What Is a No-Contact Order?

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A no-contact order is a legal order from a court requiring that one person avoid physical and verbal contact with another, whether it’s in person or over the internet. Here’s what else you should know about no-contact orders.

How a No-Contact Order Works

The rules of a no-contact order may vary somewhat by state, so the following are only general guidelines.

In most cases, a judge will impose a no-contact order during a defendant’s initial appearance or arraignment. Depending on the local rules, this may be something the prosecuting side requests, but judges may also be able to set it at their discretion.

When filing this order, the court will specify the exact details, such as how many feet the defendant must stay away. The defendant usually cannot speak to or see the petitioner at home, school, or work.

No-contact orders typically have a set timeframe, though a prosecuting side can ask for an extension. Judges may lift it earlier if they believe the order is no longer necessary.

Defendants who violate a no-contact order may receive a fine or jail time.

The exception to no-contact orders is in a courtroom, where the people involved may need to stand or sit within closer proximity than the order allows. However, courts intentionally maintain distance even in these situations.

Some states only issue no-contact orders for criminal cases. Orders for civil cases may resemble a no-contact order but don’t technically qualify for it. In these cases, defendants are more likely to receive a restraining order.

What’s the Difference Between a No-Contact Order and a Restraining Order?

No-contact orders are only granted by courts after a qualifying situation occurs or is at least alleged to have occurred, by someone involved in the case.

For example, if one person charges another with domestic abuse, they can request a no-contact order to stop the accused (the defendant) from coming into contact with them.

People do not need to be direct victims of an incident to obtain a no-contact order. Courts frequently impose these to stop defendants from talking to witnesses to a crime.

Restraining orders are fundamentally similar but do not require a problem to exist first. Restraining orders, unlike no-contact orders, can be used as preventative measures by people concerned for their safety.

The Two Types of No-Contact Orders

Most states have two specific types of no-contact orders.

The first is a civil no-contact order, which is most common when people are neither family nor romantically involved with each other. This is the type of order most people seek when dealing with stalkers, non-family abusers, or acquaintances.

States can also have a domestic violence no-contact order, which has specific rules and guidelines. Domestic violence no-contact orders are more common between family members or people who at least live together.

In cases like these, judges may have to grant temporary custody of children while handling the rest of the issue.

How To Get a No-Contact Order

The most common way of getting a no-contact order is by filing a request with a local court. This can happen in either the petitioner’s or the defendant’s jurisdiction (if those are different).

From there, the petitioner usually has to go before a judge to answer some questions and get the order. Most appearances for this are in-person, but judges may allow video contact or waive this requirement entirely if circumstances dictate it.

For example, if a petitioner is in the hospital, the court typically doesn’t expect them to show up.

Petitioners can also request emergency hearings to get a temporary restraining order. Whether the order is temporary or permanent, it needs to be served to the defendant before going into effect.

While you can go through this process yourself, most people prefer getting an attorney. Getting a no-contact order is often an early step in a long legal process, and it’s better to use a lawyer from the start if you need one at all.

Lifting a No-Contact Order

No-contact orders are usually dropped when they’re considered unnecessary, meaning that the person the order protects is no longer in danger. For example, if a domestic abuser is sentenced to life in prison, there’s no need to maintain the order once they’re locked up.

You can attempt to lift the order at any time by submitting paperwork to the court (usually through a county clerk), after which a judge will review the information.

Judges usually decide this based on what they think is best for the victim, so a defendant’s opinions mean little to nothing in the final determination.

What Happens When Someone Breaks a No-Contact Order?

The response from a court when someone violates a no-contact order depends on the severity of the violation.

If a defendant incidentally passed 99 yards away when the order requires a hundred and didn’t even realize the petitioner was nearby, they might get an admonishment to remain mindful of their surroundings but nothing worse than that.

However, intentional violations can lead to fines or misdemeanor charges. More serious violations, such as aggressively confronting the petitioner or brandishing a firearm, can lead to felony charges.

Courts usually assume that anyone who violates a no-contact order is trying to threaten or harm the petitioner. Claims like “I love her so much, I just can’t stay away” are not acceptable excuses for violating the order, and multiple violations can lead to a rapid escalation of punishment.

What If a Petitioner Doesn’t Want a No-Contact Order?

Judges may consider a petitioner’s opinion, but they can often impose the order regardless of any petitioner’s objection to it. No-contact orders are mainly for the petitioner’s safety, and if the judge decides a petitioner is being irrational, they may impose the order just to ensure their safety.

How Long Do No-Contact Orders Last?

Temporary no-contact orders usually last up to thirty days, or until the court can hold a hearing to decide on a permanent duration.

Other no-contact orders usually last up to one year, with the option for extending it as circumstances warrant. It’s always better to extend the order before it expires. Extending it can take some time, so it’s usually better to refresh the order as early as possible.

Are There Other Types of Protection Orders?

Yes. No-contact orders are one of the most popular options that people request, but there are other options, especially for civil cases.

As with all types of court orders, the rules (and presence) of these orders may vary by jurisdiction. Therefore, this is only a general guide to what might be available in your area.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders are available to people who are experiencing, or fear experiencing, something like stalking, sexual assault, or bodily injury from a household or family member.

In this context, household members include people they’re dating or in a relationship with, but not people a petitioner has no relationship with.

A Stalking Protection Order is specifically for protecting against stalking by someone who’s not a family or household member. Stalking protection orders may or may not involve other legal charges later on.

Anti-Harassment Protection Orders are available for people who are engaging in illegal or harassing activities. They usually require alarming, annoying, or distressing the victim, but with the caveat that the actions have no lawful purpose.

For example, working on a construction site a block away is usually not harassment, even if it’s loud and annoying.

Sexual Assault Protection Orders are available against people who are performing nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration. Unlike some other protection orders, these are often available permanently instead of for just one year.

Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders are available against people who may be abandoning, abusing, exploiting, or neglecting an adult (usually, but not always, a senior). It’s often possible for a relevant third-party to file this on someone else’s behalf.

Extreme Risk Protection Orders are filed when family, household members, or possibly law enforcement believe that someone having a firearm is dangerous.

They only require surrendering and prohibition of using firearms but do not stop contact between people. You can pair this with another protection order.

Restraining Orders are usually civil actions and may not apply to criminal cases in all jurisdictions. If there’s evidence of a crime, a no-contact order is usually given instead.

What If I Need a No-Contact Order And Can’t Afford a Lawyer?

While you can always try to deal with the court yourself, you can also look for pro bono services. These cover varied services and are available at reduced or even no cost for clients who cannot afford to hire an attorney.

Many no-contact orders are straightforward situations in court and available with only minimal time and effort by an experienced attorney, so it may be easier to get this sort of help than you expect.

If you want to file the order yourself, look at the appropriate court’s website and follow the instructions on the forms exactly.

Double-check every field on the form and provide as much information as possible. Getting help from an attorney is always better, but if you can’t manage that, checking your forms can help you avoid common issues.

Conclusion

A non-contact order can help protect vulnerable individuals, is easy to apply for, and can be used in conjunction with other forms of legal action. You can apply to them in a court of law with or without a lawyer’s services.

Reference Legal Explanations

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  • " What Is a No-Contact Order?". Legal Explanations. Accessed on November 27, 2022. https://legal-explanations.com/blog/what-is-a-no-contact-order/.

  • " What Is a No-Contact Order?". Legal Explanations, https://legal-explanations.com/blog/what-is-a-no-contact-order/. Accessed 27 November, 2022

  • What Is a No-Contact Order?. Legal Explanations. Retrieved from https://legal-explanations.com/blog/what-is-a-no-contact-order/.

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