What Should I do if I Have Violated a Protective Order in Fairfax County, Virginia?
Judges do not like to be disobeyed. It is a sign that an individual is incapable of following the law even when he has been dragged into court and told what not to do. Protective orders are examples of a judicial command that are fairly common in Fairfax County, Virginia. They usually are issued as the result of an alleged domestic violence situation. Domestic violence arrests carry an automatic protective order for a 72 hour period. They can even be issued prior to a conviction if there are already charges pending or even if there is probable cause that another violent act will occur.
Violating a protective order is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. It carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and fine of up $2,500.00. As well, the statute says that “in no case” will all of the ordered jail time be suspended. This means that a conviction under the statute will lead to at least one day in lock-up. A second offense within five years carries 60 days of mandatory jail time and a third offense in twenty years is a felony. A conviction for violating a protective order will also result in a renewal of the order for a two year period. A protective order will also show up on background checks and will prevent acquiring a license to own a firearm.
What Kind of Defenses Exist?
The good news is that defenses do sometimes exist for violations of protective orders. In many cases, the only evidence that the defendant violated his protective order comes from the complaining witness. In these cases, it is the word of the defendant versus that of the complainant. It may be difficult for a judge to find that there is enough evidence to prove the order was violated. It can also be possible to attack the credibility of that witness through inconsistencies in their testimony or prior criminal convictions.
That said, it’s important to recognize that essentially any contact with the other person can violate most protective orders. This includes text message and phone calls as well as in person meetings. If there is a record of phone calls going from your phone to the other person’s, then this will likely be enough for a conviction. A protective order also means it is your responsibility to stay out of the way of the other person. Judges have said on at least one occasion that if the other person enters the store you’re in, that means that you leave the store. If you don’t, you likely will not have a factual defense at trial.
Can the Order Itself be Attacked?
There are also ways in which the order itself can be attacked. For example, many times protective orders themselves are based on flimsy evidence. Further, whether or not a protective order has been violated will depend on the specific language in the order. The difference between a conviction and an acquittal can depend on slight differences between factual situations and nuanced language in the order.