If I don’t have a hard copy of my out-of-state order, how can law enforcement enforce it?
To enforce an out-of-state order, law enforcement typically may rely on the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File (NCIC-POF). The NCIC-POF is a nationwide, electronic database that contains information about orders of protection that were issued in each state and territory in the U.S. The Protection Order File (POF) contains court orders that are issued to prevent acts of domestic violence, or to prevent someone from stalking, intimidating, or harassing another person. It contains orders issued by both civil and criminal state courts. The types of protection orders issued and the information contained in them vary from state to state.1
There is no way for the general public to access the NCIC-POF. That means you cannot confirm a protection order is in the registry or add a protection order to the registry without the help of a government agency that has access to it.
Typically, the state police or criminal justice agency in the state has the responsibility of reporting protection orders to NCIC. However, in some cases, the courts have taken on that role and they manage the protection order reporting process.2 NCIC–POF is used by law enforcement agencies when they need to verify and enforce an out-of-state protection order. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.
However, not all states routinely enter protection orders into the NCIC. Instead, some states may enter the orders only in their own state protection order registry, which would not be accessible to law enforcement in other states. According to a 2016 report by the National Center for State Courts, more than 700,000 protection orders that were registered in state protection order databases were not registered in the federal NCIC Protection Order File.2 This means that if a law enforcement officer is trying to enforce a protection order from another state that is missing from the NCIC, the victim would likely need to show the officer a hard copy of the order to get it immediately enforced. If you no longer have a copy of your original order, you may want to contact the court that issued the order to ask them how you can get another copy sent to you.
1 National Center for Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit
2 See State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Protection Order Submissions, prepared by the National Center for State Courts, April 2016
Do I have to register my protection order in AZ in order to get it enforced?
No. According to federal law,1 all states, including AZ, must enforce an out-of-state protection order. Arizona gives full protection to an out-of-state protection order2 as long as you can show the officer a copy of the order and can truthfully tell the officer that you believe the order is still in effect.3 The order does not have to be registered or entered into the federal registry in order to be enforced by an AZ police officer, but the officer does need to believe that it is a valid (real) order.2
1 18 U.S.C. § 2265
2 A.R.S. § 13-3602(R)
3 A R.S. § 13-3602(L)
Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order?
Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1 However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.
However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to. It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living. We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Staying Safe page. You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our AZ Advocates and Shelters page.
1 18 USC § 2265(d)
What if I don't register my protection order? Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?
It should not be more difficult to have your order enforced because neither federal law1 nor state law2 requires that you register your protection order in order to get it enforced. Arizona state law also requires law enforcement officials to assume your order is real as long as you can show them a copy and tell them honestly that you think it is still in effect.3
However, if your order is not registered, then it will not be on file with the sheriff’s office, and it won’t be entered into the NCIC (although it might have been entered by the court that gave it to you). Therefore, it may be more difficult for an Arizona law enforcement official to determine whether your order is real.
If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in Arizona. To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in Arizona, go to our AZ Advocates and Shelters page under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page.
1 18 U.S.C. § 2265
2 A.R.S. § 13-3602(L)
3A.R.S. § 13-3602(R)(4)
Does it cost anything to register my protection order?
No. There is no fee for registering your protection order in Arizona, but you do need to go through a new hearing, so there might be costs associated with that hearing.