So, you’re the restrained person in a no-contact order. How do you avoid getting charged with violating it?

No contact orders mostly come in two flavors: Domestic violence (DVPOs) and anti-harassment orders (AHOs). They are imposed to prevent contact between the protected party (the petitioner or victim) and the restrained party (respondent or defendant). When their imposed, the court is required to tell the restrained party that they can’t be within a certain distance of the protected party or the protected party’s home, school, workplace or anywhere else they may be. Further, if they see the protected party somewhere, even in a public place, they have to immediately leave.

Violating a no contact order requires two things:
1) knowing that a protection order exists and
2) knowingly violating it.

Knowing of the order’s existence typically requires being told by the judge in court or being served by an officer. A violation of an order can look like anything from an innocent text message or social media post to an angry phone call, to not leaving immediately upon running into the protected party. But the violation must be “knowing.” In other words, if the protected party is in the produce section and the restrained party is in frozen foods and unaware the protected party’s presence,
there is no violation. But if and when that presence is known, the restrained party must leave. No contact means no contact. The only exception to this? Service of legal papers, typically done by your attorney. Even if you are invited to contact the protected party or they show up at your front door, YOU CANNOT HAVE CONTACT! Because even invited contact is a violation of the order and thus, a crime. And remember, every friendly contact can go south in a hurry leading to a 911 call and., yes, criminal charges. The court may also make exceptions for discussing the health and welfare of children and arranging visitation. But again, these exceptions are severely limited and fraught with the prospect of an unintended violation and, yep, a criminal charge. And while your first or second no-contact order violations will be gross misdemeanors unless they involve violence, a third conviction can be charged as a felony.

Navigating no contact orders can be difficult, confusing and frustrating. If you find yourself the subject of a no-contact order you should contact an attorney experienced in criminal defense to discuss what you can and cannot do and how you might be able to get the order modified, terminated or withdrawn.

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