Vail Daily column: How do restraining orders work?
In human relationships, sometimes things go bad. Particularly volatile, it seems, are intimate relationships between friends or business partners, especially when domestic bonds take a turn for the worse. Too often, there is violence and/or threats. Commonly, when a former love finds a new paramour, passions can erupt. And when anger, spite or dejection spills over into unacceptable acts, the law steps in.
Colorado Revised Statute Section 14-14-104.5(1)(a) provides that the appropriate court (usually, the county court) may issue a civil protection order “against an adult or against a juvenile who is 10 years of age or older for any of the following purposes:
“(I) To prevent assaults and threatened bodily harm;
(II) To prevent domestic abuse;
(III) To prevent emotional abuse of the elderly or an at-risk adult;
(IV) To prevent sexual assault or abuse; and
(V) To prevent stalking.”
Subsection (b) provides that one need not have reported the act complained of to law enforcement authorities, be involved in criminal prosecution of the matter, or even that charges have been filed in order to seek a protection order.
A motion or complaint for a civil protection order is proper to file in any county where the acts occurred, where one of the parties resides or in which a party is employed. A temporary protection order (known also as a temporary restraining order) may be issued if the issuing judge finds that “an imminent danger exists to the person or persons seeking protection….”
In determining whether an imminent danger exists to the life or health of one or more persons, “the court shall consider all relevant evidence concerning the safety and protection of the persons seeking the protection order… (and) shall not deny (the person seeking protection) the relief requested because of the length of time between the act of abuse or threat or harm and the filing of the petition for a protection order.”
Particularly relevant to today’s world of workplace violence, subsection 7(b) provides, “If the judge … finds that an imminent danger exists to the employees of a business entity, he or she may issue a civil protection order in the name of the business for the protection of the employees.”
How it’s done
In order to secure a temporary protection order, the party seeking the order must complete a standardized form, available at law enforcement offices or at the court, and must verify or swear under oath that the allegations made are true. The judge must then hear the evidence in support of the allegations and “after hearing the evidence and being fully satisfied … that sufficient cause exists, may issue a temporary protection order to prevent the actions complaint of and a citation direction to the (allegedly offending party) commanding [him/her] to appear before the court at a specific time and date and to show cause, if any, why (the) temporary … order should not be made permanent.”
In other words, if the court finds that there is merit to the claim, the alleged offender will be compelled to appear before the court to explain the allegations and, if he/she cannot do so to the satisfaction of the court, a temporary order may be made permanent.
A copy of the complaint and temporary order must be served upon the person restrained and upon the person to be protected. The citation must inform the respondent (the alleged perpetrator) that if he/she fails to appear at that appointed date and time, bench warrant may be issued for his/her arrest and the temporary order may be made permanent without further notice.
What it means
The citation will provide that the “restrained person shall not contact, harass, stalk, injure, intimidate, threaten, touch, sexually assault, abuse, or molest the protected persons … or harm, take, transfer, conceal, dispose of or threaten harm to an animal owned, possessed, lease, kept or held by any protected party or a minor child of any other party, or otherwise violate (the) order.” The restrained party is further admonished by the court that he/she “shall not use, attempt to use, or threaten to use physical force against the protected persons that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury … (and) shall not engage in any conduct that would place the protected persons in reasonable fear of bodily injury.”
Usually, when a temporary order is issued, the restrained person is barred from the protected person’s home and place of employment, and often the school or other places where the protected person’s children may be found. Most often, too, a protective bubble is placed around the protected person providing that the restrained person must not, under any circumstance, come closer than, say 100 feet, of the protected person. If there is a violation of the order — even if inadvertent (for example, if the restrained person comes into a public place where the protected person happens to be and the restrained person fails to leave) — the restrained party will be arrested.
Further, during the period of time a person is restrained, he may not possess firearms; so doing may constitute a felony offense. Lastly, a restrained party may not do through a surrogate what he or she may not do on his/her own. No contact means no contact. If I may not contact you, I may not have a friend or associate contact you on my behalf. Even if the protected person has given you permission to have contact with them, so long as the order is in place, you may not.
By law, a temporary protection order must be heard as to whether or not to make the order permanent “at the earliest possible time,” and, in any event, in not more than two weeks.
At the hearing on the matter, evidence will be heard and a determination will be made. If the evidence is convincing — and the burden of proof is on the complaining party — the order will be made permanent and may not be altered for a period of at least two years.
Sadly, the answer to Rodney King’s famous plaintive question, “Can’t we all just get along?” is too often “no.” But if folks can’t get along — at times at least, the law may offer some protection.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney who practices in the Vail Valley with the Law Firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddison, Tharp & Weinberg, LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions; real estate and development; family law, custody, and divorce; and civil litigation. Reach him at 970-926-4461 or Robbins@SLBLaw.com.