Protective Orders, or POs, are a civil lawsuit used to protect a victim against a harasser or stalker. POs are in the nature of injunctive relief. Essentially, it is a court order prohibiting certain behavior of the harasser or stalker, towards the victim. A PO is NOT a No Contact Order. Popular portrayal in movies and TV shows often indicate that a Protective Order requires someone to stay at least so many feet or yards away from the victim. However, in Indiana, this is not true. Protective Orders can be tailored to the facts and circumstances of the parties involved, but generally, a PO prohibits further contact that is harassing, threatening, or stalking in nature.
The Indiana Civil Protection Order Act (ICPOA) is the controlling law.1 The ICPOA promotes the protection and safety of victims of domestic violence, in a fair and prompt manner.2 A person who is a victim of domestic violence may file a petition with their local court. The victim must state the instance or instances of violence committed by their alleged attacker. If the instances of violence are egregious enough, a court may review the petition and make a decision without a hearing or notice to the alleged attacker, in other words, ex parte, with a hearing following within thirty (30) days.3
When a court reviews a petition and grants a protective order, without notice or a hearing, certain constitutional rights could be violated. While the courts generally view that protecting a victim of domestic violence, outweighs the attacker’s rights, at least temporarily. The alleged attacker could be excluded or ousted from his or her own home (even if ownership is solely in the name of alleged attacker, and not at all in the name of the victim), be ordered to stay away from the victim’s place of employment (which could cause problems if the victim and alleged attacker work together), and / or restrict use of a vehicle (in cases of married persons). Additionally, Protective Orders are quasi (or semi) criminal. This is because, after a hearing, someone who has a Protective Order issued against them is deprived of possession of guns during the time the PO is in place (Brady disqualified).
In the last decade, the issuance of Protective Orders in Indiana has increased from 24,400, to 34,500, in other words, an almost 30% increase.4
The facts and circumstances surrounding the issuance of a PO, and what constitutes domestic violence, stalking under the ICPOA are dispositive in determining if a PO should be issued. Domestic, or family violence, is defined as “the occurrence or at least one (1) of the following acts committed by a family or household member: (1) Attempting to cause, threatening to cause, or causing physical harm to another family or household member [or] (2) Placing a family or household member in fear of physical harm.”5
When faced with a protective order, even if the allegations made against you are untrue or what you feel is an exaggeration, it is important to fight these cases head on. When an Ex Parte Protective Order (without a hearing) is issued, you are already fighting an uphill battle, as many of your rights have been restricted. Moreover, if you lose at a hearing on the merits, meaning you presented your evidence, the alleged victim presented theirs, and the court ultimately ruled that a Protective Order is justified, you will lose some constitutional rights, such as potentially possession of your home, car, or belongings, as well as a restriction on your right to possess firearms, and potentially cause months or years of not being able to have parenting time or custody of your child. Moreover, should you violate the PO, which can easily be done by being someplace that the “victim” shows up (a local grocery store) you could face criminal charges. Other unintended consequences of Protective Orders are that your job, or future ability to obtain employment could be jeopardized. This is why it is important to understand all the negative implications of having a protective order issued against you, and the need to do due diligence and fight the case.
We hope that you have found this information to be helpful in understanding Civil Protective Orders in Indiana. This is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions or concerns about your specific case, CIYOU & DIXON, P.C. can help evaluate your specific case. This blog post was written by Attorney, Lori B. Schmeltzer.