May 28th, 2023

What is the Difference Between a Protection Order and a No-Contact Order in Washington State?

Every relationship encounters challenges at some point. However, if tensions between you and your spouse, dating partner, or ex have escalated to the point where you fear for your physical safety, it’s essential to recognize that you have options for getting out of this dangerous situation. When most people think of the term “restraining order,” they tend to assume that this type of protection is ordered by the court and prevents the named individual from contacting or approaching the individual seeking the restraining order. While many assume that a Protection Order and a No-Contact Order can be used interchangeably to refer to a restraining order, these terms actually refer to two different legal procedures. No-Contact Orders concern criminal matters, while Protection Orders apply to civil matters. This post will explore the key differences between Protection Orders and No-Contact Orders in Washington state.

No-Contact Orders For Criminal Matters

No-Contact Orders are only involved in criminal matters, not civil cases. This type of order can be initiated by a judge as part of a criminal case. For instance, if the defendant faces domestic violence charges, the judge may issue a No-Contact Order to protect the alleged victim during this time. It’s important to note that the victim does not initiate a No-Contact Order—this decision is up to the judge.

The Purpose of No-Contact Orders

Under RCW 10.99.040, “Because of the likelihood of repeated violence directed at those who have been victims of domestic violence in the past, when any person charged with or arrested for a crime involving domestic violence is released from custody before arraignment or trial on bail or personal recognizance, the court authorizing the release may prohibit that person from having any contact with the victim.” Essentially, the judge may issue a No-Contact Order to prevent the defendant from contacting or harassing the alleged victim while the defendant awaits trial.

The Impact of No-Contact Orders

In general, No-Contact Orders tend to last much longer than Civil Protection Orders. They can last years (or even decades), and they are often more expansive than Civil Protection Orders because they accompany criminal proceedings involving serious offenses (i.e., domestic assault, battery, sexual violence, etc.). Additionally, those subjected to a No-Contact Order must surrender all firearms, dangerous weapons, and any concealed pistol license. Violating the terms of the No-Contact Order carries criminal penalties, as specified under RCW 7.105.450, including fines, possible jail time, or both.

Civil Protection Orders in Washington State

Washington lawmakers recognize that divorce and separation can be emotionally fraught legal processes. When tensions run high, one spouse may fear for their safety. In civil matters like divorce or legal separation, someone may petition the court for a Civil Protection Order, such as a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) or an Anti-Harassment Protection Order (AHPO), to shield them from harm or danger as they move through the legal process.

How Civil Protection Orders Work

Unlike a No-Contact Order that is initiated by a judge as part of a criminal matter, Civil Protection Orders must be initiated by an individual seeking protection from an intimate partner, spouse, or family member. The individual seeking the order must locate, complete, and file the necessary documents with the court. The civil court will review the filed petition and schedule a hearing. Sometimes, the court may decide to issue a Temporary Protection Order that restricts the Respondent from contacting or harassing the petitioner until the matter can be fully adjudicated. Violating the terms of the Temporary Order may result in criminal penalties.

Navigating the Hearing and What Happens After

Both parties will have the opportunity to testify and provide written materials to the court in regard to the Protection Order matter. The court will determine whether to grant the petitioner’s request for the Protection Order. Protection Orders generally expire after one year, but the person seeking the order may petition the court to have the Order extended. It’s important to recognize that violating the terms of a Civil Protection Order carries serious consequences, including potential criminal penalties (i.e., fines, jail time, etc.).

Protect Your Future Today

If you are struggling with a divorce, legal separation, or another type of family law dispute, consider enlisting the guidance and support of a trusted Seattle attorney to help you move forward with greater clarity and confidence. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and isolated during this challenging and turbulent time, but you do not have to face it alone. Your attorney will answer your questions, address your concerns, and help you take the necessary steps to secure your desired outcome.

Reach out to the dedicated and compassionate legal team at the Hemmat Law Group today by calling our Seattle office at (206) 682-5200.