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What Happens If I Violate a Protective Order in California?

Posted by Alan Eisner | Jun 29, 2020

What Happens If I Violate a Protective Order in California?
If convicted of violating a criminal protective order under Penal Code 273.6 PC, you could be facing severe consequences.

A criminal protective order is normally issued in criminal cases with the primary purpose of restraining a defendant from harassing, physically abusing, stalking, or threatening the alleged victim. A protective order is just about always issued in cases involving violence or credible threats of violence to the victim.

The specific conduct that a protective order attempts to prohibit will depend on the circumstances of the case. Criminal protective orders or CPOs for short are restraining orders issued by a criminal court as part of a domestic violence prosecution.

The protective order outlines and dictates the type of behavior that are acceptable or prohibited. Normally, the CPO requires the restrained person to avoid any form of contact with the protected person. A violation of a California protective order is a criminal offense punishable by law.

Where a protective order exists, the restrained person needs to avoid making contact with the protected person. There are many different forms of contact, including personal contact where they must remain a certain distance away from the victim.

It also includes contact through electronic means such as text, email, and phone calls. Contact can also include interaction in social media platforms.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers help people who are facing allegations of violating a protective order.

Levels of Protective Orders

There are different levels of criminal protective orders which have different restrictions. The most restrictive and most commonly issued form of a CPO is a full stay-away, no-contact order restraining the defendant from contacting or coming close to the alleged victim in the case in any way.

Less restrictive orders can be issued for a number of reasons. One common reason for a less-than-full stay-away order is that the parties share minor children in common and a full stay-away would interfere with the defendant and victim's ability to exchange the children and otherwise co-parent. 

In these cases, a criminal court will often defer to custody and visitation orders issued by a family or dependency court which is more familiar with the particular family dynamics at issue. 

In other cases, the victim may address the court directly and request a less restrictive CPO, such as a peaceful contact order. 

Under a peaceful contact criminal protective order, the defendant may continue to live with the alleged victim and contact the alleged victim by phone or other electronic means provided that the contact does not involve violence, threats of violence, stalking, intimidation, or other unwanted conduct.

Violating a Protective Order – PC 273.6

Criminal protective orders typically remain in effect from the first court date in the criminal case until the resolution of the case, and can potentially extend up to ten years after the resolution of the case as part of the defendant's sentence. If the restrained person disobeys the protective order, they could be facing penalties.

Violating a criminal protective order can have severe consequences under California Penal Code 273.6. While the case is still pending, adhering to the provisions of the CPO is a condition of the defendant's release on bail. 

The judge can immediately remand the defendant to the custody of the Sheriff's Department if the judge determines that the CPO was violated. 

Even after the case is already resolved, violating the CPO is a serious offense. Violation of the order is a separate criminal offense, a misdemeanor, which can result in potential county jail time and fines and fees. 

Potentially more importantly for the defendant, violating the criminal protective order also constitutes a probation violation

If the sentencing court is convinced that the defendant violated probation, the court has the power to impose any sentence up to the maximum for the underlying offense. 

Domestic Violence Cases

Particularly in a felony domestic violence case, the consequences for a probation violation can be much more significant than those originally imposed at sentencing.

For example, a felony domestic violence defendant might be given probation with a requirement to complete anger management and domestic violence counselling classes as a result of a negotiated plea. 

The defendant has received a relatively lenient sentence on a felony case and has avoided jail time. However, if the court learns that the defendant has been sending harassing messages to the victim in violation of the criminal protective order, the court can find the defendant in violation of probation and impose state prison time.

Defenses for Violating a Protective Order

Experienced criminal defense counsel will always caution their domestic violence clients to strictly adhere to the provisions of the criminal protective order. 

Even if the defendant is not directly violated on bail or on probation, one or more alleged violations of the CPO are likely to cause the prosecution to seek harsher punishments against the defendant compared with other similarly situated defendants. 

The terms of a CPO in a domestic violence case may be very disruptive for a charged defendant, possibly resulting in loss of housing and a strain on the family dynamic. 

Rather than violate the criminal protective order and risk significantly increased consequences while out on bail or after conviction while on probation, the appropriate mechanism for addressing an inappropriately restrictive criminal protective order is to bring a formal motion to modify the criminal protective order before the court. 

The judge has broad discretion to modify the terms of a CPO to address particularly circumstances faced by the defendant.

Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for Help

If you, or someone you know, has been arrested for, is charged with, or has been convicted of a domestic violence offense and wish to know more about the imposition or modification of a criminal protective order or CPO, contact our experienced team of Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys. 

We have represented numerous defendants charged with domestic violence offenses in California courts and have litigated issues related to CPOs on behalf of our clients. Experienced representation is critical to maximizing the chances of a successful outcome in your case.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. We also have an office next to the Van Nuys Courthouse in the San Fernando Valley at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact our firm to review the details of your case at (310) 328-3776.

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About the Author

Alan Eisner

Alan Eisner  Van Nuys, California (818) 781-1570 (818) 788-5033 Email Me  Alan Eisner has practiced criminal law for over 28 years in Los Angeles County . Mr Eisner is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. (The California State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization has designated Mr. Eisner as a...

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