Contact Us for a Free Consultation (213) 542-0979

Violate Restraining Order

Penal Code 273.6 PC - Violating a Restraining Order

California Penal Code 273.6 PC makes it a crime for somebody to violate the terms of a court-ordered protective order, restraining order, or stay-away order.

In cases of domestic violence, the state of California takes the protection of alleged victims seriously. Thus, violating a protective, restraining, or stay-away order under PC 273.6 has harsher penalties than other types of criminal contempt.

Penal Code 273.6 PC - Violating a Restraining Order
Penal Code 273.6 PC makes it a misdemeanor crime to violate the terms of a restraining order.

Simply put, PC 273.6 makes it a crime for anyone to violate the terms of a court-ordered protective order, restraining order, or stay-away order.

Criminal protective orders (CPO) are restraining orders issued by a judge in a domestic violence prosecution. They are usually issued in criminal cases to restrain a defendant from harassing, abusing, stalking, or threatening the alleged victim.

Judges routinely issue a restraining order (RO) in criminal cases involving violence or when there are credible threats of violence. Therefore, protective and restraining orders are commonly directly connected with California domestic violence cases.

Penal Code 273.6 says: "Any intentional and knowing violation of a protective order is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to one year in county jail, and fine of up to $1,000, or both jail and a fine. "

The type of behavior a restraining order attempts to prohibit always depends on the details of the case. Still, they generally outline and dictate the behavior that's not permitted or acceptable by the defendant. If convicted under PC 273.6, you could face up to a year in jail and fines up to $1000.

What Must Be Proven for a Conviction?

Under Penal Code 273.6, violating any of the terms of a valid restraining order in California is a crime. Thus, if you are served with any restraining or stay-away order, you must comply with its every provision or risk being charged with a crime.

To convict you of violating a restraining order, prosecutors must prove the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • A lawful restraining order was issued against you.
  • You knew about the restraining order.
  • You had an opportunity to read it.
  • You were capable of obeying the protective order
  • You willfully violated it.

"Willfully" in this law context means that you violated the restraining order on purpose or deliberately. It does not matter if you did not mean to hurt anyone by disobeying the orders. If you knew what you were doing was against the terms of the order, you could still be convicted of a crime.

Restraining orders typically remain in effect until the domestic violence case is resolved in court but could be extended up to ten years after the case part of the defendant's sentence.

What Are the Types of Court Orders in California?

The state of California implements several types of orders to cover various types of victimization, including domestic violence, workplace violence, and elder abuse. Some of the types of court orders include the following:

  • Restraining orders are civil protective orders, meaning a judge issues them in civil court at the request of a victim seeking protection from an alleged abuser. Restraining orders are most commonly given in domestic violence cases. They can be effective for a few days (emergency protective order), a temporary restraining order for up to 5 years, or a permanent one.
  • Protective orders, on the other hand, are something that the criminal court issues - usually associated with a case where someone has inflicted some violence against another person, threatened violence against that person, or simply must be ordered to stay away from that person for the protection of the alleged victim.
  • Stay-away orders are criminal protective orders that are similar to a restraining order in what it does. Still, a judge initiates it in court rather than the alleged victim of abuse. Stay-away orders are typically issued when a defendant faces charges for domestic violence crimes, lasting between 3-10 years or until the case is resolved.

Both restraining and stay-away orders accomplish the same thing. They forbid an alleged abuser from having contact with the alleged victim or coming within a certain distance of them. Protective orders might also have specific instructions related to the case. Violating the terms of any court-issued protective order in the slightest degree is a crime under PC 273.6.

What is a Stay-Away Order?

Notably, the most restrictive form of a CPO is a full stay-away order that orders no contact and prohibits the defendant from contacting or being near the alleged victim.

A full stay-away would interfere with the couple's ability to exchange the children and co-parent. The judge will usually defer to custody and visitation orders issued by a family law court as they are more familiar with the issues.

However, less restrictive protective orders (peaceful contact) are issued for numerous reasons. For example, the judge may issue a less-than-full stay-away order when the couple shares minor children.

Peaceful contact protective orders allow a defendant to continue living with the victim or have contact by phone or other electronic devices if it does not involve violence, threats, stalking, or intimidation and remains peaceful.

An essential factor for remaining in your home in domestic violence cases is injury. Suppose the alleged victim has no injuries. In that case, you are in a good position to make a reasonable argument for staying in your home while the case is pending.

What Are Related Domestic Violence Crimes?

What Are the PC 273.6 Penalties?

In most cases, violating a protective order is a misdemeanor that carries the following penalties:

  • Up to one year in county jail.
  • Up to $1000 in fines.

At the judge's discretion, based on the case details, they might reduce the sentence to summary probation, but the restraining order remains in effect.

Notably, a second or subsequent violation and if violence was involved in the breach makes this crime a "wobbler" offense, meaning the district attorney can charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony. If you're convicted of a felony violation, the fine can be increased to $10,000, and you could face up to three years in state prison.

What Are PC 273.6 Legal Defenses?

Penal Code 273.6 PC violating a restraining order is a serious offense. Still, there are several strategies our Los Angeles domestic violence lawyers can raise on your behalf if you've been accused of violating one, as discussed below.

Perhaps we can argue that you did not know about the restraining order. If you were unaware that one had been issued against you, you can't be convicted of violating it. Perhaps you violated the RO before authorities could serve you with it, or the server could not locate you to hand you the order.

Violating a Restraining Order

Perhaps we can argue that you did not willfully violate the order. Maybe you randomly showed up at the exact location with the protected person and got too close. Accidental or incidental contact does not qualify as a willful violation.

Perhaps we can argue that the restraining order was not valid. If the RO was not properly served on you and you didn't have an opportunity to read it, then it's not legally valid. Perhaps we can argue it expired and was not renewed or that the judge had no basis for issuing the order.

Perhaps we can argue that you are the victim of a false allegation. It's not uncommon for someone to be falsely accused of violating a restraining order after an ugly relationship ended out of anger or jealousy.

If you or a family member were arrested and charged with domestic violence or violating a restraining order, contact us to review the details and discuss legal options. We can prepare the best domestic violence defenses to give you the chance of a favorable outcome. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA.

Related Content: