The judge couldn’t couldn’t have been clearer: “Stay away from Jane Doe wherever she may be. Stay away from her home, her school, her place of business. Don’t communicate with Ms. Doe. Don’t contact her by telephone, text, email, carrier pigeon, smoke signal, ESP, through third parties, or by any other means.”
I was standing right next to you when you told the judge you understood. Even though you didn’t seem confused, I explained it to you again, in the hallway outside the courtroom. All of it.
Nevertheless, you’re tempted to treat the judge’s warning as a suggestion, rather than a command that has the force of law behind it – even though the court also gave this command to you in writing, in a document called an “order of protection” (often also referred to as a restraining order).
Jane is doing everything she can to persuade you that she’s on your side. And she’s urging you to violate the order of protection:
- She was waiting for you on the sidewalk outside the courthouse when the judge released you.
- She’s been texting you 24/7: “Baby, I luv u! I miss u! Come home! No one will ever know …”
- Jane told your mom that she only called the police because she wanted them to calm things down. She was horrified when they arrested you. She pleaded for them not to. She’ll never cooperate with the DA – not in a million years.
The order is for Jane’s benefit, afterall. She must have authority to permit you to violate it, right?
Don’t violate the restraining order! If only because there are so many ways for the DA to prove that you did.
If you’re caught violating the order, you’ll be arrested all over again. You’ll be charged with “criminal contempt”. If convicted, you could go to jail for up to a year. Longer if you’re convicted of a felony.
Here are 10 ways you might get caught violating an order of protection:
- You answer the door when “domestic violence officers” from the local precinct make a follow-up visit to Jane’s house. (Because the order says to stay away from Jane’s home, you’re in violation of the order even if Jane’s not there when the police arrive. You’re in violation even if your name is on the lease and Jane’s name isn’t.)
- Jane is seated in the front passenger seat when police pull you over for a traffic infraction. The restraining order and Jane’s name both pop up when the officer runs your driver’s license.
- You’re seated in the front passenger seat when police pull Jane over for a traffic infraction. The order and your name pop up when the officer runs Jane’s driver’s license.
- A Customs inspector, running your name through a database as you re-enter the US, observes a reference to the order and determines that you are traveling with Jane. (The airline manifest, which lists you and Jane occupying adjacent seats on the same flight, is further proof that you violated the order.)
- You and Jane are the parents named on the birth certificate of your child, who was conceived while the order of protection was in effect.
- The security camera at the entrance to Jane’s apartment building shows you entering and exiting on numerous occasions when the order was in effect.
- Rikers Island records all inmate telephone calls, including your calls to Jane, telling her that your case will be dismissed if she doesn’t come to court.
- Jane’s sister, who knows about the order, calls the police to tell them that you’re violating it, because she’s mad at Jane.
- You and Jane have a disagreement. Jane wins the argument by notifying 911 that she has a restraining order against you, and that you’re at her house.
- Jane suspects you’ve been cheating on her. She retaliates by showing the police all the texts and emails you’ve been sending her since the judge issued the order. When you’re arrested, you show the police the same texts and emails on your phone, to prove that Jane initiated communication with you (which unfortunately doesn’t make you any less guilty of criminal contempt).
As you can see, your plan to violate the order of protection isn’t foolproof, which is an excellent reason not to violate it.