Know the LAW

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It helps to know the law…….
It is against the law for your spouse/partner to:

  • Assault you;
  • Threaten you so that you are placed in fear;
  • Force sexual contact or relations on you against your will;
  • Enter your residence or home against your will, if you are living separately;
  • Inflict false imprisonment;
  • Destroy or threaten to destroy your property;

If any member of your household or your spouse, ex-spouse, partner or ex-partner or someone you have dated or are dating has done any of these things to you, you may seek the help and protection of the court and the police. You may ask the courts to order the abusive person to stay away from you and to stop abusing you. Separately, but in addition, you may also ask the police to file criminal charges against the individual.

To use the law, you do not have to be married to, or ever have lived with the person who abused you. The law protects you from abuse by current or former sexual or intimate partners as well as past or present household or family members. You do not have to file for a divorce; you do not need a lawyer; and you do not have to pay any court fees.

The court can give you emergency protective orders if you can show that you are in immediate danger of being abused. The court may issue immediate orders, directing the abusive individual not to abuse you and not to have any contact with you, enter your residence, place of employment or school. The court may also grant you temporary custody of your children. These orders may be issued the same day you file your papers and will become effective as soon as the police give (serve) a copy of them to the abusive person. These orders will be in effect throughout the your state…and are respected by other states.  The abusive person will be directed to turn over to the police any deadly weapons he/she used to threaten or harm you.

Copies of these emergency orders will be sent by the court to the police department for service to the abuser.

If you need a protective order and the court is closed, the Police will assist you in filing for an emergency order. The law allows you to do this so that you can seek protection from abuse when a court is closed.

When this service is needed, you must contact the police. A police officer will assist you in filling out forms that document the abuse. The police officer will then call a judge on your behalf and read to the judge what you have written on the form. If the judge believes you are in immediate danger he or she can issue a protective order over the phone. The police will then attempt to serve the order on your abuser. However, these types of orders (telephonic orders) will only be effective, once served, until the close of the next regular session of the court. Then you must appear before a judge to ask for a new temporary order.

Once a protective order is in effect against the abusive person it is a crime, and contempt of court for this individual to violate the order. If the abusive person violates a protective order by committing assault, criminal trespass or another criminal act, the police must arrest and prosecute him/her. It is a crime when a person is aware of a restraining order and does something the court ordered him or her not to do. This includes acts of harassment or any kind of retaliation.

In addition, you may take the abusive person back to court on a charge of contempt. A contempt hearing must be held within fourteen days, and if the individual is found guilty, he/she may be fined or put in jail.

The above entries describe emergency protective orders. In addition to emergency protective orders, you may ask the court to issue final orders that would continue the previously ordered conditions. Also, final orders can include orders granting you temporary custody of children, and orders that the abuser pay support for them (if legally responsible to do so). Also in a final order the judge can grant you use of any jointly owned property including your residence, household furniture and your automobile.

Moreover, the judge can order the abusive individual to pay you for any out-of-pocket expenses you incurred as a result of an attack, such as hospital, doctor or dentist bills, lost wages etc.

Also, final orders will restrain your abuser from intimidating or threatening you, your relatives (whether or not they live with you) or your household members, (if appropriate).

In addition, the judge may direct the abusing party to engage in a batterer's program or a personal counseling program.

The court may issue these orders after a hearing where you proved to the judge you have been abused. Final orders remain in effect for one year. At the end of the year, you may go back to court and ask the judge to extend the protective orders if you still fear possible abuse.

How to Get a Restraining Order:

  • Go to a court, which can help you. You may get restraining orders at a District Court, or a Superior Court
  • If you have left your home and are temporarily living in a place to escape abuse, you can go to the court closest to your temporary home. The court will keep your new address confidential. If you move while the case is pending, you may ask the court to transfer the case to the court most convenient to you (community where you're new home is located).
  • Ask the clerk of court for a domestic violence petition. The clerk will give you the form and may help you fill it out. Simply write down what happened to you, detailing the circumstances of abuse. You will have to swear that what you have written is true.
If you ask for emergency orders, the clerk will take the papers to a judge. When you see the judge, tell him/her as simply and honestly as possible what happened to you, and why you are in danger. If the judge finds that you are in danger, he/she may immediately issue protective orders. These orders will be faxed by the court to the police, where they will then be served to your abuser. The police must serve the orders on your abuser in order to be in effect.

Hearing on Your Petition:

A full hearing will be held on your petition within thirty days of when you file it, or within ten days of the date the petition is served on the abusive person, whichever is later. At the hearing, you will have to testify before the judge about what happened and why you want the restraining order. Your abuser will have an opportunity to provide information to the judge. Thereafter the judge will make a decision based on all the evidence provided. Therefore, it is important for you tell the judge what happened to you that caused you to file for the protective order. In addition, if applicable, bring witnesses, medical records and other official documents for the judge to see. The judge will be making a decision on all the facts presented.

Filing Criminal Complaints:
In addition to getting protective orders, you may also ask the police to help you charge the abusive person with a crime If the police have probable cause to believe that you have been abused within the past six hours by a current or former spouse, partner, household member, etc. they may immediately arrest the abusive person. Also, if your abuser has committed the offense of stalking against you, the police can also arrest him within six hours of the event. If it has been more than six hours, the police cannot make an arrest on a misdemeanor charge without a warrant.

If the police do not make an arrest within this six-hour period, you may file a criminal complaint against your abuser. To do this, call the Police Dept. in your area to file a report. Once the police take an initial report, your case will be assigned to a member of the department's domestic violence unit for follow-up. The unit member will assist you in filing criminal charges by drafting an affidavit and warrant for the arrest of your abuser. Please note that in any emergency situation you should call 911.

Emergency Shelter and Assistance:
If you need to physically remove yourself and your children from danger, help is available.
If you do not know where your local Domestic Violence Agency or Shelter is located you can dial the Domestic Violence Hotline at:  National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 1-800-787-3224 (TDD) or Angels On Earth 954-251-4344

Under federal law, police are required to enforce domestic violence restraining orders from other states  "Any protective order issued by any other state, territory or possession of the United States….shall be given full faith and credit throughout the state, in all districts and counties……"

This law also mentions that:
"Law enforcement personnel may rely on the statement of the person protected by the order that the order remains in effect."


  • Interstate Domestic Violence – It is a Federal crime to travel from one state to another with the intent to cause bodily injury to an intimate partner and to subsequently cause this bodily injury.
  • Interstate Stalking – It is a Federal crime to cross a state line and commit a stalking offense against an intimate partner.
  • Interstate Violation of a Protective Order – It is a Federal crime to cross a state line and violate a valid protective order.
  • Possession of a firearm while subject to a qualifying protective order – It is a Federal crime to possess a firearm and or ammunition if an individual has a final protective order in effect against him/her.
  • Possession of firearm after conviction of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence – It is a Federal crime for a person to possess a firearm and or ammunition after conviction of a qualifying misdemeanor of domestic violence. The qualifying misdemeanor must have as an element the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of force as in criminal threatening.

    ADDED LANGUAGE TO STALKING STATUTE – Protective Orders can now be issued to any person who is the victim of stalking, not specific to family or household members, intimate partners

    "A person who has been the victim of stalking…may seek relief by filing a petition…the Court shall grant relief (Protective Order Six-Hour Rule, mandatory arrest provisions "Any law enforcement officer may arrest without a warrant any person that the officer has probable cause to believe has violated the provisions of this section when the offense occurred within six hours…A law enforcement officer shall arrest a person when he has probable cause to believe a violation of this section has occurred within the last six hours when the offense involves violation of a protective order…"