Protection Order Violations

What is a Protection Order?

Protection Orders are similar to no contact orders in that they prohibit one person from contacting, harming or harassing another person. The difference with this type of order, however, is that the alleged victim must request orders of protection to be issued by the court against the alleged aggressors. Individuals can file these orders before the court through civil proceedings, which means that they can be filed whether or not criminal charges are involved. Under these orders, the person who is given the order (the "respondent") is typically barred from harming, harassing or coming into contact with the alleged victim ("the petitioner"). Protection orders can also include other provisions, such as required counseling, new custody orders, visitation orders, etc.

Violating a Protection Order:

In Washington State, a Protection Order violation charge requires proof that:

  1. There was a valid order in place,
  2. The offender was given valid notice of the order, AND
  3. The prohibited contact was made

Prohibited contact includes both direct and indirect contact with the protected person, or being in close proximity to the protected person. The offender has violated the order even if the protected person did not object to the contact, or even if the protected person wished for the contact. Unless the person who filed for the order terminates the order, contact is prohibited under all circumstances.

Penalties for Protection Order Violations in Washington:

Violation of a protection order is usually considered a gross misdemeanor, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both. In addition to these penalties, RCW §26.50.110 provides that a court can require that the violator submit to electronic monitoring, which the violator may have to pay for.

However, violation of a protection order can be considered a class C felony if it occurred through an act of reckless endangerment or assault, or if the offender has two or more previous convictions for similar violations, in which case, pursuant to RCW §9A.20.021, it is punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

Defending a Protection Order Violation Charge:

There are multiple strategies for defending a Protection Order violation charge. One example would be challenging any of the above elements, if possible. You might be able to prove that the Protection Order was invalid, that you were not aware of the order, or that you did not, in fact, make any contact with the protected person. Your defense strategy is crucial, and the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney is strongly advised.