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Protective Orders in Virginia

What is a protective order, and what is its purpose?

A protective order is a legal decree issued by a judge or magistrate. The purpose is to protect the health & safety of a person who is a victim of acts involving: violence, force or threat of violence, or fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.

Some examples include:

  • Family abuse

  • Stalking

  • Assault and Battery

  • Sexual Assault

  • Death Threats and Similar Acts

What are the different types of protective orders and what are their functions?

There are 3 types of protective orders in Virginia: Emergency, Preliminary, and Permanent. An Emergency Protective Order ("EPO") can be issued by a magistrate or judge to victims of abuse, violence, force, or serious threat. EPOs last for up to 72 hours or until the next court session, whichever is later. A Preliminary Protective Order ("PPO") can be petitioned for after an instance of abuse, violence, force, or threat. PPOs last for up to 15 days, or until a full hearing can be heard by a judge. A judge may enter a Permanent Protective Order after a full hearing if she determines that it's necessary to protect the petitioner.

Where do I file a protective order?

To get a preliminary protective order to protect you from someone other than a family member, you must file in your local General District Court with the clerk's office. To get a preliminary protective order to protect you from family abuse, you must file with your local Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court with the Court Services Unit. File an emergency protective order with a magistrate at your local police station.

When does a protective order go into effect?

A protective order is not effective until the person is “personally served" by a law enforcement officer or court official.

What do I do if my abuser doesn't obey the order after being served?

If the abuser does not obey a protective order once it's in place, you should tell law enforcement. The person can then be arrested, and criminal charges filed. A violation of a protective order in Virginia is a class 1 misdemeanor. If found guilty, the defendant must serve a mandatory 60 days in jail for contempt of court.

If you need assistance filing a petition for a protective order or need representation to defend you in a protective order matter, call JMA LAW at 757-447-7249.

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