San Diego Local Community News

How Restraining Orders Save Lives
Domestic abuse is hard for the victims, and as if that is not enough, leaving such a relationship can get extremely dangerous. In California, domestic abuse victims get to enjoy protective orders obtained from the court to keep them safe from their abusers for a specified period. To get a restraining order, the court must have sufficient proof of intimidation or abuse. Other than finding peace, lives could be saved through these protective orders.  For more information about this, a restraining order attorney can explain further as well as help you petition the court for your protection.
Essential Things to Know About Restraining Orders
A restrictive order is an order by a court that is issued to protect a person from further abuse by another person who has injured them before. The law is intended to have the abuser stay away from their victim, stop them from harassing their victims, and also keep the offender from a crime scene where the violence took place. One can get a restraining order to keep their abuser from their home, workplace, or in their apartment. The restraining order is usually a civil mandate, and so, it doesn’t give the defendant a criminal record.
In most cases, a limiting order is issued out to a target of domestic violence or a person who has undergone abuse by a former or present spouse or any member of their household. The victim could be of any age. Domestic violence, in this case, may mean any or most of these offenses, committed against an adult or child:

  • Assault
  • Lewdness
  • Criminal restraint
  • Criminal trespass
  • Harassment
  • Criminal mischief
  • Illegal sexual contact
  • False imprisonment
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Terrorist threats
  • Burglary
  • Stalking
  • Sexual assault

When you apply for a restraining order, the judge will look into your case to ascertain your claims. If it is established that you have indeed been abused in the past and there is a chance of more abuse from the same culprit, the judge will sign a protective order, requiring the defender to obey all the rules of the court of law. The order issued in this case will have specific instructions about what the defendant can and cannot do.
California Laws on Protective Orders
Just like in most states, California protective orders are issued out mostly in domestic violence situations. The directives, in most cases, state that the abuser should not come within a certain distance of the victim for a given period. In the state of California, a restraining order can be valid for up to three (3) years. However, one can always go for a permanent order or have the order issued made permanent, based on their case.
A court order can also be issued out to order law enforcement officers within a victim’s jurisdiction to protect them and their immediate family against an attack by their abuser. In most cases, the court order will only be able to protect the family members who live at a reasonable distance from the victim’s home.
How Effective are Restraining Orders in Saving Lives?
The passing of the Violence Against Women Act by Congress in 1994 came as a great relief to women who were current victims of stalking, sexual assault, domestic violence, and dating violence. There was also great hope for the future victims of the same offenses since federal programs were established, grant money was allocated to advocacy groups, and they were guaranteed of law enforcement support. The House version of the same law was passed in May 2012.
When the bill was eventually signed into law by the then president, a significant loophole was closed for the police, who had issues enforcing a civil restraining order across states. This made it possible for victims of domestic abuse to remain safe wherever they were, within the period of the law.
Under the same law, a temporary restraining order was enforced and given state to state mutual benefit such that a single directive was valid across states and everywhere in the entire nation. This way, if a victim of domestic violence moved from one state to the other and their abuser followed them, the police in the other state could arrest the abuser if they harassed, threatened, intimidated, stalked or hurt the victim once more.
Even so, there is a raging debate on the effectiveness of these temporary restraining orders. On the one hand, they keep the victims safe from wherever the victims might go, provided that you have the order with you. On another hand, they are meant to offer protection in a highly-emotional and unstable situation. It could be hard to keep two people who have been married for years apart, even in cases where there is abuse. There are several reports of victims of domestic violence going back and reconciling with their spouses despite the violence. Another issue is in the use of a piece of paper by law enforcement officers to offer absolute protection to a victim of domestic abuse.
Several studies have already been conducted on the effectiveness of restraining orders. Some suggest that restraining orders are helpful most of the time, while others indicate that laws fail terribly in saving the victim’s lives. The best way to determine the effectiveness of these orders is by first establishing what they do and what they do not do. Success, in this case, will mean that the abuser did not contact the victim, and they were successfully arrested and prosecuted within the period of the order.
How Do Restraining Orders Work?
Even though they are not 100% effective in saving lives, restraining orders can do so much in keeping a victim of domestic abuse and their families safe. This can be achieved through:
Keeping the abuser away
The order may be issued to keep the abuser against having any form of contact with their victim for a specified period. Communication, in this case, could be in person, at home, by phone, at work or anywhere the victim may request the court to include in the restraining order. A court order against contact can also be used to keep the victim’s family safe. If active, this type of order can save the lives of several people who could have otherwise suffered in the hands of their abuser.
Separating the victim from the abuser
If the two are still living in the same house, a court order can be used to separate them. The judge may order the defendant to vacate the house even if the said house is in their name. In that case, the judge will order the police to go with the abuser in the home to keep watch as they remove any personal items they might have in that residence. This way, the victims are protected by the police against any form of contact with their abuser.
In cases where there are children involved, a court order may be used to grant the victim custody of the minor children, to keep them safe from their abusive parent. The abuser could be required to pay for the support of the children or alimony to their spouse. Some courts may grant the abuser visitation rights, but under specific conditions to ensure that the victim and the children are safe. If, however, the children are at risk of being abused, it is essential to let the prosecutor know before the order is issued.
Payment of restitution
The court, through a restraining order, may require the accused to cater for all the costs that came as a result of the abuse, alongside the initial order of staying away from the victim. If the victim and the accused are to be separated, the abuser may be required to pay for all house expenses that are due at that time, any medical costs incurred after abuse and lost earnings for the time the victim will be away from work recovering. Sometimes the abuser could be required to pay the lawyer’s fees.
Counseling against Domestic violence
The judge could order the accused to attend professional counseling classes for domestic violence. If it is established that the abuser was acting under the influence, they may be required to get evaluated or attend AA classes. This could save the abuser from future convictions as well as keep everyone around them safe.
Note that a judge issuing a restraining order has all the power given by the state law to do anything possible to protect and save the lives of the abuser’s victims, provided that the victims agree to it.
Does It Always Work?
No. research findings have already indicated that restraining orders work half the time, and then they fail to work the other half. Why so?
A restraining order only works well for people who are afraid of violating a court order
For followers of good rule and those who fear the consequences of violating a court order, this might work. However, there could be a problem since most or all domestic violence abusers are not followers of good rule and are not afraid of anyone. A person who has continuously abused their partner or a member of their family might not be scared of getting arrested, spending life in jail, or even death. Such people are always angry, with no care for consequences and so, will go against any order to have their way.
A person who threatens another can go to any extent to fulfill their threat, and no amount of restraining could stop them. It gets worse if the person has violated the terms of a similar order in the past, maybe in their previous relationship. This is a sure sign that they will not abide by the terms of the current law.
A restraining order could work if the victim reports every order violation
There is always that chance that the abuser will violate part of the law. If the victim keeps reporting every breach, or they are continually updating the police on everything the abuser is doing, the offender could see the seriousness of the matter and stay away. An attorney, as well as the police, will advise the victim to report every violation; however, minor it may seem. This includes every email, text message, and also any face to face encounter with the abuser on the streets.
Some victims will report as required, but others do not say. Some victims will even go ahead and plan a meeting with their abuser without informing the police or their attorney. In that case, the restraining order will not be effective in offering protection to the victim.
Lives could be saved if the police enforced the order consistently
The police need to work closely with the victims if they want to keep them safe from their abusers. A restraining order may not do much if it is not consistently enforced. If the abuser learns that the police are not keeping a close watch, they could carry on with the abuse, threats, or stalking and get away with it.
Again, the police are already used to living around violence and threats. For this reason, they may not understand the fear a victim may be in when they are called upon to arrest an abuser who has just been spotted in the neighborhood.
So many cases of domestic violence go unreported every year, not just in California but throughout the country. It is a great relief to know that support and protection can be granted if a victim comes out to report their abuser and seek the protection of a court. So many lives have been lost in domestic violence. If adequately enforced, a restraining order can save those lives by preventing further abuse of the victims. However, restraining orders are not one hundred (100%) percent effective. A lot more is needed on the part of the victims and the law enforcement officers to guarantee one hundred (100%) percent protection. For more information about restraining orders and help with obtaining one, find a restraining order attorney near you.

Latest Post

Get free tips and resources right in your inbox, along with 10,000+ others