Avoiding Accidental Violations of Protective Orders

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May 03

Lewis & Laws

Avoiding Accidental Violations of Protective Orders

by Lewis & Laws

The Basics: What Exactly Does Your Protective Order Prohibit?

The first step in avoiding accidental violations is to meticulously review your specific protective order and understand exactly what it restricts. The provisions can vary, but most protective orders in Seattle prohibit some combination of the following:

  • Coming within a certain distance (e.g., 500 feet) of the protected person's home, workplace, school, or anywhere they're known to frequent.
  • Contacting the protected person in any way, directly or indirectly, including in-person, by phone, text, email, mail, social media, or through third parties
  • Possessing firearms or other dangerous weapons
  • Going to certain locations where the protected person will predictably be at
  • Surveilling or having others monitor the protected person

Your order may include additional provisions based on your specific circumstances. Read through it carefully and make sure you understand every single prohibition. If anything is unclear, ask your Seattle criminal defense lawyer to explain it.

Pitfall #1: "Accidentally" Encountering the Protected Person in Public

One of the most common ways protective orders get violated is by "chance" meetings in public places. For example, let's say your protective order prohibits coming within 500 feet of your ex who works downtown. If you decide to have lunch at a popular downtown restaurant, and they happen to show up, you've now violated your order. Even if the meeting was unintentional, you have a duty to leave the area to avoid breaching the distance requirement immediately.

To prevent this, you must be hyper-vigilant about where you go and actively stay away from places the protected person is likely to be based on their known routine. This might mean having to change up your own habits and frequent different establishments to lower the odds of accidentally encountering them. It's inconvenient, but violating your order will be much worse.

Pitfall #2: Contacting the Protected Person Indirectly or Through Others

Your protective order almost certainly prohibits contacting the protected person directly or indirectly. Direct contact covers in-person conversations, phone calls, video chats, texts, email, postal mail, social media interactions, etc. It should go without saying that you must cease all direct contact and communication attempts with the protected person. There are no exceptions.

However, many protective orders get violated through indirect contact. Examples could include:

  • Asking a friend or relative to pass along a message to the protected person on your behalf
  • Tagging the protected person on social media or commenting on their posts, even without addressing them directly
  • "Coincidentally" showing up at events you know they'll attend
  • Sending gifts, letters, or packages through the mail or third-party delivery services

Pitfall #3: Failing to Promptly Leave When You See the Protected Person

Let's say you're strictly adhering to your protective order but still accidentally encounter the protected person somewhere like the grocery store. You're not in violation simply because you ended up in the same public space. However, you will be in violation if you fail to remove yourself from the situation immediately.

When you spot the protected person, you must promptly leave the area to get outside the distance restriction in the order. Don't linger, don't try to hide, don't finish up what you were doing first. Immediately stop what you're doing and briskly exit the premises. If you delay in getting away, it could be a violation.

Pitfall #4: Getting Baited into Violating the Order

In volatile situations, it's an unfortunate reality that the protected person may sometimes attempt to bait you into violating the order. Don't respond to messages, no matter how inflammatory. Refuse to engage through third parties, no matter how persuasive. If the person alleges an emergency, they are required to contact authorities rather than handle it yourself. If you're concerned that the person is at serious risk of harm, contact law enforcement yourself to conduct a welfare check rather than going directly.

Contact Our Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you do get accused of a violation, a skilled criminal defense attorney at Lewis & Laws, PLLC., can help. We can carefully review the alleged violation to determine if it truly is a violation as defined in your court order. Not all contact is necessarily prohibited by all orders. Our attorneys will also gather evidence to show the contact was accidental, inadvertent, or otherwise not a true violation.

If you did violate your protective order, our attorneys can negotiate with the prosecutor to have the charges dismissed or reduced, potentially by agreeing to certain conditions like GPS monitoring, stricter no-contact provisions, completing DV prevention courses, etc.

At Lewis & Laws, we offer aggressive legal assistance to Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, and Washington State individuals. Contact us today to explore your legal options. Protect your future and call us today!

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