Responding to a Civil Protection Order in DC | Advising Respondants

If you are served with a temporary protection order and a notice to appear at a civil protection order hearing, you may benefit from consulting with an attorney at our firm. Most important, even if the allegations against you are fabricated or exaggerated, you should obey any temporary protection order entered against you. Even if your first instinct may be to contact the petitioner or go pick up your children in common from their school, it is in your best interests to read the temporary order carefully and obey it.

If you were actually the victim in the incidents that petitioner alleges or if you were defending yourself and the petitioner was in fact the first aggressor, you may consider filing a cross petition for a civil protection order. You should consult with an attorney about whether filing a case against the petitioner who filed against you makes sense or appears retaliatory.

There are many potential responses to a civil protection order in DC. For instance, if the respondent loses at trial and the civil protection order is issued, there may be a post-judgment motion that can be filed, or it may be possible to appeal.

Other instances that may justify a motion for relief after a judgment would be the respondent fails to present significant evidence because they were unable to obtain it from the petitioner who was unlawfully failing to provide it. In any case, you should consider responding to a civil protection order in DC quickly by consulting a lawyer who may be able to help you at the trial level instead of waiting for an appeal. Alternatively, you may also benefit from consulting a lawyer about an appeal.

Appealing a Civil Protection Order

Appealing a civil protection order may be difficult if the judge did not make a mistake about the law or concerning the admissibility of crucial evidence. In other words, if the only real issue in the case concerns your disagreement with the judge’s determination about the credibility of the witnesses or their testimony against you, then filing an appeal in response to a DC civil protection order could be an uphill battle.

An appellate issue could involve procedural error, an incorrect application of the law, or another legal issue. An appeal must be filed within 30 days. You should definitely consult an attorney as soon as an order against you is entered if you feel that your trial was unfair.

Even if your attorney agrees that there is an appealable issue or that the likelihood that you will win on appeal is good, the order issued by the court is final unless and until it is vacated or reversed. Because of the potential difficulty in winning a case on appeal, you should consult an attorney who may be able to represent you and win the case at the trial level. Because all civil protection orders contain prohibitions against respondents possessing firearms, even in connection with employment, it may be especially important for you as a security guard, police officer, or member of the military to  strategically respond to the civil protection order at trial.

It is also possible to negotiate  with the petitioner who may agree to vacate the civil protection order or modify some of its provisions.

In the case of an adverse order entered against you regarding the custody of children where, for example, the petitioner is awarded custody and you are awarded only supervised visitation, you may benefit from consulting with an experienced attorney. Filing a complaint for custody may be a way to get the relief from the civil protection order case that you seek.

Admitting to the Charges

In the domestic violence division, the respondent’s testimony is inadmissible against them in a later criminal proceeding – except in the case of prosecution for perjury or false statement. This rule is meant to encourage someone who may be willing to admit criminal wrongdoing, but not be overly punitive in the sense that then they can also be criminally responsible.

Do Children Have a Say?

A child’s wishes can sway a judge to make a particular order regarding which parent or guardian has custody. While it is always up to a party which witnesses to call, the court may frown on a party’s calling a young child, particularly a child in common, as a witness. Sometimes, even if the child seems like a good witness, the presence of both parties and the stress of testifying can make the child’s testimony less credible. You should consult with your lawyer if a child was present during an incident of domestic violence and the child may be a witness either for or against you.

With regard to children, it is possible for a child to file or respond to a civil protection order in DC by themselves, depending on their age. If the petitioner is a minor of at least 12 years of age, they should be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or custodian. At age  16, a child or a minor petitioner can file on behalf of themselves. A child can file against a parent, and a parent can file on behalf of the child against another parent, but a parent cannot file against a minor child.

Civil Protection Order Hearings and Criminal Prosecution

In situations where there is both a civil case and a criminal prosecution, petitioners often request that the civil protection order case trail the criminal prosecution, meaning that the criminal proceeding must conclude first. While that rule may benefit both parties, it primarily protects the petitioner’s rights.

If you are the respondent, you may oppose trailing because if the civil case goes forward, then you will know how the petitioner testifies and what they may be likely to say when they testify in the criminal case as well. Your lawyer may be able to use the petitioner’s testimony in a civil protection order against them when they testify as a witness in a criminal case. If your lawyer can show inconsistencies, then the judge in the criminal matter may find the petitioner or witness’s testimony less credible. If you are a respondent, you may want to consider retaining the same lawyer in your civil protection order defense as in your criminal proceeding.

There is a tremendous amount of strategy involved if you are the respondent and the petitioner files a civil case against you at the same time as the government is pursuing you in a criminal case for the same incident. Moreover, in the civil protection order case, your rights to the care, custody, and control of your children may be at issue, and so may your right to remain in your home. Our firm has expertise in civil and criminal domestic violence matters as well as family law cases and can help you understand and protect your rights when you are the respondent to a DC civil protection order case.