What Happens If I Violate a Restraining Order?

The consequences for violating restraining orders can be quite severe. Especially in cases where you might have accidentally or unintentionally violated the order, you will want to contact an experienced restraining order attorney to represent your case. Keep reading our blog to learn more about specific rules around activities defined by restraining orders and the penalties for violating an order.

What Is a Protective Order?

Protective orders, also called "restraining orders," are court orders requiring an individual to remain a certain distance away from another individual, often in the wake of a stalking or domestic violence charge. A restraining order is often ordered by the court, and it could ask you to act or not act in specific ways, such as taking a different route that will avoid the other person’s place of work or not contacting the other person in any way, even via text message.

Note that there are 4 specific kinds of protective orders available to Washington residents:

  • restraining orders,
  • domestic violence protection orders,
  • no-contact orders, and
  • civil anti-harassment protection orders.

In general, orders prohibiting contact are normally in place until the domestic violence case is resolved. It is also oftentimes continued after there is a resolution in the case, upon the request of the court or the other party. However, your attorney may be able to make special arrangements with the court to allow full, supervised, or third-party contact with the alleged victim.

Note that even though the alleged victim has a say in the issuance of the order, the court makes the ultimate decision of lifting or removing it. However, the request of the victim and factors such as lack of criminal history or a favorable evaluation by a state-certified treatment agency can influence the court’s decision to modify or remove the order prohibiting contact.

If there is a restraining order against you, there is little you can do to rescind it, even if the other party who requested it changes their mind. The consequences of violating an order are severe, and if you two are seen even talking to each other on a public street, you may incur penalties.

What Happens if You Violate a Restraining Order?

Restraining orders are frequently violated through electronic communication, such as phone calls, texts, emails, or social media messaging. Be aware that each instance of communication can be treated as a separate violation and separate criminal charge.

Further, it does not matter who initiated or invited the contact; the alleged victim is not restricted from initiating contact with the defendant, but if you reply to their electronic communication or do not immediately leave their physical proximity, you could be charged for a “willful” violation of the order.

A violation of either of the following two provisions subjects you to mandatory arrest under Washington law:

  • violating the restraint from causing or threatening harm;
  • entering a residence, workplace or school, the school or daycare of children, or other areas the court has ordered you to vacate or stay away from.

A first-time restraining order violation is charged as a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. A first-time offender could also lose their gun rights, depending on the severity of the case.

If an individual has 2 previous convictions for violating a restraining order, the violation is charged as a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Community service and community supervision may also be required as part of the punishment.

Let an Experienced Attorney Help

If you have violated a restraining order, whether intentionally or accidentally, the consequences can be severe. It is critical that you contact an experienced attorney to represent you in court and argue against unfairly severe sentencing. Our attorneys at Hester Law Group have experience with both domestic violence cases and related restraining order cases, so you can trust us to handle your restraining order violations with skillful eyes and experienced representation.

Contact Hester Law Group today for the legal representation you deserve!