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
How do I register my protection order in California?
Registration of your protection order is voluntary and will be done by the court upon request. The benefit is that once you register it, it can be entered in the Domestic Violence Restraining Order System, which may make police enforcement of it easier. In most counties, the clerk will take care of registering it in the System; however, in some counties, you may have to take a copy of the registered order to the police yourself for them to put it in the System. To find out how your county handles this, ask the court clerk. 1
To register your order, you will need to:
- Fill out and sign the Register Out-of-State Restraining Order form (DV-600), which is available on the California Courts Self Help Center website or at the courthouse;
- Attach a certified copy of your order to the form; and
- Bring it to the court clerk. There is no fee for registering your out-of-state protection order in California.2
If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in California for assistance. You can find contact information for organizations in your area here on our CA Advocates and Shelters page.
1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6404(a)
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6404(b)
Do I have to register my protection order in California to get it enforced?
No. California state law gives full protection to an out-of-state protection order and allows the courts to enforce the order even if it contains provisions that could not be included in a California DVRO.1
Police officers also have to enforce out-of-state protection orders as long as you can show the officer a copy (it does not have to be a certified copy, and can be an electronic copy) of the order and can truthfully tell the officer that you believe the order is still in effect.2 The order does not have to be entered into the state or federal registry in order to be enforced by a California police officer, but the officer does need to believe that it is a valid (real) order.3
1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6402(a)
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6403(a)
3 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6403
Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order in CA?
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 CA 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?
Maybe. While neither federal law nor state law requires that you register your protection order to get it enforced, if your order is not entered into the state registry, it may be more difficult for a CA law enforcement official to determine whether your order is real, so it could take longer to get your order enforced. However, the officer is required to enforce the order if you can show him a copy that appears to be a valid order.1
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 California. To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in CA, go to our CA Advocates and Shelters page.
1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6403(a)
Does it cost anything to register my protection order?
There is no fee for registering your protection order in California.1
1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6404(b)