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Know the Laws: Virginia

UPDATED October 2, 2012

Protective Orders for an Act of Violence, Force, or Threat

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This is a civil order based on an act of violence, force, or threat committed by anyone, regardless of the relationship to the victim.  This order replaces what used to be called a stalking protective order (based on stalking, sexual battery, and serious bodily injury).  Unlike the prior order, an arrest is not necessary to get this protective order.
 

Basic information

back to topWhat is the definition of an act of violence, force, or threat?

For the purposes of getting this protective order, an act of violence, force or threat means any act that:

  • involves violence, force, or threat; and
  • results in physical injury; or
  • reasonably makes you fear death, sexual assault, or physical injury.*
Some examples of acts that could qualify as acts of violence, force or threat are:
  • forceful detention,
  • stalking,
  • criminal sexual assault, or
  • any criminal offense that results in physical injury to the body or reasonably makes you fear death, sexual assault, or physical injury.*
* Va Code § 19.2-152.7:1

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back to topWhat types of protective orders for an act of violence, force, or threat are there? How long do they last?

Emergency protective order
An emergency protective order can be requested by you or by a police officer if you are/were the victim of an act of violence, force, or threat.  This is usually done orally in front of a judge or magistrate without filing a written petition.  It is an ex parte order, which means that the abuser is not present in court or notified beforehand.  A judge or magistrate can give you an emergency protective order if:

  • there is probable danger of another act of violene, force, or threat against you; or
  • there is a petition or a warrant for the arrest of the abuser for any crime resulting from the act of violence, force, or threat against you.*
An emergency protective order will only last for 3 days after the judge grants it.  If the third day is a day that the court is not in session, it will be extended until the end of the next day that the court is in session.*1

Preliminary protective order
A preliminary protective order can be granted when you file a petition in court.  To get a preliminary protective order, you must allege in your petition that:
  • You are or have recently been the victim of an act of violence, force, or threat; or
  • There is a petition or warrant for the arrest of the abusert for any crime resulting from the act of violence, force, or threat against you.*2
A judge can give you the order in an ex parte proceeding, meaning that the abuser is not notified ahead of time and is not present when the judge grants you the order.  To get this order, the judge must believe that there is enough evidence to prove that there is an immediate and present danger of any act of violence, force, or threat, or that there is evidence that it is likely that an act of violence, force, or threat has recently occured.*2

This order will last until there is a full court hearing, which generally is within 15 days.  However, if you are unable to have the abuser served with the petition, the preliminary order can be extended up to six months while you attempt to serve him/her.*3

Final protective order
This protective order can be given:
  • if there is a petition, warrant, or conviction of any crime resulting from the act of violence, force, or threat; or
  • after a hearing is held where you prove that you have been (within a reasonable period of time) the victim of an act of violence, force, or threat.*4
This (final) protective order will last up to 2 years (but it can be extended for two-year periods).  If there is no expiration date given on the order, it will end 2 years from the date it was issued.  However, during those 2 years, either party can file a motion in court asking that it be modified (changed) or dissolved (canceled).*5

* Va. Code § 19.2-152.8(B)
*1 Va. Code § 19.2-152.8(C)
*2 Va. Code § 19.2-152.9(A)
*3 Va. Code § 19.2-152.9(B)
*4 Va. Code §§ 19.2-152.10(A), 19.2-152.9(D)
*5 Va. Code § 19.2-152.10(B),(G)

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back to topHow can a protective order for an act of violence, force or threat help me?

Emergency, preliminary and final protective orders can order the abuser to:

  • Not commit acts of violence, force, or threat, or crimes resulting in injury to a person or damage to property;
  • Stop any contact the abuser has with you or your family or household members that the judge decides is necessary to protect your safety; and/or
  • Follow any other orders the judge decides are necessary to prevent:
    • acts of violence, force, or threat,
    • crimes resulting in injury to a person or damage to property, or
    • communication or other contact of any kind by the abuser.*
* Va. Code §§ 19.2-152.8(B); 19.2-152.9(A); 19.2-152.10(A)

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back to topWhat happens if the abuser violates the order?

You can call the police, even if you think it is a minor violation.  It can be a Class 1 misdemeanor and contempt of court if the abuser knowingly violates the order in any way. * The abuser can be arrested, fined and even jailed for violating the protective order.  

It can be a Class 6 felony crime if the abuser enters your home while you are there, if s/he causes injury, if it is the second or third time s/he violates the order, etc.*  To read all of the possible ways that a violation can be a felony, please go to our VA Statutes page. 

It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case.  You should also make sure the police or sheriff write a report on the incident even if the abuser is not arrested.

* Va. Code § 18.2-60.4

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