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How Virginia Protective Orders Keep You Safe

Nobody should ever feel so unsafe in their own spaces that they have to seek out legal protection. Unfortunately, we know firsthand that some relationships (even one-sided relationships) become unsafe or even turn violent. Protective orders are a legal tool to further fortify your personal safety and create significant legal ramifications for anyone who violates them.

We’ve previously talked about the types of protective orders you are able to secure in Virginia, but we want to dive deeper into how these actually work and the timelines applied to them. These don’t always last forever, so being aware of timing elements equips you to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Who Can Seek an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) in Virginia?

An emergency protective order (EPO) is the first step to take when you fear imminent harm from another individual in Virginia. These can only be issued by a magistrate and last up to 72 hours. An EPO is often filed by the police after an individual has been arrested for threats or physical violence against the individual in need of protection. However, a crime does not have to have been committed for you to seek out an EPO with the magistrate.

During this time or immediately after, you should go to the court for a preliminary protective order. This order, much like the PPO is issued ex parte (meaning only the person who is seeking the protective order will attend).

What is the Standard for a Preliminary Protective Order in Virginia?

The alleged offender is not required to be given an opportunity to defend themselves before a preliminary protective order is issued at an ex parte hearing. These are intended to extend an EPO for up to 15 days until the court is able to hold a final protective order hearing where both parties are granted the opportunity to state their case regarding a final protective order.

During or immediately after this 15-day period, a hearing for a final protective order is set which is not ex parte. Both parties are in attendance – even if the person filing for the protective order states reservations about attending the hearing with the person they are fearful of.

Filing for Continuance of a Final Protective Order Hearing

As noted, both parties must attend the final protective hearing. Only the respondent is able to request a continuance of the final hearing if they need more time to prepare, are unavailable or wish to seek counsel. If the continuance extends beyond the 15-day window of the preliminary protective order, the order will be extended until a hearing takes place.

If the person who filed for the protective order seeks a continuance, it will be denied unless it is agreed to by the other party. If the petitioner does not show up for the final hearing then the order is dismissed outright.

How Long Does a Final Protective Order in Virginia Last?

Once the final hearing takes place, the judge will determine whether or not there is enough evidence to issue a final protective order. But, how long will these last?

These are able to be in place anywhere between one day to two years. Once issued, the order lasts until 11:59 p.m. on the last day specified on the order.

The petitioner is able to file a motion to extend the order near the end. Instead of risking the expiration of the Virginia protective order, the court prioritizes these cases on the docket to ensure legal protection does not lapse during the process. Extensions are able to be granted for the same amount of time – one day up to two years.

What are the Penalties for Violating a Virginia Protective Order?

A violation of a protective order in Virginia is a Class 1 Misdemeanor which places penalties of up to a $2,500 fine and up to 12 months in jail. What’s unique about these violations is that it’s the only first-degree misdemeanor in our state that has mandatory jail time. The law does not specify how long the mandatory time must be, so it could be the rest of the court docket for that day up to one full year.

At the time of a violation, a new protective order will also be assessed. There is no predetermined extension, but it will extend beyond the previous end date on the protective order issued by the court prior to the violation.

Additionally, attorney fees can be assessed against either party if the petitioner is successful in securing a protective order. This means that even without violating the order the respondent may be held responsible for the attorney fees billed to the petitioner.

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

We care deeply about the people of Virginia. We regularly support community initiatives that support survivors of domestic violence and extend this support into the courtroom on behalf of our clients. If you are in need of a Virginia protective order, contact Rinehart Bryant immediately and get the representation you deserve.

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If you are looking for a family law firm to help you through your Virginia divorce who actually cares about you, we promise that you won’t find a better home than Rinehart Bryant, PLLC.

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