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Legal Information: District of Columbia

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of April 5, 2024

How do I change, extend, or cancel my anti-stalking order?

To change (modify) the terms of your anti-stalking order (ASO), you would file a motion to modify in which you would ask the judge to change your order. You will have to serve the motion on the respondent, and then attend another court hearing to convince the judge that this change to the order is necessary. There does not need to have been a violation of the ASO for a judge to order a modification.1

To extend a final ASO beyond its expiration date, you would file a motion to extend the order if you believe you still need protection from the court. You will have to give the judge “good cause” to extend the order. You do not need to show that the respondent violated the order for a judge to believe there is “good cause” to extend it.

Generally, you should go to court to file this motion with enough time to have a hearing before the order expires. However, if you file a motion to extend any time before your order expires, your order will remain in effect until the judge holds a hearing and makes a decision on your motion. A judge can extend an order for any amount of time that the judge thinks is appropriate. However, if the judge decides to extend the order for more than two years, then the judge must believe that one of the following is true:

  • the respondent violated the ASO;
  • before you got the ASO that is being extended, you had another ASO against the same person; or
  • there are other convincing circumstances relating to your safety or welfare that require the ASO to be extended for more than two years.2

If you no longer want the anti-stalking order, you can file to cancel the order, known as a motion to vacate the order. However, we strongly suggest that you talk to an advocate or lawyer before doing this to make sure this is the step you want to take. If you think you no longer need the order because the stalker hasn’t been bothering you lately, remember that s/he likely stayed away from you because you had the order. If you remove the order, there is nothing to prevent the stalking from re-starting. Instead of vacating the order completely, you may be able to modify the order. This would allow you to keep some of the protections, while placing fewer restrictions on the respondent.

Any motion you file must be served on the respondent. You will both have the chance to appear at the court date where you will explain why you want to change, extend, or vacate the order to the judge. The judge will review the evidence and decide what actions, if any, to take. Only a judge can change an ASO. An agreement between you and the stalker outside of court does not change the requirements of the ASO.

1 D.C. Code § 16-1064(e)
2 D.C. Code § 16-1064(e)(3)

What can I do if the stalker violates the anti-stalking order?

When you have an anti-stalking order (ASO), you are generally the one who will report any violations of that order. If the stalker violates the order, you can call the police and report the violation. Violation of a temporary or final ASO is known as “criminal contempt” and is also a misdemeanor crime, which can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000, by imprisonment for up to 180 days, or both.1 Also, if the stalker committed a separate crime while violating the order, such as hitting you, s/he can also be charged and punished separately for that crime.

Another option is to file a violation petition in court for contempt. You could return to the Domestic Violence Clerk to file:

  • a Motion to Adjudicate Civil Contempt, where you would be asking the court to make the stalker follow the order by imposing a fine or jail time; or
  • a Motion to Adjudicate Criminal Contempt, where you would be asking that the Office of the Attorney General bring charges against the stalker.1

1 D.C. Code § 16-1064(g), (h)

If I get a protection order, will it show up in an internet search?

According to federal law, which applies to all states, territories, and tribal lands, the courts are not supposed to make available publicly on the internet any information that would be likely to reveal your identity or location. This applies to all of these documents:

  • the petition you file;
  • the protection order, restraining order, or injunction that was issued by the court; or
  • the registration of an order in a different state.1

1 18 USC § 2265(d)(3)