Protective orders are designed to maintain the safety of the petitioner, and violations of protective orders are a separate and distinct crime in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Violations of protective orders can result in findings of contempt of court, or a separate crime, but not both. If convicted, you face time in jail, fines, and the imposition of further orders.
If you or someone you care for has been charged with violation of a protective order in Virginia, attorney Bryan J. Jones can provide you with the advice, assistance, and protection of your rights. You do not have to face the system alone.
What is a Protective Order?
A protective order is a type of command issued by a Virginia court which requires that one party not contact another. These orders, often commonly referred to as restraining orders, are usually issued in order to protect against:
When a protective order is issued by a court, it is crucial that the person against whom the order is issued follow the requirements of the protective order in full.
Typical Conditions of a Protective Order
Typical conditions of a Virginia protective order include:
- No Contact Order: An order that the offender will have no contact with the protected person, including in person, phone, email, or social media.
- Territorial Limitations: Protective orders often require offenders to remain out of certain areas, or to maintain a certain distance from the protected person.
- Move Out Order: In some cases, if the parties who need to be separated live together, the offender may be required to find a new place to live.
- Firearms: If you're the subject of the protective, you are automatically not allowed to possess a firearm.
Other conditions could be imposed on your particular protective order, so it is important to consult with your Virginia criminal defense attorney to understand what you can and cannot do.
Violations of Protective Orders
A violation of a protective order can result in sanctions through a finding of contempt of court, or be charged as a separate crime.
Contempt of Court
A protective order is an order from a court, so violations of the conditions of the order may result in contempt. Contempt is a finding by the court that you failed to follow its express orders, and are therefore in violation of the court's authority.
Depending on the facts of your case, the court could impose:
- More restrictive conditions; or
- Jail time.
Violation of Va. Code § 18.2-60.4
A violation of a protective order can also be charged as a separate crime under Va. Code § 18.2-60.4. If a person is convicted of violating a protective order under this law, that person is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor or can even be guilty of a Class 6 felony. If a person is charged under this provision, they may not be held in contempt of court for the same act.
Penalties for Violations of Protective Orders
For a first conviction of violating a protective order, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The offender faces the following penalties:
- Jail time of up to 12 months;
- A fine of not more than $2,500.
A second conviction if committed within 5 years of the first conviction, if either was based on an act or threat of violence, is also punishable by a mandatory minimum confinement in jail of 60 days.
For third and more offenses, if it was committed within 20 years of the first conviction, the offense is now a Class 6 felony. A Class 6 felony will also apply in the following situations:
- The violation occurred while a person was armed with a deadly weapon;
- If the offender commits an assault or battery as part of the violation which results in bodily injury;
- A person stalks a party protected by a protective order; or
- The offender furtively enters the home of a protected party while he or she is present in the home, or remains in the home until the protected party arrives.
If a person is convicted of this offense, the court is required to impose a mandatory protective order against the offender.
Defenses to Violation of Protective Order Charges in Virginia
While every case is different, and different defenses may apply to your case, your Virginia criminal attorney can analyze the unique facts of your case to present the best defense. Some of the following could be used to prevent or reduce your conviction.
Present Reasonable Doubt
A Virginia prosecutor is required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each and every element of the charge. Your criminal defense attorney can show that there are inconsistencies in the prosecutor's case, creating doubt in the mind of the jury. Your attorney can also attempt to show that you were not the guilty party, or your conduct did not place the alleged victim in fear.
Challenge the Violation of the Condition
In many cases, the alleged violation is not a violation at all. Many parties protected by protective orders become overly sensitive to the conditions. In other cases, protected parties may try to invent violations which did not occur out of spite or anger. If you did not violate the conditions of the order, you do not deserve to face criminal charges.
Challenge the Intentional Nature of the Conduct
An accidental violation is likely not appropriate for a criminal charge. Proof of your good faith accidental conduct can be used to negotiate a dismissal of the charges with the Virginia prosecutor.
Prevent Double Charges
Under the law, you cannot be charged with a separate crime and be held in contempt of court. You have the right to challenge the imposition of punishment if you have been punished for both. Double punishment is not permitted under Virginia law in this way.
Consult Your Virginia Defense Attorney
A misdemeanor or felony conviction for violating a protective order has serious consequences. An experienced Virginia attorney knows the law and will use it to defend your case. Knowing your rights and how to protect them is important to ensure your freedom.
Contact Virginia criminal defense attorney Bryan J. Jones to fight for your constitutional rights throughout the criminal process. He represents clients in Charlottesville, Albemarle, and surrounding counties.