So you finally got the court to enter a restraining order against someone who has been harassing you, or worse, abusing you. But that person hasn’t gone away - in fact it’s just gotten worse! What can you do to make sure that Restraining Order is enforced?
First, make sure you have certified copies of the order. Restraining orders, once issued, are good throughout the United States. But local law enforcement must know you have one. Make sure to contact your local police or sheriff’s office and bring them a copy of the order so they know who is restrained from doing what. Different jurisdictions have different rules on what you must do to alert them, but at the very least, drop by the local PD and let them know about it. If the order encompasses minor children, make sure all schools and caregivers are aware of it as well. Finally, ALWAYS have a copy of the order with you. Yes, that means keep a copy in your wallet, glove compartment, purse, etc.
Make a Record of the Violations of the Restraining Order
Regardless of whether you use one of the methods described below, to report violations of the Order, you should always keep a record of any violations of it. This includes writing down the who, what, where and when of any contact violations; printing out any emails, internet postings, or texts; asking any witnesses to provide statements; making audio copies of threatening voice mails; obtaining any police reports; and, if you were hurt, getting copies of any medical records. Keep a log of the violations so that you can see if there are any patterns to them as well.
DO NOT record a phone call in California without the knowledge of the other person. This is a violation of California law.
How to Enforce - Call Law Enforcement
Especially if you are in fear of physical harm, call Law Enforcement. Always have a copy of your restraining order on hand so that you can demonstrate that the actions violate it. The police can, but may not arrest the person. If they do not arrest them, ask them to take a report and get a copy of it once it’s done.
How to Enforce - Call the District Attorney (DA)
If you believe the restraining order is being violated, you can call the DA's office for your county directly and ask them to consider filing charges against the restrained person. Make sure you have detailed records of the violations and a copy of the Order to provide to the DA. Again, the DA may not file charges, so keep a record that you demanded that they do so. It’s also important to have your evidence handy that there has been a violation. This is where having a good record of the who, what, when and where comes in.
How to Enforce - File a Civil Contempt Action
These actions are filed in civil court but can result in up to five days of jail time, and thus the restrained person may be entitled to a court-appointed attorney. They are seen as a last resort by the Courts, but if you have proof of repeated violations, the Court may impose a fine or jail time or both against the restrained person for the violations. These are especially effective when there have been clear violations but the police have not done anything about it or when police involvement has not been a deterrent. When filing one of these, you will need actual evidence of the violations. Again, make sure you keep a record of the violations and your attempts to enforce the order.
If you have been trying to enforce an order and been unsuccessful with local law enforcement, or you want to file a civil contempt action, please call us to see if we can assist you. Our attorneys have experience helping others with restraining orders in making sure those orders are effective.