The emphasis of this discussion is about restraining order violations in Los Angeles. I want to review some of the common issues which arise in these cases, as well as how the criminal justice system responds to them. For purposes of this discussion, as well as Los Angeles law, judicial orders which prohibit contact in some form, are considered “protective” or “restraining” orders. These terms are functionally equivalent and will be used interchangeably throughout the article.
I have found that these cases oftentimes involve persons who have never been in trouble with the law and in situations where emotions run high because of surrounding circumstances, such as custody disputes between former spouses. Because of the crossover into Family Law, prosecuting agencies may consider Office Hearings or other alternative, in order to solve a “Court Order” investigation. These cases tend to be “messy,” and are sometimes instigated by the protected party, where the order is used as a “sword” instead of a "shield."
If you have been ordered to follow requirements of a protective order, the law can be unforgiving, even if the protected party initiates contact with you. If you have concerns or questions about specific orders of your case, it is strongly recommended that you promptly consult with a Los Angeles Restraining Order Attorney.
Los Angeles Protective Order Laws
The two most common criminal laws which regulate Los Angeles restraining orders are Penal Code sections 166 and 273.6. While these particular charges are misdemeanors, they have a tendency to be utilized as building blocks for more serious felony charges, such as stalking and criminal threats.
What constitutes a violation of a court order?
Penal Code section 166 (a) (4) prohibits willful defiance of terms as written of a lawful California (or out of state) court order.
This type of protective order is common in non-family cases, such as an order prohibiting contact of a former business partner, past friend, or neighbor. These protective orders sometimes prohibit the restrained person from having any communication with the protected person. Prohibited communications usually include telephonic, third-party or, otherwise, and often include a 100-yard “buffer zone” around the protected person, which the restrained person must avoid.
These orders are enforceable even if the protected party invites or encourages contact from the restrained person. Informal arrangements by the parties (without the permission of the court) are often the basis for future arrests, despite the objections of the involved parties. The rationale for these arrests is that the court is essentially the victim of the violation, and willful violation of a judge’s order weakens the dignity of the court system if left unchecked.
Penal Code section 273.6 prohibits knowing/intentional violations of Family Code and related orders. While any technical willful defiance of a family court order may form the basis of a violation (i.e., court-ordered visitation drop-off 15 minutes late), criminal charges usually arise in the context of protective orders and restraining orders.
For example, in family courts, it is not unusual for a judge to prohibit contact by one or more of the involved parties, prior, during, or subsequent to formal proceedings. This is sometimes done to minimize risks of potential harm during the pendency of the court proceedings, but often results in more immediate problems based on the specifics in the order, such as frustration because of exclusion from the family house, or inability to communicate with the restrained person’s children.
As often happens in family law cases, a restrained party communicates with the protected party, or vice versa, and contact continues as it did prior to the protective order. Then an argument ensues, and the protected party calls the police, to complain that the order is being violated. The police respond, review and verify the protective order, and arrest the restrained person for violating the order. This occurs despite the fact that the protected person may have invited contact in contravention of the order.
How do restraining order violations develop into felony cases?
Repeated violation of judicial restraining orders, try the patience of the law enforcement. Police officers tire of repeated visits to contact the same person for court order violations. A perception may also exist that the court isn’t solving the problem from their direction. At some point, it is decided that “enough is enough,” and closer examination is applied to the details of the violations, such as prohibited contact coupled with perceived fear/threats/harassment. If a nexus is found with these elements, police may make an arrest for more serious felony charges, such as stalking, where bail will be set at $150,000, and the likelihood of release from jail is diminished, essentially solving the immediate problem.
Criminal Protective Orders in Los Angeles
Pursuant to Penal Code section 136.2, a judge may issue a criminal protective order if “good cause” exists to believe harm may occur to a victim or witness. Commonly, these orders are made in domestic violence criminal cases or other instances where a threat has been alleged. A protective order is generally made at the first appearance of a criminal case, the arraignment, and oftentimes comes as a shock to the “restrained party,” who now finds out that he/she is prohibited from returning home or communicating with involved family members. Violations of a PC 136.2 order are perceived as a significant threat, and if done with intent to dissuade an involved person from cooperating in the court process, can result in a new felony “dissuading” charge of Penal Code section 136.1.
If you are subject to any protective order it is important to understand what is expected of you. Know your rights, remedies, and responsibilities, and protect your future by maintaining regular communication with your restraining order attorney.
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