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Temporary vs Permanent Protection Orders Explained

While some states, such as Texas, define protection orders and restraining orders differently, in California the terms are used interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences between temporary and permanent protection orders in California. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing protection from someone who threatens you, intends you harm, or has already harmed you and may do so again, it helps to understand the difference between temporary and permanent protection orders.

Understanding Temporary Protection Orders

When a person is under an imminent threat of danger to their safety, they may request an order of protection under family, civil, or criminal law. A law enforcement officer may request an emergency order of protection for a victim of abuse or the threat of abuse.

When a person seeks a protection order, it requires little to no evidence to obtain. Instead, the petitioner need only allege that they’ve been threatened, abused, or harassed and that the perpetrator is likely to harm them or threaten them further without an order of protection. A judge or commissioner will then issue a temporary protection order—typically for 10 to 25 days. The order remains in place until the hearing date listed on the temporary order. At the hearing, a judge decides whether or not to elevate the temporary order to a permanent order based on the evidence presented by the petitioner showing harm or threats such as photographs of injuries, or threatening texts or emails. In some cases, a judge may offer an extension to the temporary protection order pending further evidence before amplifying a temporary protection order into a permanent one.

It’s important to understand that the subject of the temporary protection order may be present at the hearing and may legally argue against it.

What Is a Permanent Protection Order?

Once a judge hears the case for a permanent protection order they may or may not decide to elevate the temporary order to a permanent one. Depending on the severity of the threat or the history of abuse, a permanent protection order may last a year or more or can persist for the lifetime of either party. Protection orders for victims of domestic abuse typically last for 5 years, while a permanent protection order for victims of harassment usually spans a 4-year period. Permanent protection orders may include provisions specific to the case, such as forbidding contact or specifying the number of feet or yards of distance the perpetrator must keep between themself and the petitioner under threat of legal consequences.

When a protection order prohibits contact, under California law, contact means the following:

  • Personal contact or coming within a specified distance of the petitioner
  • Contact through phone calls, emails, text messages, or written letters
  • Social media interactions
  • Illegal surveillance

Violating a permanent or temporary protection order may result in legal consequences including prosecution.

What Happens When the Subject of a Protection Order Violates the Order?

When someone violates an order of protection they may face prosecution for the action. A prosecutor must then show the following:

  • That a judge issued a protection order or restraining order prohibiting contact
  • That the defendant knew the order was in place
  • That the defendant intentionally violated the conditions of the order

This type of violation is a misdemeanor crime and may result in fines and up to a year in county jail. If the violation included further threats or violence of any kind, the object of the protective order may face felony charges and up to three years in prison as well as facing criminal charges for any violent act committed against the protected person.