An order of protection is typically a court order issued to prevent one person from having contact with another person. The court order may contain a number of conditions. Only a court can modify or cancel an order of protection. A violation of an order of protection is generally a misdemeanor. Under a number of circumstances, however, a violation of an order of protection may be a felony.
Orders of protection (also known as OOP, protective order, peace bond or no contact order) put the enforcement power of the Court behind basic human concepts that most of us understand anyway. In other words, we all know that it is not acceptable to do the following to someone else: strike them, touch them in an insulting manner, harass them, or stalk them. Each of these acts may be charged as a crime in and of itself. But each of these acts may also properly be the subject of an order of protection. Most significantly, the act of merely going near another person is not a crime, but when this provision is incorporated into an order of protection, a person who violates this provision may be charged with a violation of the order and may be jailed.
Such orders exist because the courts believe that each citizen has the right to the peaceful enjoyment of their life, free from violence. Often times, they are issued in conjunction with a domestic violence case. An order of protection will not generally be granted however in those circumstances when a petitioner is unable to swear to the court about specific examples of threats or prior acts of violence. Although the subject of such an order (called a respondent) is entitled to due process and must be afforded a day in court to contest the order if desired, in some circumstances, the petitioner can obtain an "emergency order of protection" without first informing the respondent. This will be granted in extreme circumstances, when the court agrees it is best to grant the order without first informing the respondent. Such an emergency order is not permanent however, and the respondent will be given a chance to later contest the order after being informed of the emergency order.
Across the country, many laws relating to orders of protection and domestic violence were changed and toughened in the wake of the O.J. Simpson trial. Because orders of protection are not considered criminal charges, many Judges will commonly grant such orders when requested by the petitioner, as the granting of the order is often viewed as being of "no harm." But such an order is, in fact, a restriction on the freedom of the respondent and when granted to a petitioner with "an axe to grind," may lead to future fabricated allegations of violation and possible future criminal charges. An aggressive defense attorney will be necessary to oppose such a request.