What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Arizona?
For the purposes of getting an order of protection, Arizona law defines “domestic violence” as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts:
- assault or aggravated assault, such as hitting or kicking you;
- threatening or intimidating you, as defined by law;
- sexual assault;
- use of an electronic communication to terrify, intimidate, threaten or harass;
- harassment or aggravated harassment;
- surreptitious photographing, videotaping, filming or digitally recording or viewing, which the law defines as photographing, videotaping, recording, or secretly watching you without your consent:
- while you are in a private place (i.e., bathroom, bedroom) doing a private act (i.e., urinating, having sexual intercourse); or
- while your breasts, buttocks, or genitals are exposed in a way that they are not normally exposed in public;
- the unlawful distribution of nude/sexual images of you/your child;
- endangerment (placing you at risk of immediate death or physical injury);
- unlawful imprisonment;
- criminal trespass in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degrees;
- criminal damage;
- interfering with judicial proceedings;
- custodial interference;
- negligent homicide, manslaughter, and murder in the 1st degree or 2nd degree;
- cruelty to animals, but only if it involves:
- intentionally causing cruel neglect or abandonment of a pet in that person’s care that results in serious physical injury to the animal;
- intentionally causing any animal to suffer cruel mistreatment;
- preventing or interfering with the use of a telephone in an emergency, as described in subsection (a)(3) of the law;
- aggravated domestic violence, as defined by law;
- abuse to a vulnerable adult or child;
- dangerous crimes against children, as defined by law; and/or
- disorderly conduct but only if it involves:
- fighting, violent, or seriously disruptive behavior;
- making unreasonable noise;
- recklessly handling, displaying or discharging a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument;
- using abusive or offensive language or gestures to someone in a way that is likely to provoke that person to take immediate physical retaliation.1
Note: For the act to be considered domestic violence, you must have a specific relationship with the abuser, which is explained in Who can get an order of protection?
To read the legal definitions of these crimes, you can go to our Selected Arizona Statutes page.
1 A.R.S. § 13-3601(A)
What types of protection orders are there? How long do they last?
A domestic violence order of protection is a civil court order from a judicial officer, such as a judge or magistrate. There are two types of orders of protection:
Emergency Orders of Protection (EOP). Emergency orders of protection are designed to protect people in immediate and present danger of domestic violence. A judicial officer can grant an EOP orally or in writing. The EOP is valid for seven calendar days. You should file for a more permanent order of protection from the court before the emergency order expires. To get an EOP, contact a law enforcement officer who can help you get one.1
Counties with a population of 150,000 or more are required to have EOPs available after court hours and will issue them by phone. (These counties include Maricopa, Mohave, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai, and Yuma.)2 Counties with a population of 150,000 or less may issue EOPs by phone but they are not required to.1 However, in these counties, you can receive protection through a registered release order. For more information, see What is a release order?
Orders of Protection. When you file for an order of protection in court during regular business hours, a judge can issue you an order of protection without a full court hearing and without the abuser present. To determine whether the order should be issued, the judge will review:
- your petition;
- any other “pleadings,” which are documents in which either party makes or responds to allegations; and
- any evidence offered by you, including any evidence of harassment by electronic contact or communication.3
The judge is supposed to issue an order of protection if there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may commit an act of domestic violence or that s/he committed an act of domestic violence within the past year or within a longer period of time if there is “good cause” for the judge to consider a longer period of time.3
An order of protection lasts for two years after it is served on the abuser. This is true even if the order is modified (changed).4 However, at any time that your order is in effect, the abuser has the right to request a hearing to request that the order of protection be changed or dismissed. The hearing will be held within ten days from the date requested unless the judge finds a good reason to continue the hearing. However, if you are granted exclusive use of the home, the hearing must be held within five days from the date requested. If s/he does request a court hearing, you must attend that hearing or else the judge may dismiss your order of protection, also known as “quashing the order”.5 If the abuser does not request a court hearing, you might not have to go back to court.
Note: If the judge does not give you the order of protection when you file your petition, the judge could set the case down for further court hearings in order to decide whether or not to issue the order of protection. If this happens, a hearing may be scheduled within 10 days and the court will notify the abuser of the court date.6 The abuser has a right to appear in court for the hearing date(s) to fight against the order being issued.
1 A.R.S. § 13-3624
2U.S. Census Bureau
3 A.R.S. § 13-3602(E)
4 A.R.S. § 13-3602(N)
5 A.R.S. § 13-3602(L)
6 A.R.S. § 13-3602(F)
What is a release order?
In counties with a population of 150,000 or less, there isn’t a requirement to provide emergency orders of protection after court hours. However, protection may be available through a registered release order. Within 24 hours of a person’s arrest for a domestic violence offense, the court must send a certified copy of his/her release order to the local sheriff’s office. In the release order, there are conditions that the abuser must comply with and these conditions can be made to protect you from the abuser.1 Examples of such conditions include staying away from the victim or participating in a counseling program.2
Each sheriff’s office keeps copies of release orders. The police can tell you where you can find the abuser’s release order to learn what conditions were placed on him/her.1
A release order can also be also issued if the abuser is arrested for violating an order of protection.3
1 A.R.S. § 13-3624(B)
2AZCADV, A Lay Advocates’ Guide to Arizona Law (2014)
3 A.R.S. § 13-3602(S)
What protections can I get in an order of protection?
In an order of protection, a judicial officer can order:
- the abuser not to commit any of the offenses included as domestic violence;
- the abuser to have no contact with you or with anyone else named in the order, which could include telephone calls, texts, letters, messages through someone else, personal contact, etc.;
- the abuser to stay away from your residence, place of employment, and school or those of anyone else named in the order;
- one party to have exclusive use of a home shared by you and the abuser if there is reasonable cause to believe that the abuser may cause you physical harm;
- law enforcement to accompany a party to a shared home to get his/her belongings;
- the abuser to turn in any firearms in his/her possession to law enforcement and not possess firearms;
- the abuser to stay away from and not harm any animal owned by you, the abuser or a minor child in either of your homes (and award you care and custody of the animal);
- other relief that is appropriate and necessary for your protection and the protection of anyone else specifically named in the order; and
- the abuser to complete a domestic violence offender treatment program or any other program deemed appropriate by the court - however, this part of the order to do treatment can only be included as part of a final order, not a temporary order.1
Note: If as part of a final order, the judge grants you exclusive use of the home and you later move out of the home, you must file a notice in writing with the court within five days after moving out of the home. The court will give notice to the abuser so that the abuser could request a hearing to be allowed back into the home.2
1 A.R.S. § 13-3602(G)
2 A.R.S. §§ 13-3602(G)(2)
How much does an order of protection cost?
There are no fees for filing or serving an order of protection.1
1 A.R.S. § 13-3602(D)
Do I need a lawyer?
No, you do not need an attorney to file for an order of protection. However, it may be helpful to have one, especially if the abuser requests a hearing. For more information, see Will I have to face the abuser in court?
You will find information on legal assistance and domestic violence organizations under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page. You might also want to check the AZ Download Court Forms page to see which forms you may have to fill out in court.
If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.
In which county can I file for an order of protection?
As a resident of Arizona, you can file for a domestic violence protective order in any superior, municipal or justice court in any county in Arizona. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however:
- If two courts are located within a one mile distance, then one court can be designated as the court which issues protective orders;
- If you have filed an action for divorce, separation, paternity or annulment with the superior court (involving the same person from whom you want protection), then you need to return to the superior court to request an order of protection;
- If the defendant is less than 12 years of age, only the juvenile division of the superior court may issue the order or injunction;1 and
- If your children are listed as “protected parties” in the order, you may be referred to the superior court if you file in another court.2
1 A.R.S. § 13-3602(A)
2 See Plaintiff’s Guide Sheet for Protective Orders on the Arizona Courts website
Will I have to face the abuser in court?
You may or may not have to face the abuser in court. A judge can issue you an order of protection without a full court hearing and without the abuser present. To determine whether the order requested should be issued without a further hearing, the judge will review:
- your petition;
- any other “pleadings,” which are documents in which either party makes or responds to allegations; and
- any evidence offered by you, including any evidence of harassment by electronic contact or communication.1
If the judge issues you an order of protection without the abuser present, the abuser will be served with a copy of the order of protection against him/her. Your order will go into effect as soon as s/he is served with a copy of the order. Your order will last for two years from when the abuser is served.2
The abuser has the right to request a hearing at any time during the year your order is in effect to ask the judge to change of cancel the order of protection. If s/he does request a court hearing, you must attend that hearing and you may have to face the abuser in court. If you do not go to the hearing, a judge may dismiss your order of protection, also known as “quashing the order”.3
If the abuser does not request a court hearing, you might not have to go back to court. However, you may have additional court hearings if you want to change your order of protection or if the abuser violates the order. The abuser may come to those hearings.
Note: If the judge does not give you the order of protection when you file your petition, the judge could set the case down for further court hearings in order to decide whether or not to issue the order of protection. If this happens, a hearing may be scheduled within 10 days and the court will notify the abuser of the court date.4 The abuser has a right to appear in court for the hearing date(s) to fight against the order being issued.
1 A.R.S. § 13-3602(E)
2 A.R.S. § 13-3602(N)
3 A.R.S. § 13-3602(L)
4 A.R.S. § 13-3602(F)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.