What can I do if the abuser violates the order?
If the order is violated, you can call the police or sheriff department even if you think it is a minor violation. You can also file a motion for contempt notifying the judge of the violation and requesting that the judge enforce the order. It can be a crime and contempt of court if the abuser knowingly violates a provision in the order in any way. A judge can punish someone for being in contempt of court.
Violating an order can be a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in the county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.1 However, if the violation of the order is within five years of a previous conviction for violating an order of protection and the order of protection was issued after a hearing (not an ex parte order), it is a Class D felony. A Class D felony is punishable by up to six years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.2
A law enforcement officer can arrest someone for violating an order of protection if the officer has probable cause to believe that the terms of the order of protection were violated, even if the violation did not take place in the presence of the law enforcement officer.3
If the police are not involved or do not arrest him/her or file a criminal complaint against him/her, you may still have the right to go to the District Court and take out a criminal complaint against him/her. It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case.
Note: At trial, if the abuser can prove that any of the following are true, s/he can be found “not guilty” for violating the order:
- you and the abuser got back together before the violation of the order of protection; or
- you invited the abuser to come to your home or workplace and any of the following are true:
- you knew that the abuser’s presence at your home or workplace would be in violation of the order of protection;
- you arranged/invited the abuser to meet at a location or you took affirmative steps to communicate with the abuser with the promise that you would not report him/her to law enforcement for violating the order of protection; or
- you visited the abuser’s home or workplace without any threat, duress, or coercion on the part of the abuser.4
1 Ark. Code § 9-15-207(b)(1)
2 Ark. Code §§ 9-15-207(b)(2); 5-53-134(b)(2); 5-4-401(a)(5); 5-4-201(a)(2)
3 Ark. Code § 5-53-134(c)(1)
3 Ark. Code § 5-53-134(d)