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What Are No-Contact Orders and When Are They Issued?

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There are many cases where someone may feel unsafe around another person, including experiencing domestic violence, being a plaintiff in a criminal case, or falling victim to a stalker. In these situations, Washington courts will order a protection order to separate the aggressor from the victim — including no-contact orders.

What Is a No-Contact Order?

A no-contact order is an order that prevents a defendant in a criminal case from contacting a victim, witness, or another party who is under its protection. The purpose of this action is to protect the victim during the course of the case. No-contact orders are common in cases involving domestic violence.

No-contact orders prevent the defendant from making any sort of communication with the victim. This includes physical contact and visits, as well as digital communications, letters, text messages, and any messages that the defendant sends to the victim via a third-party. If the defendant sees the victim in public, he or she must leave the area immediately.

Washington courts are responsible for deciding whether or not to issue a no-contact order, and will usually make this decision during one of the following events.

  • The defendant is released on bail or personal recognizance.
  • The court formally charges the defendant during his or her arraignment.
  • The court sentences the defendant for the crime in question.

No-contact orders last until the case is resolved, and the court may choose to impose the order for a longer period of time.

Consequences for Violating a No-Contact Order

Because no-contact orders are court-issued, they carry significant penalties if the defendant chooses to violate it. Violating a no-contact order is typically a gross misdemeanor crime, but may be a felony with previous convictions.

  • A first or second no-contact order violation is a gross misdemeanor. Penalties can include up to 364 days in jail and mandatory electronic monitoring. In addition, the defendant will face up to $5,000 in fines and a loss of gun rights.
  • Third and subsequent no-contact order violations are Class C felonies, and if any violation results in assault, the defendant will receive a felony charge as well. Penalties for this crime include up to 5 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

What Are Other Types of Protection Orders?

In addition to no-contact orders, there are many other protection orders that Washington courts issue to protect victims of violent crimes. These may include restraining orders, civil anti-harassment orders, and domestic violence protection orders.

  • Domestic violence protection orders are civil court-issued orders for victims of domestic violence. Temporary domestic violence orders may last for 14 days and the court will set a hearing to determine the length of the order after the temporary period ends. Domestic violence orders can last for at least one year, and may be permanent.
  • Restraining orders are the most common type of protection orders, and the court usually issues them during a family law case. They often involve issues dealing with property, child custody, child and spousal support, and domestic violence. Temporary restraining orders last 14 days, and the final order could be permanent.
  • Anti-harassment orders are civil orders for people who are victims of harassment, but the harassment does not fall under the definition of domestic violence. These orders are common in cases involving neighbor disputes or stalking situations. Anti-harassment orders may last at least one year, and may be permanent.

While these court actions are important to protect victims of domestic violence and other crimes from serious harm, not all protection orders are valid. Sometimes, someone may issue a protection order to keep a parent away from a child, as a result of false accusations, or other ulterior motives.

These actions weaken the importance of these orders, and if you are unfairly facing a protection order or facing consequences for violating one, it is important to defend yourself. Contact a criminal defense attorney in Tacoma as soon as possible to discuss the order and to strategize your next steps.

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