I be Guilty of a Violation of an Order of Protection by Just Sending a Text Message?

Order-of-Protection-200x300Many times when someone is arrested and charged with a Domestic Battery the Court will issue an Order of Protection that seeks to protect the person claiming to be abused (Petitioner) from being harmed or harassed by the person who is being charged with the Domestic Battery. When I have a client (Respondent) that has an Order of Protection entered against them they often get confused and do not fully understand what this means and what they can and cannot do. I want to discuss what an Order of Protection is and what you need to do to protect yourself from Violating the order and getting into deeper trouble.

Basically an Order of Protection is a Court Order which prohibits someone from doing something. There’s two ways for an Order of Protection to come into existence. The most common way is when someone is arrested and charged with a Domestic Battery. At the first court date, which is usually the Bond Hearing, the court will enter an Order of Protection . This initial Order of Protection is only for a limited time until the Court conducts a hearing to determine whether to extend the Order of Protection or enter an Order of Protection that will last for as long as the Domestic Battery criminal case continues in court. This is called a Plenary Order of Protection.  Another way for an Order of Protection to be issued is when someone goes to court and files a Petition asking the court to issue a Temporary Order of Protection.  In cases like that, the Order of Protection is often issued without the other person being present in court and is only for a short period of time so that the other person can be notified to appear in court so that a hearing may be conducted to determine whether the Order of Protection should be extended or issued for up to two years.

Not every Order of Protection is the same. From my experience there’s basically two types of Orders of Protection that are usually entered. The most common Order of Protection is a “full no contact” Order of Protection. That type of Order of Protection provides that the Respondent is not allowed to have any contact whatsoever with the Petitioner.  The other type of Order of Protection that is commonly entered prohibits any harmful or offensive contact.  The full no contact Order of Protection means what the title says.  If you have that type of Order of Protection entered against you this means that you cannot have any contact whatsoever with the other person.  Those types of Orders usually provide that you cannot be within a certain number of feet of the other person, that you cannot go to their residence, that you cannot go to their place of employment and other places where they may be.  It also means that you cannot contact them by electronic means whatsoever. This includes email, social media, telephone calls, and text messages.  The reason that you are trying to contact that person is irrelevant.  The mere fact that you tried to contact them by sending an email or a text message, or posting something on their Facebook page is enough for you to be considered in Violation of the Order of Protection.

If you have the other type of Order of Protection entered against you, the Order of Protection which prohibits any harmful or offensive contact, then this usually means that you can have have limited contact with the Petitioner.  I have had such orders entered in cases in which the husband and wife have to make contact with each other because of visitation issues with minor children. I’ve had cases where the husband and wife work in the same place or even continue to live together.  When you have an Order of Protection like that entered against you it is very important that you look carefully at the exact language contained in that Order.  I have had cases where the Order of Protection states that contact can only be made for specific reasons.  I have a case right now where the Order of Protection says that the Respondent can only contact the Petitioner when it comes to issues involving the minor children. Contact for any other purpose is specifically prohibited.  So each case is different and you need to look very carefully at what is allowed and what is not allowed in the language of the Order of Protection.  But regardless of what is allowed you have to make sure that any contact or communication that is allowed in such a order is not going to be considered harmful or offensive by a Court.

If a court finds that you violated an Order of Protection by doing something that you are prohibited from doing, or by not doing something that you were supposed to do you can be charged with a crime. Most criminal charges involving the Violation of an Order of Protection are a Class A Misdemeanor in Illinois. The maximum punishment is up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500. Under limited circumstances you can be charged with a felony but most cases are misdemeanors.

James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 24 years of experience aggressively representing his clients in Domestic Battery and Violation of Order of Protection cases. If you have a Domestic Battery or Violation of Order of Protection case in Illinois, contact me in Cook (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

Additional Resources:

Illinois Violation of Order of Protection Statute, (720 ILCS 5/12-3-4)(was ILCS 5/12-30).