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Know the Laws: Virginia

UPDATED November 18, 2016

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.  
 

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;
  • any criminal sexual assault crime (including, rape, sexual battery, sodomy, and more - all are listed here); 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 violence, 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 abuser 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 occurred.*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;
  • prohibit any contact by the abuser with you or your family or household members (and, for emergency orders only, this can include prohibiting the abuser from being in your/their "physical presence," which includes intentionally maintaining eye contact with you/them or unreasonably being within 100 feet from your/their home or work);
  • grant you possession of a pet or companion animal (if you are considered an owner of the pet); 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),(J); 19.2-152.9(A); 19.2-152.10(A)

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Getting the order

back to topWho is eligible for this protective order? In which court is it filed?

You may be eligible to file a petition for a protective order against anyone who committed an act of violence, force or threat against you. You do not have to have a family or household member relationship to get this protective order.*  

If you are filing against someone who you do not have a family or household member relationship, you would file your petition in the General District Court.*  If you are filing against a family or household member, you would file in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.**

The steps for filing are similar to the steps for filing for a family abuse protective order, as described in VA Protective Orders for Family Abuse.

You can find the petition for a protective order online, and instructions for how to fill the petition out on Virginia's Courts Website.

* See "Protective Orders: What does the new legislation mean?"
** See "What You Need to Know About Protective Orders."

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back to topCan the abuser find out my address and/or phone number from the order?

No.  The court officials (as well as police officers) are not allowed to tell anyone the residential address, phone number, or place of employment of you or your family members if they are included in the order.*

* Va. Code §§ 19.2-152.8(H); 19.2-152.9(F); 19.2-152.10(H)

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back to topHow much does a protective order for an act of violence, force, or threat cost?

Nothing.  Filing for a protective order is free.*

* Va. Code §§ 19.2-152.8(J); 19.2-152.9(E); 19.2-152.10(I)

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After the hearing

back to topHow do I change or extend the final protective order?

Only a judge can modify a protective order.  If you or the abuser wish to change the terms of the order, a motion to modify can be filed. If you wish to cancel the order, a motion to dismiss can be filed.*  However, there may be a chance that if you have an order dismissed (canceled), that may possibly be considered if you re-file for another order in the future.

If you want to extend the order, you can file a motion to extend.  This must be filed before your protective order expires.  Proceedings to extend a protective order are supposed to be given high priority by the court.  The judge can extend your protective order for a period of up to two years to protect the health and safety of you or your current family or household member(s).  You can file to extend your order more than once.** 

For any of the above motions that are filed, the court will set a date for a hearing and the abuser will be served with a copy of the motion and a request to be present.  You must attend this hearing and present evidence to convince the judge why the change, extension, or dissolution (cancellation) is necessary.

* Va. Code § 19.2-152.10(G)
** Va. Code § 19.2-152.10(B)

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back to topWhat happens if the abuser violates the order?

If the abuser violates the protective order, there are two general options.  You can file for a violation petition in the court that issued the order and ask the judge to hold him/her in civil contempt.   Another option is that you can call the police and the abuser can be arrested, fined and even jailed for violating the protective order.  Even if you think it is a minor violation, it can be a crime and contempt of court if the abuser knowingly violates the order in any way.  However, the law says that if a person is criminally prosecuted for violation of a protective order for an act of violence, force, or threat, s/he cannot also be found guilty of contempt for the same act.* 

It can be a Class 1 misdemeanor if the abuser knowingly violates any provision of the the order.*

Additionally, it can be a Class 6 felony crime if the abuser:

  • secretly enters your home while you are there;
  • secretly enters your home while you are not there but remains until you arrive;
  • commits an assault and battery against you, which results in bodily injury;
  • stalks you;
  • violates any provision of the protective order while knowingly armed with a firearm or other deadly weapon;** or
  • is convicted of a third or subsequent offense of violating the protective order (within 20 years of the first conviction) and any of the offenses are based on an act or threat of violence.*

It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officers and their badge numbers 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 --- this is required under Virginia law.***  The report could be valuable documentation if you try to modify or extend your order.

* Va. Code § 18.2-60.4(A)
** Va. Code § 18.2-60.4(B),(C)
*** See Va. Code § 19.2-81.3(D)

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