Better Safe Than Sorry: How to Comply with Conflicting Protection Orders
In Colorado, there is no legal limit on the number of protection orders that can be in place to restrain or protect a person at one time. Protection order terms can be very broad, such as prohibiting all contact of any kind with the victim. Or they can be very specific, such as prohibiting the restrained person from being within 50 feet of the victim’s home. Often, simultaneous protection orders have different restrictions and can cause confusion about how to comply with the orders.
The three types of Colorado protection orders:
- A temporary/emergency civil protection order is ordered by the court if the restrained party poses an imminent danger to the victim in the reasonably foreseeable future, pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-14-104;
- A permanent civil protection order is ordered by the court if the restrained party will continue to endanger, intimidate, or retaliate against the victim, pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-14-106; and
- A criminal protection order is required to be ordered by the court in all crimes involving a victim, including domestic violence, during the pendency of the criminal case, pursuant to C.R.S. § 18-1-1001.
If more than one protection order is in place, the restrained party must comply with the most restrictive terms of each order, even if the terms are from separate orders. For example, if a civil protection order allows all communication with the victim other than in-person communication but a criminal protection order only allows written communication with the victim via the Talking Parents app, the restrained party should only contact the victim through the Talking Parents app.
A protection order may include more than one protected victim, such as a parent and children involved in a criminal incident. In family law, when determining parenting time or an exchange location for the children, it is important to carefully read all protection order terms in order to avoid inadvertent violations.
Violating a protection order is a crime in Colorado. Violation of a civil protection order is a Class 2 Misdemeanor crime, punishable by up to one (1) year in jail, probation, fines, and community service. Violation of a criminal protection order is a Class 1 Misdemeanor Extraordinary Risk crime, punishable by up to two (2) years in jail, probation, fines, community service, and mandatory consecutive sentencing (“stacking” on top of other sentences) that involve the same victim.
Importantly, once a protection order is in place, the protection order terms cannot be changed by agreement of the parties, whether to tighten or loosen restrictions – only the court has the ability to modify the type of contact or communication, if any, that is allowed between the parties. If you find yourself confused by inconsistent protection orders, you should comply with the terms that are the most restrictive in order to avoid any violations.
Written by Joanne Morando, Associate Attorney