If someone accuses you of a violent crime, such as domestic violence, they could also petition for an Emergency Protective Order (EPO). This court-issued order is designed to protect domestic violence victims from defendants who may harass or harm them. If you receive an EPO in Los Angeles, CA, this is a direct instruction from the court to stay away from a victim. The order may also excuse victims from attending the relevant domestic violence hearings. Victims of attempted murder, stalking, assault or battery can also petition for EPOs against their offenders. At the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we can help you challenge an EPO or represent you if charged for violating protective order terms under California’s Penal Code 273.6.

Unlike other forms of protective orders, obtaining an EPO is pretty fast and easy. A petitioner can obtain the order way before a respondent is offered the chance to tell their side of the story. Fortunately, you can fight the order if you feel it is unnecessary or unfair. We can provide you with the legal guidance and representation you need.

Important Terms You Should Know

“Protective order” is a broad term used to describe a variety of restraining orders. These are instructions from the court designed to protect one party from the harmful actions of another.

The Petitioner

This is the person who files for the restraining order. In domestic violence cases, this doesn’t necessarily need to be the person who requires protection. For instance, your spouse could file an EPO that orders you to stay away from your stepchild whom you assaulted.

The Respondent/ Target

A target or respondent is the villain/ offender. If someone fears you may harm them, they could seek an EPO against you. In California, a petitioner may obtain a restraining order without you being notified. Such an order is referred to as an ex parte order, and a judge only needs to hear one side of the story, the petitioner’s fears/grievances. 

Emergency Protective Order (EPO) Defined 

Following domestic violence charges, the police may call a judge and request Emergency Protective Orders if they believe the victim of an incident is still in harm’s way. As long as a California law enforcement officer asserts reasonable grounds to assume that a victim requires protection from the danger of domestic violence, a judge may grant an EPO valid for about seven days. 

The 7-day order gives a victim adequate time to file for a temporary or permanent restraining order against the defendant. Unlike other forms of protective orders that take effect once the respondent receives a notice, EPO’s become effective immediately. Their validity is not affected even if the target is not on the scene as they are granted.

California Family Code Section 6250.3 specifies that an EPO is only valid if issued by a judge or court commissioner following a request from a law enforcement officer. Note that the police in question must present reasonable grounds as required under Family Code Section 6251. They include:

  • An EPO is necessary because the officer believes that there is a present and immediate danger of domestic violence or that a child is at immediate risk of abduction or abuse.
  • An EPO is necessary to prevent child abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, or the abuse of a dependent adult or senior citizen.

Other important aspects you should know about an Emergency Protective Order include:

  • An EPO can be issued if there is violence or threatening behavior between family members.
  • The petitioner (or victim) must necessitate immediate protection
  • Law enforcement officers can obtain the order when investigating domestic violence or disturbance
  • The target can be removed from their home and instructed not to return
  • A petitioner can obtain an EPO without notifying the target of their intent
  • A judge can review an EPO within nine business days
  • A judge can replace the EPO with a temporary or permanent restraining order during the review.

Steps to Take Once You Receive an Emergency Protective Order

Once you are notified or served with a restraining order, you must follow the terms of the notice. You can then contact your attorney if you have questions about the order or don’t understand what you are required to do.

Generally, an EPO includes three fundamental orders:

  • Don’t possess a firearm for as long as the order is in effect
  • Stay away from the protected person and refrain from contacting them
  • Keep off the protected person’s school, property, or place of work

It remains imperative not to violate the order because this may make it challenging to convince a judge that restraining you from reaching certain persons is unnecessary. Your attorney will analyze your case and inform you about your options. Depending on the findings, you may have an excellent chance to challenge the orders.

Violation of an Emergency Protective Order — Elements the Prosecution Must Prove

If you are served with an EPO, it is crucial to adhere to its requirements and refrain from contacting the petitioner. Violating the conditions of a restraining order is an offense under California’s Penal Code 273.6.

Before the prosecution can convict you, here are elements they must prove:

The EPO is Valid

A domestic violence protective order is only valid if a judge issued it because the petitioner was in fear of immediate or imminent danger. EPO’s are effective immediately, although they have a short lifespan. The order is only valid for seven calendar days or five business days, depending on which of the two options is shorter.

You Had Knowledge of the Order

Your presence is not necessary for a judge to issue an EPO. Even though the order takes effect immediately, you must be notified about it or served. Note that it is not enough for the information to be relayed via the phone or by word of mouth when it comes to protective orders. You must be served with a written notice signed by a judge.

You Have No Legal Valid Excuse for Violating the Order

You can’t be convicted of violating an EPO if you were not in a position to adhere to its terms. If you work in the same office as a petitioner, for instance, you could bump into each other in your line of duty. The courts may excuse this because it is beyond your control.

You Willingly Defied the Order

An Emergency Protective Order instructs you to stay away from the petitioner and avoid contacting them. The prosecution must prove that you intentionally defied the order and reached out or went close to the petitioner. Again, you cannot be convicted for violating an order if you bumped into the petitioner by chance in common areas such as the mall.

If you are charged under California’s penal Code 273.6 for violating the terms of an EPO, contact your attorney immediately. This will be a matter of prime importance, especially if you are already battling domestic violence charges.

Penalties for Violating California’s Penal Code 273.6 

California’s Penal Code 273.6 makes it an offense to violate the terms of a court-issued protective order, restraining order, or stay-away order. Once you are served with an EPO, you should not initiate contact with the petitioner or even attempt to threaten or harm them in any manner. 

This crime is typically charged as a misdemeanor. However, it may be charged as a felony, depending on your criminal history and the specifics of a domestic violence case. For instance, you could be charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor if you commit an act of violence while violating an EPO.

If the crime is charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties are as follows:

  • Jail time for up to 1—year
  • A fine not exceeding $1,000
  • Probation

If violating Penal Code 273.6 is charged as a felony, you may face the following consequences:

  • Up to 3—years’ incarceration in state prison
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

Best Defenses Against California’s Penal Code 273.6

Any restraining order can have a devastating impact on your freedom, personal and professional life. Emergency Protective Orders are not an exception. Once you receive notice of the order, you are entitled to an OSC (Order to Show Cause) hearing. This allows you to tell your side of the story and explain to a judge why you feel the order is unnecessary or unfair.

During the hearing, you will have the chance to present witnesses and even cross-examine the petitioner. A competent lawyer can present arguments that show the absence or lack of credible immediate or future threat to warrant a protective order.

Only a California judge can dismiss/nullify or cancel a protective order. Your attorney will need to file a request for dismissal or modification of the order. Another means to have an order annulled is to show up for the hearing, and the petitioner fails to attend. This may lead to the automatic dismissal of the order.

You must adhere to the terms of the order until it is nullified. Failure to do so may trigger legal repercussions that may include paying a fine, serving a sentence, or probation.

Here are some of the best defenses an attorney may use when defending you for violating California’s Penal Code 273.6:

Lack of Knowledge

If you had no idea about the existence of an Emergency Protective Order, the prosecution can’t convict you of violating Penal Code 273.6. It could be that you were not at the scene as the order was issued, or you were not served with a notice.

Lack of Intent

One of the critical elements the prosecution must prove is that you willingly/intentionally violated a court-issued protective order. If you violated the terms of an order inadvertently or accidentally, you might not have a case to answer.

For instance, an order informing you to stay not less than 100 yards from a petitioner may be violated by accident if you happen to visit the same movie theater unknowingly. Under such circumstances, the courts cannot find you in contempt of the protective order.

Inability to Adhere To the Protective Order

It is not foreign for the courts to issue an order with virtually impossible terms. However, you cannot be found guilty of violating an order if you lacked the present ability to follow its terms.

For example, an order that requires you to stay 100 yards away from a petitioner may be hard to adhere to if the alleged victim’s home is close to a road you must use on your way to work. In such a case, the prosecution may lack grounds to convict you, although this may also necessitate revising the terms of an order.

The Protective Order Was Issued Unlawfully

A protective order is not valid unless it was issued lawfully. A competent criminal defense attorney can argue that an order is invalid if issued based on falsified or misleading information.

False Allegations

Sometimes, a petitioner may falsely accuse you of violating a protective order. They could do this to gain an advantage during child custody hearings or to deny you of your child visitation rights. Your lawyer can help table facts to show that you adhered to the terms of an order.

Understanding the Impact of a Restraining Order 

Statistics show that 2 to 3 million temporary restraining orders are issued each year in the United States alone. If such an order is issued against you, it could have a devastating impact on your personal and professional endeavors because it is entered into the CLETS (California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System). As such, it will appear on your criminal background checks.

When potential employers check your criminal history, they may not deem you a suitable candidate, more so when applying for government vacancies. Various other employment positions require applicants to have a clean record, such as positions within the education or medical sectors.

Additionally, a restraining order strips you of the right to own or buy a firearm. If you violate an EPO, this will also appear on your record, and you will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. 

There are numerous negative impacts of having a protective order issued against you. Such an order can:

  • Appear on your criminal record
  • Show up on public records
  • Deny you specific employment opportunities
  • trip you of gun-ownership rights
  • Prevent you from enlisting in the military
  • Limit your access to certain areas, events, or locations
  • Cause the suspension of your child visitation right
  • Cause short-term loss of your home
  • Deny you housing within particular neighborhoods
  • Require vacating the current home, neighborhood, or city

Of course, the best way to dodge the above consequences is to avoid having an Emergency Protective Order filed against you. If this is not possible and someone threatens to file a protective order, it is vital to enlist a competent criminal defense attorney. The expert will educate you on your rights and help you fight the order if possible.

How Can a California Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Me?

Protective order laws are designed to protect victims from the possibility of abuse or physical harm. However, these laws are often used as an abusive tool by vindictive people. For instance, an ex-spouse can purposely disrupt your life and limit your access to the kids by filing an EPO.

It is crucial to consult with an attorney, irrespective of whether you wish to challenge an EPO or not. The professional will decipher the order, ensuring that you understand what you are restricted from doing. If the terms of an order are overboard or unfair, a skilled criminal attorney can help you challenge them in court.

When challenging the orders, your attorney will:

  • Prepare a written response to the allegations highlighted on the petition
  • Indicate reasons why the order is baseless or unlawful
  • Highlight any of your rights that a protective order may violate, e.g., your child visitation or custody rights

When accused of domestic violence, the last thing you should do is attempt to represent yourself when challenging a protective order. The judge will likely note your conduct or statements and use them against you when deciding on the domestic violence case. This can be detrimental, especially if you lash out when cross-examining the petitioner.

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Emergency Protective Orders can be used as a shield to protect victims of domestic violence, assault, abuse, stalking, or harassment in Los Angeles, CA, from intimidation, abuse, or possible physical harm. While this is the case, unscrupulous parties can use protective orders as a sword and file a petition against you based on half-truths or illegitimate claims. We can help you challenge such orders and clear your name. At the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we have a team of experts with extensive knowledge in handling all matters restraining orders. We can also represent you if you face charges for violating California’s Penal Code 273.6. Call us now at 310-502-1314 for a free consultation and a no-obligation case evaluation.