What is an Order of Protection?
In Missouri, an “order of protection” is a civil court order that requires one person to stay away from, maintain distance from, and/or avoid contact with another person or persons. Although they are similar to the more commonly known “restraining order,” they are in fact different. Most notably, an order of protection violation carries the weight of a criminal penalty.
When should I seek an order of protection against someone?
If you are in a relationship with, reside with, or are related to someone who causes you to fear for your safety or the safety of your children, or if you are being stalked or harassed, you can request an order of protection against that person. The order may prohibit the respondent (the person restrained) from contacting or coming within a certain distance of the petitioner (the person requesting the order) or another person. Orders of protection are most frequently sought in the context of domestic violence—that is, where the parties have a familial relationship, a romantic relationship, or have been household members. However, a domestic relationship is not required for orders of protection in cases of stalking or harassment.
The attorneys of KesslerWilliams have successfully assisted those in fear for their safety obtain an order of protection. They are familiar with the procedures at the courthouse and work with the courthouse staff in place to assist you with this process. Our attorneys also advise you on completing required court forms and advocate on your behalf to judges.
What should I do if I was served with an order of protection?
If you have been served with paperwork as the respondent, you must act quickly. You should first consider contacting a lawyer to assist you. You can then discuss with your lawyer whether you were served with an Ex Parte Order of Protection or with a Notice of Hearing. An Ex Parte Order of Protection is a temporary order of protection that carries the force of law as soon as it is served upon you. You will also want to take special note of the court date. Missouri law states that order of protection hearings must be held within fourteen (14) days of the filing, unless good cause is shown for a continuance. If you fail to attend your court date, a full order can be entered against you in your absence.
The attorneys of KesslerWilliams are experienced with defending orders of protection. They will help you examine the allegations and assist you in gathering evidence and defending against those allegations. Our attorneys will meet with you personally, and the initial strategy session is always free.
What should I do if I missed a court date for my order of protection?
If you were the respondent (the person restrained), a full order of protection may have been issued against you (a judgment entered in your absence is known as a default judgment). An order of protection entered by default judgement carries with it all the restrictions and consequences as if you had attended a hearing and lost. If you receive notice that such an order has been entered and you would like to try to contest that order, you should contact an attorney immediately.
The attorneys at KesslerWilliams have successfully challenged default judgments, which requires the court to reopen the hearings and then successfully defending our clients against the substance of the orders of protection.
What happens at an Order of Protection hearing?
These cases are heard by an associate circuit court judge in the jurisdiction in which they were filed. At an order of protection hearing, each side has the option to try and negotiate a successful resolution before proceeding to a hearing. If the parties are unable to agree to some type of resolution, a hearing will be held and evidence will be presented to the judge, similar to hearings or trials in other matters. This means each party will have an opportunity to call witnesses and have them testify, as well as the right to cross-examine the other party’s witnesses to elicit any mistakes, biases, or misrepresentations in their evidence.
The attorneys at KesslerWilliams have tried serious and complex criminal cases in federal and state courts in Missouri and Illinois. We bring our extensive courtroom experience to bear on your side in Order of Protection cases. We have extensive experience representing both petitioners and respondents in these matters. We can assist you with every step of your order of protection case, including filing, negotiating, and trying your order of protection case before a judge.
Consequences of an Order of Protection
Federal Firearms Ban
Although orders of protection are litigated in Missouri state courts, one of their most impactful consequences stems from a federal law that, in most cases, prevents a person from possessing a gun or ammunition while a full order of protection is active. Title 18 U.S.C. § 922 restricts the right to possess a gun or ammunition for certain individuals, including:
[…] a person subject to a court order that was issued after a hearing in which the person participated, which order restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or partner’s child, and which order includes a finding that the person is a credible threat to such partner or partner’s child, or by its terms prohibits the use, attempted use or threatened use of such force against such partner or partner’s child.
No violation of the order of protection is required to trigger this restriction; if the statute is applicable in your case, you are automatically prohibited from possessing a firearm as soon as the full order of protection is entered against you. Violation of this statute is a federal offense punishable up to ten (10) years imprisonment and/or a fine of up $250,000.
The attorneys at KesslerWilliams understand and appreciate your gun rights. If you are fearful of losing your right to possess a gun as a result of an order of protection filed against you, then you need to hire the attorneys at KesslerWilliams in order to defend your rights.
Other Consequences in Missouri
Section 455.085 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri establishes the criminal penalties if you are found guilty of violating an order of protection. Violation of an order of protection is a class A misdemeanor, with a range of punishment of up to one (1) year in jail and / or a fine of up to $2,000.00. If, within five (5) years of a violation, you have previously been found guilty of violating an order of protection, the violation becomes a class E felony, punishable from one (1) day in jail up to four (4) years in jail. Like any other criminal offense, you can be arrested and temporarily jailed merely by an accusation that you violated the order.
In addition to the restriction of your gun rights and the risk of jail time, there are many other possible consequences attached to an order of protection that can negatively affect the respondent’s life. Under Missouri law, a full order of protection can:
- Prohibit the respondent from entering the petitioner’s residence (even if the respondent lived there, too!)
- Award custody of minor children of the parties to the petitioner
- Establish a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent or deny visitation altogether
- Award child support
- Order respondent to make rent or mortgage payments, possibly even including at a new residence
- Order that specified items of personal property be in the temporary possession of petitioner, including automobiles
- Prohibit respondent from selling or disposing of certain items
- Require the respondent to complete court-mandated counseling or other programs
- Order the respondent to pay court costs and the petitioner’s attorney’s fees
- Order the respondent to compensate the petitioner for medical services if the petitioner’s injuries are found to be the result of the respondent’s conduct.
After an order or protection is entered, they can be ordered to renew automatically for a second year and can be extended for up to three (3) years total.
For all these reasons, you need to contact attorneys at KesslerWilliams as soon as possible. The attorneys at KesslerWilliams fight for your freedom, family, reputation, and future.
Because they are court proceedings, orders of protection matters are public records and are viewable on publicly accessible websites like Case.net. This means that future employers, romantic partners, and others can view an order of protection that has been filed against you.
You should not risk your rights and reputation without the assistance of an attorney. The attorneys of KesslerWilliams have successfully defended clients in order of protection hearings resulting in the dismissal of the allegations against them. We have also negotiated favorable resolutions that avoided the uncertainty of a hearing, while protecting the rights of our clients.