What can I do if the abuser violates the protection order?
Violation of a protection order can be a class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to three months imprisonment, a fine of up to $750, or both. It can be a class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to 12 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,000, or both if any of the following are true:
- the abuser was previously convicted of violating a protection order;
- the protection order was issued as part of a criminal case and meets the requirements in section 18-1-1001 of the law;
- the basis for issuing the protection order included an allegation of stalking; or
- the parties were in an intimate relationship.1
In addition, if s/he committed a separate crime when violating the order (such as burglary, assault, etc.), s/he can be charged with that crime as well as being charged with the violation of the order.
There are generally two ways to deal with a violation. You could file a motion for contempt in which you are telling the court that issued the order that the respondent has violated it and you are asking the court to find that the abuser in contempt of court and to punish him/her accordingly.
The other option is to contact law enforcement to report the violation by calling 911 or contacting your local law enforcement office. When the police arrive:
- The officer/deputy should interview you and the defendant (if s/he is still on the premises) separately. If they do not do this, ask the officer/deputy to speak to you in private, away from the abuser.
- Show the officer your protection order and the return of service form if the order is temporary. The return of service form proves that the abuser was served with the temporary order.
- Try to stay calm and tell the police what happened in the order that it happened.
- Save any evidence of the violation (e.g., damaged property, photos of injuries, photos of the scene, caller ID info, taped conversations, emails, voicemails, text messages, etc.) and show the evidence to the police. Provide the police with the names and addresses of any other witnesses to the violation.
- Get the officer’s/deputy’s name, badge number, and report number as this will help you in following up on the report.
The officer/deputy must have “probable cause” to arrest the defendant. Probable cause is defined as “reasonable cause to believe that a crime has been committed or is currently being committed.” Even if the officer/deputy determines that there is no probable cause to arrest the defendant, an Incident Report should be made, which documents what happened. If the officer/deputy determines that probable cause exists to arrest the defendant but the abuser has already left the scene, the officer/deputy may apply for an “arrest warrant,” which would allow the police to arrest him/her once s/he is found. It may take several days before the arrest warrant is actually issued by a court and the arrest is made.
1 Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-6-803.5(2)(a); 18-1.3-501(1)(a.5)