No person should have to live in fear of violence or with threats or intimidation, yet over 12 million people per year experience violence in their homes—an average of 24 people per minute in the United States.
Domestic violence occurs when one person exerts control over another through physical abuse, sexual abuse, threats, harassment, verbal or emotional abuse, isolation, or economic control. Victims of domestic violence experience long-term impacts such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
In other circumstances, the person threatening, stalking, or harassing you might be someone you were never close to, in which case a civil restraining order can prevent them from harassing or harming you.
Making a change to remove yourself from an abusive or dangerous situation can be difficult, especially if you’ve been hurt or threatened with violence. A restraining order is an important legal tool for protecting yourself while you make the necessary changes to remove a violent abuser from your life. But what kind of proof do you need to get a restraining order in California?
What is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order in California is a court order approved by a judge to prevent the subject from coming within a specific distance from the petitioner, contacting them, or harassing them. A Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) prevents an individual suspected of presenting a violent threat to others or to themself from purchasing or owning firearms or ammunition.
While an emergency restraining order is one ordered by a law enforcement officer—typically after they’ve arrived on the scene of a recent domestic violence attack—other forms of restraining orders require a petitioner to present evidence to demonstrate to the judge that a restraining order is an appropriate legal measure for protection.
Proving a Restraining Order is Warranted
Before a judge issues a restraining order, they must ensure that such a legal measure is warranted under the circumstances. This prevents this powerful legal tool from being used as a weapon, instead of a protective measure as it’s intended. It’s important for the petitioner to approach the judge with evidence rather than allegations alone. Evidence for a restraining order could include:
- A police report documenting law enforcement’s response to a violent incident, including their observations about any injuries, allegations of what happened, and any violent behaviors they witnessed from the aggressor
- Medical records revealing injuries from violence or a history of signs of abuse
- Photos or videos showing violent behavior on the part of the subject of the restraining order or showing the victim’s injuries
- Witness statements from a third party who witnessed the violence, your injuries, or can otherwise support your allegations
- Written documentation such as your experiences documented in a journal or letters/texts/emails to a trusted loved one telling them of the abuse or violence when it occurred
The court requires reasonable proof before granting a domestic violence restraining order. A judge will review the evidence presented in the petition. Some orders include prohibiting contact with other family members as well as the petitioner, such as children or even pets.
Evidence for a Civil Restraining Order
A civil restraining order prevents harassment, stalking, abuse, or threats of abuse from someone who isn’t a spouse, intimate partner, or relative. The burden of proof for a civil restraining order requires more than just reasonable proof but instead requires clear and convincing evidence—a higher burden of proof showing a pattern and history of harassment or abuse over time.
When seeking a renewal of a civil or domestic violence restraining order, the petitioner must demonstrate a “reasonable apprehension” of future abuse should the court drop the order.
No one should have to continue to live with the threat of violence. An experienced attorney can help you gather evidence for a restraining order for your protection.