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Protection Orders

Protection Orders

Effective 7/1/22, Washington consolidated 6 different types of “protection orders” into one consolidated statute, RCW 7.105, the Civil Protection Order statute. The new statute covers anti-harassment protection orders, domestic violence protection orders, vulnerable adult protection orders, anti-stalking, cyber-stalking, extreme risk and sexual assault protection orders.  These “protection orders” are governed by statute.

“Restraining orders”, which can have much the same impact, are governed by Civil Rule 65. Regardless of the label they both generally mean an order of the court that prohibits a person from doing something. If they do it anyway, they can face criminal charges or civil contempt sanctions.

Temporary Restraining Orders

These can, and often are, imposed by the court upon initiation of a court case or soon thereafter.   Specific statutes also provide for the court to restrain a party. For example, RCW 26.09.050 authorizes a judge to prohibit either or both parties to a divorce from a variety of activities, such as relocating with a child out of state or moving money from bank accounts.  Such restraining orders can be obtained in emergency circumstances by formal motion to the court and are called “ex parte restraining orders”. Such restraining orders are often obtained for the duration of the litigation and are called “temporary restraining orders”.  See RCW 26.09.060(2).  In some courts, certain restraints are imposed mutually, on both parties, automatically when the case is filed.  See Snohomish County Superior Court Local Rule 94.04(b)(2).

Protection Orders

Protection orders are typically obtained to protect the petitioner from future unwanted contact with the defendant, based on various types of conduct the defendant has already done.

For example, anti-harassment protection orders can be obtained to protect from “a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to such person, and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose.” This relief was authorized by RCW 10.14.

Domestic violence protection orders can protect a person who has a family or dating relationship with another from contact with that person when shown that the defendant has engaged in domestic violence, defined as follows: ” (a) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking as defined in RCW  9A.46.110 of one family or household member by another family or household member.”

Vulnerable adult protection orders are available to those who are 60 years or older, or who have disabilities or receive caregiving assistance of some kind. RCW 7.105  protects such “vulnerable adults” from financial as well as physical exploitation or neglect by others and such a suit can be brought by any “interested person” on behalf of the vulnerable adult, in addition to DSHS Adult Protective Services. See Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders.

Anti-stalking protection orders were authorized under RCW 7.92, now RCW 7.105, and protect people who are being stalked or cyberstalked. These are available to people who are not covered by the domestic violence protection orders, which require some type of prior relationship.

Similarly, sexual assault protection orders protect people from future unwanted contact by those who have engaged in nonconsensual sexual contact with the petitioner.

No Contact Orders

NCOs are a specific type of restraining order, though the terms are often used informally as if interchangeable. NCOs are typically issued in criminal proceedings.  For example, a suspect arrested by the police for domestic violence typically has an NCO issued under RCW 10.99 to prohibit further contact with the alleged victim during the legal proceedings.

Frequently a single incident of alleged domestic violence can result in; 1) criminal charges and a no-contact order, 2)a domestic violence protection order and 3)an ex parte and/or temporary restraining order as part of a divorce proceeding. The interplay between the different types of proceedings and the different types of restraining orders can be complex and have dire consequences. Thus, retaining an experienced lawyer can be critical.

One can obtain a court-appointed criminal defense attorney if facing criminal charges, but there is no such right to a free lawyer in protection order proceedings or in divorce or family law proceedings generally.

For additional resources, see the King County Superior court Clerk’s webpage on protection and restraining orders.