Virginia has broad laws prohibiting violent acts between family members (including both those related by blood and by law) as well as between people who have cohabited together in the past year. Part of the protection scheme that Virginia has instituted, along with criminalizing the behavior, is to set up a system of protective orders. Protective orders are intended to protect family members from one another in cases where there has been or where there is an imminent threat of domestic violence.

An Overview of Domestic Violence Law in Virginia

Domestic violence in Virginia is known as “family abuse.” It covers blood relatives (parents, children, grandparents, etc.), relatives by law (spouses, in-laws, etc.), and even roommates.  It applies in situations regardless of whether the parties live together or not (spouses, ex-spouses, and close blood relatives), whereas some relationships (in-laws, roommates) require the parties to reside together or, in the case of roommates, to have lived together in the last year.

Family abuse prohibits intentional violent acts or threats of violent acts amongst family members. These acts include assault and battery, rape, and stalking, among others.

What is a Protective Order?

Virginia law provides recourse to those who feel threatened or have been victims of family abuse through the mechanism of protective orders. They are designed to limit or eliminate contact by the accused with the family members who are making the allegations of abuse.  There are three types of protective orders under Virginia law: 

Emergency Protective Order

Preliminary Protective Order

Protective Order

The similarities and differences will be examined below.

The Emergency Protective Order (EPO)

An EPO can be obtained either by law enforcement or by a victim from a magistrate. The EPO is only good for 72 hours and must end on a day that the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court is open. It must be noted that the EPO is issued for “cooling off” purposes and cannot be used as evidence of wrongdoing against the accused.

The Preliminary Protective Order (PPO)

A PPO can be issued either by the court or through the Court Service Unit. These orders are issued when a person claims that they have been the victim of family abuse or they are in immediate danger of being a victim. PPOs should last no longer than 15 days as a full hearing on the order is required to be held within that time frame, the date of which is specified by the PPO. PPOs can be issued ex parte, which means that the accused does not have to be present or even notified of the PPO.

The Protective Order (PO)

The PO can only be issued after notice is provided to both parties and after a full hearing in front of a judge. The PO can have a variety of impacts including:

No contact between the parties

Granting a residence to a victim

Awarding control of a jointly owned vehicle to a party

Granting temporary custody of children

The PO is good for a specific date named by the court up to two years. There are serious ramifications for violating the requirements of the PO, as well.

Allegations of family abuse are a serious matter but they are still only allegations. Even if you are accused, you still have rights. Virginia’s system for issuing protective orders does not require a conviction to allow for a restrictive PO to be issued and you have the opportunity to defend your rights. You need a skilled attorney to make sure you don’t lose everything you have worked for. Jad Sarsour is experienced in navigating the tense legal environment that is created in these situations. If you are facing a Protective Order in Northern Virginia, give him a call today at (571) 316-2639 to ensure that you get your day in court.   

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The Fairfax Criminal Defense Law firm of Jad Sarsour, represents clients throughout Northern Virginia and regularly appears in all courts, including: Fairfax County Fairfax City | Prince William County | Arlington County Alexandria City Loudoun County | Federal Court (Eastern District/VA)