Domestic violence is rightly decried as abhorrent behavior and it is universally accepted that perpetrators of spousal and other domestic abuse should be punished to the full extent of the law. But heavy-handed laws, overzealous social workers and even well-meaning friends of alleged victims of abuse can create an environment where it is all too easy to falsely accuse a spouse or other cohabitant and cause serious damage to that person’s life. Even if the accused is later exonerated, often the damage to the persons reputation will be permanently colored in the eyes of their peers.
A protective order is a tool used by both criminal and civil courts to protect purported victims of domestic violence. Protective orders come in many shapes and sizes and many can have wide-ranging consequences for those that violate them. Depending on how they are applied, protective orders can become mind-bogglingly complex and put you at significant risk of multiple felony charges before you know what happened. To understand protective orders, it’s important to get some basic definitions out of the way first.