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When Does a Civil Protection Order Case Become a Criminal Case?

Our article on Civil Protection Orders covered the topic in a broad way.  We got into most of the details in that article, but in this one we will focus on one specific important detail.  Specifically, when a CPO case becomes a criminal case.  Quite simply, violating a civil protection order is a criminal offense, even if the protection order was civil to begin with.  It is a simple concept, but it can be slightly confusing as criminal cases often surround CPO cases, and CPO cases have the potential to become criminal cases.


When a Civil Protection Order is Not Criminal

Civil Protection Orders are, as the name implies, civil matters.  As we discuss in the previous articles, they are one of the few decisions that are granted ex parte which means the Court can grant a civil protection order after hearing only one party in the case.  When a petitioner (the person seeking the protection order) requests a CPO from the Court, they usually get a hearing very quickly.  In this initial hearing, the Court can grant the CPO without hearing from the respondent (the person being restrained by the protection order.)

Oftentimes, the Respondent is not expecting to be served with a protection order and they may not be sure what to do.  Of course, the best thing to do differs depending on the case, but in all cases, the Respondent should NEVER contact the alleged victim, who may or may not be the same person as the respondent.  To do so would be a criminal offense.

Note that imply being served the protection order is not charged with a crime, although sometimes protection orders are the result of a criminal charge.  Sometimes a Petitioner may request a CPO without bringing any criminal charges against the Respondent.  Other times, there are criminal charges involved as we discuss in the following section.

When a Protection Order is Part of a Criminal Case

As we have mentioned several times in this article, you can be served with a protection order with or without being charged criminally. However, if you violate the CPO (in other words, you contact the alleged victim) you are guilty of a crime and will most likely face legal penalties for it.  If you feel like you need something from someone with a protection order against you, the best thing to do is hire an attorney.

There are several other ways protection orders can be part of a criminal case.  For example Civil Protection Orders (CPOs) can be brought in the midst of a criminal case even though they are separate from a criminal charge.  There are also protection orders known as Temporary Protection Orders (TPOs) that a Court can place against a defendant while the case is going on.  Protection orders of some kind are common in Domestic Violence cases, which are of course criminal cases.


Protection orders can be confusing and often involve situations that are nerve-racking for the Respondent and/or the Petitioner.  If you need help or have questions with handling a protection order, do not hesitate to contact Dearie, Fischer & Martinson to get help from attorneys with over twenty years of experience in this area of the law.