Whether you are the person who has filed a restraining order (the petitioner) or a person against whom it is filed (the defendant), a restraining order violation is serious business. There can be serious legal consequences if a restraining order violation occurs. Here’s what you should know.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
What is a restraining order in Arizona?
When it relates to a family member or domestic partner, a restraining order is also known as an Arizona order of protection. When parties are unrelated, it is known as an injunction against harassment. In both cases, these are generally referred to as protective orders.
This civil order prohibits any contact between the person filing a restraining order and the defendant named in the petition. Under Arizona law (as noted in Title 13-3602), the court will not grant a restraining order unless:
- The petition is verified and filed in writing
- The person it is filed against is over 12 years old (unless the order is granted by the juvenile division of the superior court)
- The petition is only filed against one person
If you require multiple restraining orders, you must file multiple petitions.
What does a restraining order do?
A restraining order prohibits the defendant (the person who receives it) from making specific types of contact with the victim. Contact may be limited to telephone, text messaging, or email for example. In some cases, the order prohibits all contact.
In addition, the court may have the right to prevent the defendant from the following:
- Using the joint residence, if applicable
- Owning or carrying a firearm
- Committing any offenses as defined under the domestic violence statute (Title 13-3601(A))
- Taking possession of or staying in contact with any animals in the primary residence (in other words, the family dog stays with the petitioner)
- Setting a limit on the distance a defendant must keep from another person or a place
In addition, the court may also require the defendant to complete a domestic violence program or other intervention program. A restraining order may have other conditions attached as well. It is important to note that a restraining order will show up on a defendant’s background check.
Filing a restraining order is free, and any court in the state can grant one. There are specific steps to file a restraining order. Local court websites will have the necessary forms. A restraining order generally lasts for one year from the date it is served upon the defendant.
What is a restraining order violation?
A restraining order violation occurs when either party violates the terms of the order of protection. For example, if a restraining order prohibits all contact between two people, it’s a violation for one of them to call or text the other.
Violating the rules listed in a restraining order falls under the category of “interfering with judicial proceeding,” a class I misdemeanor, per Title 12-1810. Any court in Arizona has jurisdiction to enforce a valid Arizona order of protection.
Who can violate a restraining order?
The Arizona order of protection rules note that either party is capable of violating a restraining order.
Even if the petitioner wants to invite the defendant to a special occasion, like a child’s birthday, doing so could bring legal action upon the petitioner. And the defendant can get in trouble for accepting the invitation.
Also, if the defendant is prohibited from contact via text, they can face legal consequences for sending even just one message.
What happens if you violate a restraining order?
Section J of Title 13-3602 states that each order of protection must include the following statement:
“Warning: This is an official court order. If you disobey this order, you will be subject to arrest and prosecution for the crime of interfering with judicial proceedings and any other crime you may have committed in disobeying this order.”
If a restraining order violation occurs, the following legal actions may result.
- Immediate arrest: If the petitioner is judged to be in danger due to the restraining order violation, the defendant may be arrested
- Fines: A judge who convicts either party of a restraining order violation can fine the individual $2,500 and there may be an additional surcharge
- Jail time: Violation of a restraining order is a class 1 misdemeanor that may come with a six-month jail sentence
How do you prove a restraining order violation?
If a violation occurs, it is important to record evidence of some kind. Save all emails, texts, and phones calls received, along with their time and date. If either person violates the restraining order by sending photos or mail, save those as evidence of the violation.
The court wants to protect both people. Proving a restraining order violation requires physical evidence (although sometimes a witness can testify to the violation). It can be helpful to set up a dedicated file on your computer or a folder on your phone to record all contact.
Proving a restraining order violation can be difficult. It’s important to work with a qualified attorney to help you navigate the process.
At the Arizona Legal Center, we know that being on either side of a restraining order can be stressful and emotionally charged. We are a free legal clinic that can help you make sense of your rights and responsibilities. Get in touch today.
Disclaimer: The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.