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Legal Information: Virginia

Restraining Orders

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December 4, 2020

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 Virginia?

To register your protection order in Virginia, you will need to fill out the appropriate forms at the family courthouse in your county or online on the Virginia Judicial System website.

You will need to attach a certified copy of your order to the form, and take it to any juvenile and domestic relations district court in Virginia.  See our VA Courthouse Locations page to find a court near you.  The court staff will index your protection order in their system, issue a certificate of filing, and forward a copy to the local law enforcement agency, which will put your protection order into the Virginia Crime Information Network (VCIN), which is a statewide registry that keeps records of all protective orders issued in (or registered in) Virginia.1

Your order may also be entered into the National Crime Information Center Registry (NCIC), which is a nationwide database of criminal records and protection orders.

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

1Virginia Judicial System website

Do I have to register my protection order in Virginia to get it enforced?

No. According to federal law,1 all states, including Virginia, must enforce an out-of-state protection order. Virginia state law gives full protection to an out-of-state protection order as long as you can show the officer a copy of the order and can truthfully tell the officer that you believe the order is still in effect.2

It does not have to be entered into the state or national registry in order to be enforced by a Virginia police officer, but the officer does need to believe that it is a valid (real) order.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265
2 Va. Code §16.1-279.1(E)

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 VA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

There is no fee for registering your protection order in Virginia.1

1 VA Code § 16.1-279.1(I)