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When Is It Too Late to Request a Restraining Order?

Restraining orders and protective orders can apply to several different situations, from criminal domestic violence and stalking charges to civil lawsuits. And there are a variety of distinct types of orders and conditions they may contain.

But how long do you have after a crime, domestic incident, or lawsuit to file for a restraining order? Here's a look.

Protective Periods

There are generally four types of protection orders, and the time in which you have to request them may vary depending on the type of order involved and state/local law:

  1. Emergency Protection Orders: A short-term protection order typically given to a victim by police or a magistrate when an abuser is arrested for domestic violence. In some jurisdictions, EPOs may be automatically instituted following an arrest, and therefore don't require a victim to request one. These are generally only in force for a limited period of time, as few as three days or a week, which means a victim may need to request a longer-term protection order.
  2. Protection Orders: Sometimes called orders of protection or restraining orders, these apply for a longer term, typically one to five years. Timing and filing requirements can also vary by state, but victims will generally be required to file legal papers with a local court, present evidence at a hearing, and ensure the person to which the order applies has been served notice. (Police may be able to provide this for victims.) A victim can also renew the protection order before it expires if they still feel threatened by an abuser.
  3. Restraining Orders: Filed as part of a divorce or other kind of civil case, these restrict what certain parties to the case may or may not do. They can be filed while the case is ongoing, and generally apply for the duration of the case, after which more permanent orders can be put into place.
  4. Criminal Protection Orders: Like restraining orders, but in criminal cases, these can be applied to protect victims of a crime until the case is resolved by plea or at trial. Criminal protection orders are often requested by prosecutors, and can be used to protect witnesses as well.

Safety Statutes

Generally speaking, there is no deadline to file for a restraining order. If you feel your safety is in danger, contact law enforcement immediately. But, keep in mind that the earlier you request the order after a domestic violence incident or crime, the better. First off, immediately after a crime or incident may be when you're most in need of protection. And second, memories and facts can fade over time, so if you're presenting evidence in court to support a protection order, you'll want that evidence and testimony to be as fresh as possible.

If you have more questions or need help filing for a restraining order or other order of protection, contact an experienced attorney in your area.

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