Restraining orders or orders of protection are court-issued mandates that are meant to prevent contact between a victim and the person who has harassed, injured, or threatened them. If the subject of a restraining order violates the terms set by the court, he or she could face arrest and serious criminal charges. In some instances, a restraining order is a good means to help victims distances themselves from their abusers. But, restraining orders can be issued under a wide range of circumstances, sometimes even automatically. Innocent parties can be swept into the fold, kept from contacting family members or even entering their own homes. For this reason, it is important to understand the primary types of restraining orders in Colorado, and the situations in which each one may be issued.
Protection Order Types
State law sets the rules governing restraining orders, and as such, variations can abound across state lines. In Colorado, "restraining orders" in the criminal and domestic violence context are now officially known as "protection orders," although there is no meaningful legal distinction between the terms and insiders often use them interchangeably. At its base level, a restraining order is simply a legal injunction requiring someone to do, or keep from doing, some action, or face criminal or civil penalties. Restraining orders can come into play in a variety of circumstances, and can be issued against businesses and corporate entities as well as individuals. But, by far the most common understanding of restraining or protection orders is in referring to bars on contact between offenders and victims in instances of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, or other similar situations.
A quickly available protection order in Colorado is known as a Temporary Restraining Order, or TRO. A TRO may be obtained by filing a complaint form at the local county court clerk's office and speaking to a judge. The complaint must describe your reasons for seeking a TRO (to prevent domestic abuse, violence, stalking, etc.), and after reviewing your complaint, a judge will listen to your story. If the judge decides to issue a TRO, it will become effective when it is served (delivered) to the subject of the order. A related type of protection order is the Emergency Protection Order ("EPO"). An EPO is a temporary order available in instances of immediate need when the courts are not open (a judge is always available to issue EPOs by telephone outside of normal court hours). EPOs are only good for a few days, and are meant to be a temporary substitute until a party has the chance to file for a TRO during regular court hours.
A Permanent Restraining Order ("PRO") is a more long-term version of a TRO. TROs are not indefinite, and if one is issued, it will include the time for a scheduled PRO hearing. At the PRO hearing, the defendant (the subject of the order) will be able to offer reasons why the protective order should not be extended. If the party seeking a PRO fails to attend the hearing, the previously-obtained TRO expires. Among other things, a PRO can prohibit further acts of violence, direct communication (electronic or otherwise), and going within a certain distance of a victim's home or workplace.
Another subset of restraining orders are those that are issued automatically. A Mandatory Protection Order is issued against any defendant charged with a criminal act (these orders are also issued against juveniles charged with a delinquent act). Mandatory Protection Orders remain in effect until the outcome of the defendant's case is finalized, and restrain the accused from "harassing, molesting, intimidating, retaliating against, or tampering with any witness to or victim of the acts charged" under Colorado Revised Statutes 18-1-1001 (2010). Divorces and legal separations involve a similar automatic issuance of a restraining document under the guise of a temporary injunction. When these actions are initiated, both parties are restrained under Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-107 (2010) from improperly disposing of marital property, "molesting" or "disturbing the peace" of the other party, removing the parties' children from the state without consent, and letting insurance policies covering the other party to lapse without consent.
Contact an Attorney
Violation of a protection order is a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado, with repeat violations upgraded to class 1 status and subject to increased sentence ranges. Beyond the possibility of facing criminal charges, being subject to a restraining order can affect a range of life activities, dictating where you can and cannot go and who you may interact with. Facing the restrictions of a protection order is a serious matter. If you feel an attempt is underway to wrongfully restrain you, contact an attorney experienced in challenging protective orders. Retaining your good reputation, freedom of movement, and ability to interact with loved ones is too important to give up without a fight.