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Protective Orders

May 7, 2021

What Is a Protective Order?

In some states, they are called restraining orders, but they are referred to as protective orders in Virginia. A protective order protects you from unwanted contact with someone. If someone gets a protective order against you, you must be sure you understand what kind of protective order it is because violating a protective order is a criminal offense.

Someone can get a protective order against someone else if they can convince a judge they are in fear for their safety. They can show they are in danger by telling the judge about threats that have been made or physical violence that has been used against them. The judge will decide whether he believes the witness and then either issue the protective order or deny the protective order.

What Are the Different Kinds of Protective Orders?

One kind of protective order forbids someone from contacting you. If you've been threatened by someone or someone has placed you in fear for your safety, a protective order will forbid them from any contact with you. It will also forbid them from possessing a firearm while the protective order is in effect.

Another kind of protective order is a family abuse protective order. If the local child protective services believes that you are a danger to your children, they can request a protective order. That protective order can contain various provisions. You might be forbidden from having any contact with your children or you may be forbidden from having unsupervised contact with your children.

There are also protective orders that last only a limited amount of time.

  • Emergency Protective Orders (EPO): an emergency protective order is issued by a magistrate for only a short period of time, usually five days. It goes into effect until a preliminary protective order can be obtained from a judge

  • Preliminary Protective Order: a preliminary protective order usually lasts two weeks and is obtained from a judge in either Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court or General District Court. A preliminary protective order is in effect until the formal hearing on the permanent protective order, generally two weeks.

  • Permanent Protective Order: a permanent protective order will last for up to two years.

What Is the Punishment for Violating a Protective Order?

If you violate a protective order, you can be charged with a crime. If you're convicted of violating a protective order you face mandatory jail time.

How Long Do Protective Orders Last?

Family abuse protective orders will last until a child is 18 years old. Protective orders between adults can last for a maximum of two years. But after the two years has expired, someone can petition the court for another protective order.

Can I Possess a Firearm if I Have a Protective Order Against Me?

No. If someone has obtained a protective order against you, you cannot possess a firearm. It is a criminal offense to possess a firearm if you're subject to a protective order.


If someone has gotten a protective order against you, please call me now. You only have a limited amount of time to contest the protective order. If you fail to show up for the hearing, you may be left with no way to fight the protective order.

If you feel threatened by someone, please call the police. They can assist you in obtaining a protective order by getting you in contact with the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office Victim/Witness coordinator.