Protective Orders are powerful tools in the legal sphere. Protective Orders can be used to help ensure the safety of individuals in dangerous situations, such as victims of domestic violence. Additionally, Protective Orders can also be used to protect minor children from harmful situations or individuals, such as abusive or drug addicted parents. While Protective Orders are a powerful tool that can be used for good, they can also, by design, be used to wrongfully harm an individual who is not a threat to anyone. The Indiana Court of Appeals recently addressed this situation covered by this blog and overturned a protective order for such a reason in L.O. v. D.O.1
In L.O., the wife, D.O., filed a petition for an order for protection against her soon to be ex-husband, L.O. In the wife’s petition, she claimed that the husband: had threatened to take the children and run away; that the husband had threatened her regarding money that he thought she had taken; and that the husband demanded that the wife give him checks from Social Security. At the trial, the wife testified that “her only issue was he just kept texting me and texting me.” On cross-examination, the wife clarified that the husband had not, in fact, threatened her regarding the children. Instead, the only threats made by the husband were that he was going to report the wife to the police and Social Security. Furthermore, the husband had never physically or sexually harmed or abused the wife, nor did the husband threaten to do the same. The husband’s counsel argued that the Petition for the Protective Order should be dismissed because the evidence failed to establish that the husband stalked the wife. The trial court, despite the evidence to the contrary, denied the husband’s request and granted the wife’s petition for a Protective Order. The husband appealed.
On Appeal, the husband argued that the evidence was insufficient to support an issuance of a protective order. The Court went on to note, according to the Civil Protection Order Act, the individuals who are able to file for an order of protection. The Court concluded that the only possible category that the wife could have filed for a Protective Order was if the husband committed stalking as it was clear none of the others were applicable. The Court found that there was “insufficient probative evidence presented” to support the notion that the husband was “stalking” his wife. In reaching this conclusion, the Court relied on the fact that “contentious” text messages don’t necessarily constitute “threats” in order to rise to the level of “stalking.” Furthermore, the Court found that “both parties initiated text messages” and there was simply no evidence that the wife felt threatened by any of these messages. As such, the Court of Appeals reversed the Trial Court’s decision and dismissed the protective order.
While it is clear that there is a need for Protective Orders, and that Protective Orders do a lot of good for victims, there are certain situations in which they are used for the wrong reasons. By design, Protective Orders are very easy to obtain. The reasoning is that a victim of violence or abuse does not particularly have a lot of time to sit around and wait for the Court to go through the victim’s evidence, then go through the evidence of the alleged abuser, hear testimony from both sides, and then decide. The slow and long process of the law does not do too much good for a person who is being abused at home. As such, an individual can obtain a Protective Order with minimal evidence submitted to the Court. If for proper reasons, this is what the law is for. If illicit reasons, then a hearing can vacate the protective order.
Protective orders have serious consequences, such as Brady-disqualification and implications for employment. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle all aspects of protective orders throughout the State, including appeals and criminal actions stemming from alleged violations and charges for invasion of privacy. We hope you find this blog post informative about your legal rights. It is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.