Washington Civil Protection Order Frequently Asked Questions

Washington civil protection orders are designed to keep a person safe by prohibiting another from contact, abuse, threats, harassment, stalking, and other behaviors. They can be important tools in protecting victims of violence and abuse. Unfortunately in some cases, the Washington civil protection order process can be abused and used to harass or intimidate the other party. The knowledgeable Seattle civil protection attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC, have 40 years of combined experience in criminal defense and family law. Civil protection orders are in many ways an intersection of criminal and family law, and our experience allows us to take a full service and coordinated approach to our clients who are seeking or opposing a civil protection order.

What Is a Civil Protection Order?

A civil protection order is a court order intended to protect victims of domestic violence, harassment, abuse, stalking, or sexual abuse, generally by prohibiting the respondent from certain activities, which may include contacting, harassing, or coming near the protected person.

What Types of Civil Protection Orders Are Available in Washington?

Six types of civil protection orders are available in Washington: domestic violence protection orders, vulnerable adult protection orders, anti-harassment protection orders, sexual assault protection orders, stalking protection orders, and extreme risk protection orders.

What Is the Difference Between a Civil Protection Order and a No-Contact Order?

A civil protection order is issued by a civil court following a petition by or on behalf of the person to be protected. Civil protection orders may be available even if the conduct does not meet the requirements for criminal charges or if criminal charges are not filed. Because a civil protection order is a civil matter, a respondent is not entitled to a court-appointed attorney.

A no-contact order is issued as part of a criminal case and is intended to protect a person during the criminal case. It may be issued when the court determines if the defendant will be released on bail or his or her own recognizance. A no-contact order is generally shorter in duration than a civil protection order.

What Is the Difference Between a Civil Protection Order and a Restraining Order?

To obtain a civil protection order, the petitioner must show that the circumstances and actions meet the requirements for that type of order. Although civil protection orders may grant the petitioner possession of essential personal effects and the use of a vehicle, they generally may not order child or spousal support or assign most property. A restraining order is a broader civil order that is often issued as part of a pending family law case. A restraining order may also deal with other issues, including property, child and spousal support, and temporary custody.

Who Can Get a Civil Protection Order?

The criteria are different for each type of civil protection order. For a domestic violence protection order, the petitioner must allege domestic violence committed by an intimate partner or family or household member. A person may petition on behalf of himself or herself or on behalf of minor family or household members.

Until July 1, 2022, a petition for a sexual assault protection order may only be filed by someone who does not qualify for a domestic violence protection order and who is a victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or nonconsensual sexual penetration. A petition may also be filed on behalf of a minor child, vulnerable adult, or any other adult who cannot file on their own due to age, disability, health, or inaccessibility. After July 1, 2022, a person who qualifies for a domestic violence protection order is not prohibited from obtaining a sexual assault protection order but is encouraged to obtain a domestic violence protection order instead.

Until July 1, 2022, a person may petition for a stalking protection order if they are the victim of stalking conduct and do not qualify for a domestic violence protection order. A parent or legal custodian may petition on behalf of a minor child. An adult with whom a child is living may petition on behalf of a child if the respondent is not a parent. An interested person may petition on behalf of a vulnerable adult. Effective July 1, 2022, a person who qualifies for a domestic violence protection order is not precluded from obtaining a stalking protection order, but is encouraged to obtain a domestic violence protection order instead. Additionally, effective July 1, 2022, a person may petition for a protection order on behalf of any other adult for whom the petitioner is interested in the adult’s well-being and can show that court intervention is necessary and the adult cannot file the petition on their own due to age, disability, health or inaccessibility.

A vulnerable adult or an interested person on his or her behalf may file a vulnerable adult protection order petition to protect the vulnerable adult from abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation or neglect, or the threat thereof. The department of social and health services may also file a petition on behalf of a vulnerable adult. “Vulnerable adult” is defined by the statute and includes individuals who are at least 60 years old and functionally, mentally, or physically unable to care for themselves, who have been found incapacitated, who have a developmental disability, who have been admitted to a facility, or who receive certain services.

A petition for an extreme risk protection order may be filed by a member of the respondent’s family or household or by law enforcement. The petition must allege the respondent poses significant danger of personal injury to himself or herself or others by having possession of, access to, or the ability to purchase a firearm. 

An anti-harassment protection order may be filed against a person who has engaged in unlawful harassing behavior. Until July 1, 2022, an anti-harassment order may not be issued for actions covered by the Sexual Assault Protection Order Act or domestic violence laws.

What Is the Process for Obtaining a Civil Protection Order?

The process begins by filing a Civil Protection Order Petition. The petition must include specific information regarding the respondent’s conduct and its effects. In emergency situations, you may also apply for a temporary order. An initial hearing will be held to determine if a temporary order is appropriate until the full hearing can be held. The initial hearing will generally be held the day the petition is filed or the next day. The full hearing will generally be scheduled within 14 days of a temporary order. The respondent must be served with notice of the hearing. At the hearing, the court will hear testimony and evidence from both parties and determine if a full civil protection order should be issued.

How Long Does a Civil Protection Order Last?

Temporary protection orders may be issued pending a hearing. Temporary orders are generally granted for up to 14 days, but may be extended in some circumstances if necessary. At the hearing, the judge will determine if a civil protection order should be issued and for how long. Domestic violence protection orders, stalking protection orders, anti-harassment protection orders, and sexual assault protection orders are often issued for one year, but may be longer or even permanent. Vulnerable adult protection orders can be up to five years. An extreme risk protection order can be up to one year.

What Are the Potential Consequences of Having a Civil Protection Order Filed Against Me?

Civil protection orders can have severe consequences. They may exclude you from a shared residence, requiring you to move out. A protection order may prohibit you from going certain places or within a specified distance to specified locations. These prohibitions can affect your ability to go to work or school. Washington civil protection orders may affect your access to and custody of your children. In some cases, they may require the surrender of firearms. Domestic Violence protection orders can also order you to participate in domestic violence treatment.

Can I Get in Legal Trouble for Contacting Someone While I Have a Civil Protection Order Against Them?

Generally, a civil protection order prohibits the respondent from contacting the petitioner and does not specifically prohibit the petitioner from making contact. However, the respondent may be considered to be in violation of the order if he or she responds to contact initiated by the petitioner. Thus, if the petitioner wishes to be in contact with the respondent, he or she should consider seeking modification or termination of the order.

Can I Face Charges for Violating a Civil Protection Order if the Protected Person Initiated Contact With Me?

Yes. The respondent may be charged with violating an order for responding to or continuing contact initiated by the protected person. The court may consider that information, but it is not an automatic defense. If a protected person attempts to contact you, you should not respond.

What Happens if a Civil Protection Order Is Violated?

Violation of most civil protection orders is generally a gross misdemeanor. A gross misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a fine up to $5,000, or both. If the violation is also an assault or if the violation is reckless with a substantial risk of death or serious injury, it may be a class C felony. A violation may also be a class C felony of the offender has two or more convictions for similar violations. Class c felonies may be punished by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both. Following conviction, the court may order electronic monitoring. The court may also find the respondent in contempt of court for a violation of a civil protection order. 

Contact an Experienced Seattle Civil Protection Lawyer

A Washington civil protection order is a very serious matter. Whether you are seeking or opposing an order, an experienced Washington civil protection order can help you. At Blair & Kim, PLLC, we are experienced in both family law and criminal law and can provide knowledgeable guidance on the potential consequences and effects of a protection order. Call us at (206) 622-6562 or contact us online to set up a consultation.

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