Dealing With a Criminal Protective Order in California: A Short Guide


You want to remain safe. So, when you need help with a Criminal Protective Order in California, you can contact Valery Nechay Law. Call for more information.

What Is a Criminal Protective Order?


Victims of domestic violence or abuse often live in fear of their abuser even when the abuser is facing criminal charges in court. To protect the victims and give them a sense of safety while the trial is ongoing, the court can make an order to prevent the accused person from contacting them. This is known as a criminal protective order (CPO).

Regardless of the good intentions behind a CPO, it could be challenging for those on the receiving end. If a CPO has been issued against you in California, you might feel trapped or disillusioned. Nevertheless, it is important that you’re aware of your limitations so you don’t violate the terms of the order, as this could lead to jail time for you. 

If the terms of the CPO become too difficult to comply with, there are legal ways to modify the terms and perhaps reduce the conditions you’re currently subject to without getting yourself into more trouble. 

Keep reading to gain more insight into how criminal protective orders work in California, the steps you can take to modify an existing order, and how a criminal defense attorney can help you. 

Criminal Protective Orders in California: How It Works

A California criminal protective order (CPO) is issued by a judge under section 136.2 of the California Penal Code to protect a witness or victim of a crime. It instructs the restrained person to stay away and not hurt, harass, stalk, assault, threaten, or communicate with the protected victim or witness.

An application for a CPO is submitted by the district attorney (DA), who must demonstrate that the restrained person hurt the victim, made them feel afraid, intimidated them not to testify, or threatened the victim.

The judge will usually make a protective order during the arraignment process, and the order would impose clear restrictions on the accused person to stay away from the protected person(s).

Criminal Protective Order Vs. Restraining Order

Although criminal protective orders may sometimes be confused with restraining orders, they are not the same.

While CPOs are issued in criminal cases at the urging of the prosecuting attorney, restraining orders are issued by civil courts in a wide variety of cases upon the application of the victim or their attorney and without any input from law enforcement officers or the district attorney.

There are several reasons to get a restraining order, and a person could choose to get one even while a CPO subsists. This is because both orders are not mutually exclusive and can exist simultaneously and between the same parties. 

For instance, where there is a criminal domestic violence case and a divorce petition going on between the same parties in two separate courts, the family court hearing the divorce case could grant a restraining order at the behest of the domestic violence victim (spouse) even though the DA has already obtained a CPO in the criminal trial.

Like a CPO, there are penalties if you Violate a Restraining Order in California. If the terms of the restraining order become too difficult to bear, consider seeking legal advice from a restraining order attorney in San Francisco.

Types of Criminal Protective Orders in California

Generally, there are two types of CPOs that a California court can order as follows;

  • No Contact Orders: With this kind of CPO, the restrained person is not allowed to contact the protected person in any way except perhaps through an attorney. 
  • Peaceful Contact Protective Orders: Also referred to as level one protective orders, the parties here are allowed to be in communication as long as it is peaceful. The restrained person, in such cases, could be asked to fulfill certain conditions, such as refraining from purchasing or carrying any firearm or offensive weapon while the CPO subsists. 

It is essential to understand the terms and restrictions of the CPO against you, so you don’t violate any of the conditions by mistake. If you need help understanding the extent of the restrictions against you, it may be wise to contact an attorney for detailed explanations to be on the safe side.

Duration of a California Criminal Protective Order

A CPO expires on the date written on the order document. If no date is written, the order usually expires three years after its issuance.

The length of a criminal protective order in California usually depends on why the court issued the order. So in cases where the CPO was issued to protect victims/witnesses from intimidation or harm and allow them to testify at the criminal trial, the CPO may be terminated once the defendant is convicted and sentenced.

For sex offenses, the judge could issue a criminal protective order prohibiting the defendant from contacting the victim for up to 10 years. The CPO may remain valid even where the defendant is in custody.

Penalty for a CPO Violation in California

The consequences of violating a CPO could be severe. In addition to contempt of court, you could spend three years in jail if you contact the protected person(s). However, this depends on the circumstances of the breach.

This punishment does not affect the substantive criminal trial that is still ongoing and any penalties you might face if you’re convicted. So, it is in your best interest to comply with the terms of the order.

How to Modify a Criminal Protective Order in California

Keeping to the terms of an absolute no-contact CPO could be difficult for the restrained person, especially if they and the protected person share a home or have minor children. In such cases, the restrained person may be required to move out of the shared place of residence once the order is granted. They may also be unable to physically see their children, which could affect their parent-child relationship.

In such circumstances where the terms of a CPO become overbearing, the restrained person can petition the court to modify the terms of the order. The petition should also state reasons or facts that support the request for modification.

If you’ve requested a modification of a CPO as a restrained person, remember that you still need to comply with the terms of the existing order until the court formally makes a modification order in your favor.

How a Lawyer Can Help You

If you’re dealing with a criminal protective order in California, it is important to have an experienced California criminal defense lawyer by your side so you don’t have to face the DA alone.

Your lawyer can explain your CPO and ensure you don’t violate it. Moreover, your attorney can make sure that the court acted in accordance with the law by investigating the circumstances surrounding the issuance of the CPO against you. If the order was made in error, your attorney could take the necessary steps on your behalf to ensure that the order is vacated.

The terms of the order may become too restrictive. A lawyer can help you determine whether the order could be modified to more acceptable terms as opposed to breaching it outright. 

For more information on criminal protective orders in California, contact The Law Office of Valery Nechay. During the course of your criminal justice process, she will represent you effectively and help you understand the full extent of your CPO. 

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