DC Civil Protection Orders versus DC Restraining Orders, is there a difference?

There are two separate kinds of civil matters in Washington, DC that are frequently confused with each other because they are often mentioned in everyday conversations. The difference between the two can is somewhat complicated. The two civil matters are restraining orders and civil protection orders.

A restraining order is a civil case filed by one person against another person asking a judge to order the former to do something. Restraining orders do not necessarily mean a person is asking another person to stay away from them or have no contact with them.

However, in some situations, a restraining order can include that kind of request. A restraining order can be filed between business associates where one person wants an order requiring another person to do certain things. It is a request for a judicial order requiring another person to do something specific. When it comes to DC restraining orders, a skilled domestic violence attorney can help you understand the details, know how to proceed, and guide and advise you as you navigate the legal system.

What are the differences between Restraining and Civil Orders of Protection?

DC restraining orders are not the same thing as civil protection orders. Although both of them are considered to be civil instead of criminal cases. The main difference between a restraining order and a civil protection order is the relationship between the people involved and the reason for the order being requested.

Restraining orders can be requested for any number of reasons between people engaging in civil litigation against each other. An accusation of a criminal offense is not necessary when a person asks a judge to issue a restraining order against another person.

A civil protection order is much more specific and has requirements that do not apply to DC restraining orders. A civil protection order is filed against a person who has an intrafamily relationship with the person making the request. The person making a request is referred to as the petitioner and the person receiving the request for the protection order is known who is known as the respondent.

What is the “Legal Relationship” requirement?

The two parties must have an intrafamily relationship. That could mean a sexual relationship, romantic relationship, a family relationship, or a blood relationship. The parties can also be roommates or have other specific types of intrafamily relationships for the petitioner to file for the protection order against the respondent.

Because of the nature of the relationship, the cases are filed in the domestic violence branch of the DC Superior Court. Although they are filed in a domestic violence branch, they are not criminal cases. Civil protection orders are civil matters. A person does not face a criminal record as a result of having civil protection order filed against them. They do not face the possibility of going to jail or receiving criminal penalties as a consequence of being issued a civil protection order.

What happens when Civil Protection is ordered?

When a person files a Civil Protection order against a respondent, the person must allege a criminal offense, although, again, it does not mean that the matter is a criminal case. To obtain a Civil Protection order against the respondent from a judge, the petitioner must make a criminal allegation such as one of the following specifically criminalized in the DC code:

• Sexual abuse
• Assault
• Threat
• Destruction of property
• Stalking

The other requirement in a Civil Protection order is that the DC court must have jurisdiction. In other words, petitioners of DC restraining orders or the respondents must reside or work in the District of Columbia, or one of the allegations made by the petitioner was committed in the District of Columbia.

What happens when a “Civil Protection Order” is granted?

When a petitioner makes a request for a Civil Protection order, the respondent is entitled to a trial. They can challenge the evidence made by the petitioner. They can do this in a number of ways, including but not limited to:

  • Calling their own witnesses
  • Having the assistance of a lawyer to help them prepare and challenge the evidence of the petitioner
  • Making an argument to the judge as to why the petitioner should not receive a Civil Protection order

What is the standard of proof required to obtain a Civil Protection Order?

The standard of proof in a civil protection order case is a preponderance of the evidence. That means the petitioner must show that is it more than 50 percent likely that the respondent committed at least one criminal offense against the petitioner.

If the judge finds that the petitioner met that burden, they issue a full civil protection order. They can require the respondent to stay away from the petitioner, have no contact with the petitioner, and complete other requirements such as domestic violence counseling or anger management even though the person is not convicted of a crime.

DC restraining orders can include a range of requests. When presented with one, it is in a person’s best interest to contact an attorney with experience in this particular area of the law. Such an attorney can answer any questions about the details of the order, as well as advise an individual on how to best proceed from that point forward. If I can be of assistance, please call 202-872-0400.