Do I have to register my protection order in Puerto Rico to get it enforced?
You do not have to register your protection order to get it enforced. According to federal law,1 all states, including Puerto Rico, must enforce an out-of-state protection order. The order doesn’t have to be presented or registered in a Puerto Rico court of law to be enforceable. However, the police officer has to believe that the order is valid and real.2
1 18 U.S.C. § 2265
2 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 674(b)
How do I register my protection order in Puerto Rico?
To register your protection order in Puerto Rico, you will need to bring a certified copy of the protection order to the court clerk in any courthouse in Puerto Rico. Within 24 hours, the court clerk will send a copy of the protection order to the corresponding police headquarters in Puerto Rico.1 The Puerto Rico Police Department will then put the information provided in the order into an electronic file and enter it in the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File (NCIC POF) within eight hours after they receive it.2
If you need help to register your protection order, you can seek guidance from a local domestic violence organization in Puerto Rico. You can find the contact information for these organizations in our PR Advocates and Shelters page.
1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 675(a)
2 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 675(b)
What is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Registry? Who has access to it?
The National Crime Information Center Registry (NCIC) is a nationwide, electronic database that contains protective orders, that is used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S, Canada, and Puerto Rico. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.
Before moving to Puerto Rico, the state that issued your protection order may already have entered your order into the NCIC. If not, your order may be entered into the NCIC if you register your order in Puerto Rico.
Note: The majority of law enforcement officials have access to NCIC, but the information is encrypted so outsiders cannot access it.
Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order in Puerto Rico?
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
Puerto Rico will not notify the abuser if you register your protection order. Under the 221 law of August 9, 2008, the Criminal Justice Information System creates a registry of substitute addresses that can be offered to victims as a residential address so they can keep their current address 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 Safety Planning 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 PR Advocates and Shelters page.
1 18 USC § 2265(d)
Does it cost anything to register my protective order?
No. It doesn’t cost anything to register your protection order in Puerto Rico.1
1 See 8 L.P.R.A. §674(b)
If I don't register my protection order, will it be more difficult to enforce it?
While both local and federal law do not require for orders of protection to be registered to be enforced,1 if your order hasn’t been entered in the state’s registry, it might be more difficult for the Puerto Rico police to determine if your order is real or not. This means that it can take longer to enforce your order of protection.
If you are unsure if registering your order is the right choice for you, you might want to contact a local domestic violence organization close to you. A professional advocate might help you determine what is the best course of action regarding your safety. To see a list of domestic violence organizations in Puerto Rico, visit our PR Advocates and Shelters page.
1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 674(b)