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Legal Information: District of Columbia

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of
April 5, 2024

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 Washington, D.C.?

Anyone may register a foreign (out-of-state) protection order in Washington, D.C.  To register a foreign protection order, you have to present a certified copy of the order to the Superior Court and file an affidavit stating that to the best of your knowledge, the order is currently in effect.1

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Washington, D.C. for assistance.  You can find contact information for organizations in your area here on our D.C. Advocates and Shelters page.

1 D.C. Code § 16-1044(b)

Do I have to register my protection order in D.C. in order to get it enforced?

No. Neither federal law nor D.C. law1 requires that you register your protection order in order to get it enforced. (However, if your order is not entered into the registry, it may be more difficult for a D.C. law enforcement official to determine whether your order is real, and it could take longer to get your order enforced.) It is also not required that you show the police officer a certified copy of your order, as long as the order seems valid, the officer must enforce it. If you don’t have any copy of the order at the time you report the violation, the officer could even consider other information in determining whether there is probable cause to believe that a valid protection order exists.2

1 D.C. Code § 16-1043(c)
2 D.C. Code § 16-1043(a),(b)

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 D.C. Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)

Does it cost anything to register my civil protection order?

There is no fee for registering your civil protection order in Washington, D.C.1

1 D.C. Code § 16-1044(f)