bain Sheldon can help you defend your rights, freedom, and future against your charges by:
- Investigating the underlying facts of the alleged violation to recover evidence we can use in your defense
- Identifying potential factual or legal defenses available to you
- Advocating for lesser penalties due to the minor nature of a violation or the lack of intent to harm
If you are facing charges of violating a restraining order in Richmond or the surrounding areas, contact Bain Sheldon today for a confidential case evaluation to discuss your rights. Our Richmond criminal defense lawyers will be ready to sit down with you to listen to your story. Call us today at 804-282-8625 or reach out to us online.