Prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officers in California take domestic violence quite seriously. Each year in the U.S., more than 300,000 women go to doctors or emergency rooms for medical treatment after domestic violence incidents, and more than a thousand women are killed in the U.S. each year in domestic violence incidents.

The United States spends over $8 billion every year in medical and mental health services related to domestic violence. That sum does not include the legal costs of domestic violence or the disastrous effect that domestic violence can have on children.

In the state of California, one tool that our judges use to restrain domestic violence is a court order called a Domestic Violence Restraining Order or DVRO. If you are named as the subject of a DVRO issued by a judge in California, you must adhere to its terms, and you must attend the hearing that is scheduled when a DVRO is issued.

Anyone in this state who violates a Domestic Violence Restraining Order may be ordered to serve time in jail or to pay a fine, or both. The first thing you should do if you become the subject of a DVRO in Southern California is to obtain the help of an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.

If a law enforcement officer in Southern California responds to a domestic violence call, the officer can call a judge at any time of day and ask for an Emergency Protective Order which takes effect immediately. An Emergency Protective Order stays in effect for five business days or seven calendar days (whichever is shorter), which gives the alleged victim a chance to request a DVRO, which will stay in effect longer. Still, an Emergency Protective Order can potentially, temporarily keep you apart from your home and children.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ANSWER A DVRO?

Whether or not an Emergency Protective Order is issued first, a DVRO goes into effect when the person named is served with it. Along with copies of the DVRO, the person named in the DVRO will also receive a Form DV-120, the “Answer to Temporary Restraining Order.” It is imperative to file your Answer with the court promptly and with a defense attorney’s help.

The Answer is your single chance to respond to the alleged victim’s claims prior to the DVRO hearing. Your Answer must be filed with the court prior to the scheduled hearing date, to allow the judge time to review it before the DVRO hearing. Have your attorney help you complete Form DV-120.

The person named in the DVRO additionally receives a Form DV-109, the “Notice of Court Hearing.” The DV-109 lists the date, time, and location of the DVRO hearing. But even if you are not able to file an Answer to the Domestic Violence Restraining Order, you must attend the DVRO hearing. That’s where a California judge will decide whether to cancel the DVRO, change its terms, or issue a permanent restraining order.

WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL TERMS OF A DVRO?

In Southern California, anyone who becomes the subject of a DVRO should be accompanied to the DVRO hearing by an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. A DVRO’s terms can be severe. Form DV-110 (“Temporary Restraining Order”) will list the precise terms of the order that has been issued against you.

When you receive a Domestic Violence Restraining Order:

  • You will not be permitted to contact the alleged victim of domestic violence.
  • You will not be allowed to go to particular places or engage in particular activities.
  • You may not be allowed to see your children.
  • You may have to move from your home.
  • If you are an immigrant, a DVRO may impact your immigration status.
  • You must surrender, sell, or place in storage any firearms you own, and you may not purchase a firearm while the DVRO is in effect.
  • If you contact the alleged victim of domestic violence, you will violate the DVRO.

The violation of a DVRO can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor, and incarceration is likely upon conviction. The DVRO hearing is your opportunity to let a judge consider your side of the story. After a DVRO hearing, a judge can issue a restraining order that can stay in effect for up to five years.

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At the end of that time, the alleged victim can request a judge to extend the order another five years or even permanently. If you do not appear at the DVRO hearing, a judge can issue a permanent DVRO and may also issue orders regarding your children, child support, and related matters without your input. These court orders can stay in effect for up to three years.

WHO MAY REQUEST A DVRO?

Who may request a Domestic Violence Restraining Order? A spouse or a former spouse may request a DVRO, and also a cohabitant or a former cohabitant, a person with whom the person named in the DVRO is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship, a person with whom the person named in the DVRO has had a child, and any other person “related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree.” A “cohabitant” simply means a person who resides regularly in the household and is not limited to romantic partners; it can include parents, grandparents, children, and other relatives.

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Some of those accused of domestic violence may, in fact, have been acting in self-defense. Others who are accused may be the targets of completely fabricated accusations. If you are served with a DVRO or if you are charged with a crime of domestic violence in Southern California, you will need to be represented by an attorney who can cut through the acrimony, put a spotlight on the facts, and fight tenaciously for justice on your behalf.

In other words, you will need to be represented by an experienced Los Angeles domestic violence attorney. You will need to work closely with an attorney who knows the court system here in Southern California, someone who routinely handles restraining order cases and domestic violence cases. Putting a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side is the wisest way to respond to a DVRO or to any accusation of domestic violence in Southern California.

By: Douglas Miranda

Los Angeles criminal attorney Douglas Miranda graduated with honors from California State University, Los Angeles, and earned his J.D. from Western State College of Law in Fullerton. Since his admission to practice law in California, he has received special training and certification in forensic science, jury selection, and sex crime defense. Mr. Miranda also helps clients terminate their probations early and expunge their criminal records.

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