Emergency Protective Order

When someone who you know and trust suddenly harms or threatens to harm you, it's understandable to want to seek protection right away. However, in California, it can take a while to receive a permanent restraining order that will keep your abuser away from you for an extended period. In the interim, you'll want to receive an emergency protective order (EPO), and in this article, we'll explain what an EPO is and how to get one.

What Are the Types of Restraining Orders in California?

In the state of California, there are four types of restraining orders that can be mandated by a judge. Each of these types of restraining orders is different in both scope and duration, and they are ordered for different reasons. These four types of California restraining orders are:

  • Permanent Restraining Orders: These types of restraining orders can only be mandated after you've gone through a full hearing process before a California judge. They ensure that the restrained person stays away from the abused person for as long as five years, and they can be renewed at the end of that five year period with another hearing before a judge. Permanent restraining orders are the most comprehensive types of restraining orders offered in the state of California, and they are only issued if a judge finds that an abuser represents a serious and sustained threat to their victim.

  • Temporary Restraining Orders: Before a victim is provided with the protection of a permanent restraining order, a temporary restraining order (TRO) is issued. It isn't necessary to go through an entire court hearing process to receive a TRO, but victims of domestic violence will need to submit an official court document to receive one of these restraining orders. In most cases, temporary restraining orders last less than 30 days, and they usually end once the victim or both parties appear before a judge for a permanent restraining order hearing. Under most circumstances, a California judge will decide whether or not they will issue a temporary restraining order within one business day of receiving the case for consideration.

  • Emergency Protective Orders: Emergency protective orders are the easiest types of domestic violence restraining orders to receive, but they last the least amount of time. Unlike other types of restraining orders, any specified California law enforcement officer can issue an EPO, and these types of domestic violence restraining orders go into effect immediately. If a law enforcement officer responds to a domestic violence call, recognizes that one party in the violence is primarily to blame, and determines that the seemingly guilty party should be kept away from the apparent victim, they can issue an EPO on the spot that forces the abuser to leave the home and stay away from the victim, their family, their children, and even their pets. Since these types of restraining orders are so easy to issue, they have very short shelf lives; an EPO only lasts seven days at the most, and in that time, the victim will need to submit official court documents to move on to a TPO if they feel that the abuser is still a threat. From there, an official hearing date will be set, and both the apparent abuser and the victim will be able to state their cases before a judge in an official courtroom setting within 30 days.

  • Criminal Protective Orders: Under special circumstances, a criminal protective order (CPO) may be issued to protect an apparent victim of domestic violence. CPOs are only issued if criminal charges have been issued against the person suspected of committing domestic violence. Criminal charges are filed against domestic assault abusers if they have a history of domestic violence, and they may also be issued if the domestic assault has seriously harmed its victim. CPOs stay in effect from the moment that criminal charges are filed until the court reaches a verdict, which means that they do not have a specific expiration date. If the person who committed the domestic abuse is found guilty, the CPO that was issued will stay in effect for three further years from the date of the ruling.

Why Might You Need an Emergency Protective Order?

If a domestic partner, a spouse, or a close family member has abused you, and you feel that you remain in danger, you should speak to a law enforcement officer immediately about the process of receiving an emergency protective order. Since these types of restraining orders are so short in duration, you shouldn't rely on them to protect you for a significant period of time, but they may provide you with enough of a feeling of safety and security to help you sleep through the night until you can show up to your local courthouse to submit an official request for a long-term restraining order.

How Do You Get an Emergency Protective Order?

If a law enforcement officer is summoned to your home on a domestic violence call, they will most likely advise you of the importance of receiving an EPO. If they don't, take the initiative and ask about receiving one of these temporary restraining orders to protect yourself. Unlike other types of domestic violence restraining orders, you don't need to go through a laborious process to receive an emergency protective order; the only thing that you need to do to receive the protection of an EPO is to notify a California law enforcement officer of the danger that you feel yourself to be in. It will then be up to that officer to make an on-the-spot judgment and determine whether or not you are in need of one of these orders. From there, they will inform the central law enforcement body in California of the issuance of the EPO, and if your abuser violates any of the conditions of the restraining order, they will be held to the same consequences that are incurred if an abuser violates a long-term restraining order.

Therefore, not only can the elder or dependent adult request the restraining order, but other entities acting on behalf of the victim may also petition for a restraining order. In California law, there are provisions that allow what is known as a conservator or guardian to be responsible for making decisions about provisions of care and/or living arrangements of the vulnerable adult. In this legal arrangement, known formally as guardianship or conservatorship, the vulnerable adult being protected or cared for is referred to as a ward. The conservator (or guardian) can apply for a restraining order on behalf of the ward (elder or dependent adult).

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What Is Domestic Abuse?

To receive an EPO, a law enforcement officer will need to determine that a person has been the subject of domestic abuse. The state of California defines domestic abuse as:

  • Intentional or reckless physical harm or attempted physical harm

  • Sexual assault

  • Threatening behavior that makes a person feel reasonably afraid that they or someone else will be hurt

  • Harassment, stalking, threats, or destruction of personal property

  • Disturbing someone's peace

If someone in a close relationship to someone else has perpetrated one of these acts against that person, a law enforcement officer may find that issuing an EPO is reasonable.

What Are the Conditions for Issuing an EPO?

For a law enforcement officer to deem it necessary to issue an EPO, a variety of conditions will need to be met. First, it must be determined that the person has abused or threatened to abuse you, and you must also have a close relationship with the person perpetrating the actual or threatened abuse. The state of California determines that you have a close relationship with your abuser if you are:

  • Married or domestic partners

  • Formerly married (divorced or separated)

  • Current or former dating partners

  • Parents of a child together

  • Closely related (child, parent, sister, brother, grandfather, grandmother, etc.)

Can You Request an EPO for Someone Else?

If you are the parent or legal guardian of a child who is being abused, you can request an EPO on their behalf. When your child receives an EPO, you are also protected as their parent, and any other close family members are protected as well. If your child is under the age of 12, the state of California requires that you file the EPO for them, but if they are 12 or older, they can file an EPO themselves. You can continue to file EPOs for your children until they come of age at 18.

What Happens if a California Emergency Protective Order Is Issued?

If a California law enforcement officer chooses to order an emergency protective order, the abused person receives immediate legal protection, and the abuser loses some of their rights. The entire state law enforcement apparatus will be informed about the issuance of the EPO, and wherever the abuser goes in the state, law enforcement officials will be aware of their status as a suspected domestic abuser. The restrained person will not be allowed to approach the person or a member of their family, and they will most likely need to appear in court within a month.

What Does an Emergency Protective Order Do?

Immediately upon its release, an emergency protective order will protect you from your abuser. While the main purpose of an EPO is to keep a potentially dangerous person away from you until you have time to go to your local courthouse, EPOs have the same effects as any other type of restraining order. Here are some of the ways that an EPO may protect you and some of the things that it may force your abuser to do:

  • The abuser may have no contact with you, your children, your close relatives, your pets, or anyone who lives in your home

  • The abuser must stay away from your home, your place of work, and the schools that your children attend

  • The abuser must move out of your house

  • The abuser must follow all child custody and visitation orders

  • The abuser must pay spousal, child, or partner support

  • The abuser must transfer your cell phone number and account into your name and pay certain bills

  • The abuser must not make any changes to insurance policies

  • The abuser must not make any spending decisions that could negatively affect your shared property

  • The abuser must release or return certain property

When a restraining order has been issued against someone in the state of California, they also lose their right to bear arms, which is normally protected by the Second Amendment. They must either give up their firearms to law enforcement or sell them immediately to a gun dealer who has been authorized by the state. Failure to comply with this requirement is considered just as serious as any other restraining order violation.

What Doesn't an Emergency Protective Order Do?

While an EPO does protect you from any violent acts that your abuser may otherwise perpetrate, it does not nullify your marriage or count as a divorce if the two of you are married. It also does not establish parentage if you are not married to your abuser or in a domestic relationship with them. It is also important to remember that EPOs only last a maximum of seven days; if this seven-day period expires and you haven't submitted official paperwork to receive a temporary restraining order, you lose your legal protection from your abuser. It's highly important that you don't mistake an EPO with a TPO or a permanent restraining order, and you should consult with a qualified California restraining order attorney immediately after receiving your EPO to ensure that you receive the enduring protection that you need.

What Actions Constitute Violation of an EPO?

Even though emergency protection orders are temporary, they can be violated in the same ways as other types of restraining orders. If you're a victim of domestic assault who has filed an EPO against someone, you'll need to know which actions constitute an EPO violation, and careful awareness of the legal structure surrounding restraining order violations is even more important if you've had an EPO issued against you. The following conditions must be met for the state of California to determine that the person named in a restraining order has violated their order's stipulations:

  • The restraining order must have been filed by a judge through the proper channels

  • The restrained person must have been made aware of the existence of the restraining order, and they must have asserted that they understood the conditions of the restraining order

  • Law enforcement deemed that the restrained person was capable of following the order, and the restraining order was issued in a clear and fair manner

  • The restrained person intentionally and willfully violated the requirements of the EPO

No matter what type of violation occurs, California law enforcement will treat any inability to follow the conditions of a restraining order with equal seriousness. Whether the restrained person interacts with the abused person themselves or one of their family members during the duration of the EPO, they will be found to be in violation of their restraining order and charged appropriately.

What Happens if an EPO Is Violated?

  • First violation: When an EPO is first issued, it can be easy to forget the stipulations of the restraining order and commit a violation. A judge may be lenient in the case of a first violation if it was seemingly made by accident, but they have the option of judging any violation of a restraining order as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In either case, jail time is usually warranted, but a skilled California restraining order attorney may be able to get their client off with nothing more than probation if the violation is not of a violent nature.

  • Subsequent violations: In most cases, EPOs don't last long enough to be violated more than once. If your abuser is highly aggressive, however, they may try to violate their restraining order more than once in a week, and a judge will take this type of behavior as a sign of an abnormal case and proceed accordingly. Ultimately, it's up to the judge to decide whether or not a restraining order violation is a misdemeanor or a felony, but it a restrained person violates their order more than once within in a week, most California judges take this as a clear sign that serious punitive measures are necessary. In some cases, they may rule that the restrained person must serve up to three years in state prison for a second EPO violation.

What Are the Next Steps?

Once you've received an emergency protective order from a California law enforcement officer, it can seem like your feeling of security will last forever. However, if you don't act quickly, the period in which you're protected by an EPO will pass by in a flash, and you'll be left exposed to further abuse. That's why it's so important to get to work immediately on planning the next steps in protecting yourself permanently from the potential dangers that your abuser could present to their well-being if they are not legally restrained.