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Legal Information: Washington

Restraining Orders

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December 3, 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 Washington?

To register/file your protection order in Washington state, you must bring a certified copy of your protection order to a Washington court in the county in which you live or to a county court where you believe you may have to enforce the order.1  There is no fee to file an out-of-state protection order.2   The clerk will give you a form to fill out in which you need to include:

  1. The name of the person entitled to protection (you) and any other protected parties (such as your children);
  2. The name and address of the abuser;
  3. The date the protection order was entered;
  4. The date the protection order expires;
  5. The relief granted in the order (i.e., what the order gives to you and what it prevents the abuser from doing);
  6. The judicial district and contact information for court administration for the court in which the foreign protection order was entered;
  7. The Social Security number, date of birth, and description of the abuser;
  8. Whether or not the abuser is believed to be armed and dangerous;
  9. Whether or not the abuser was served with the order, and if so, the method used to serve the order; and
  10. The type and location of any other legal proceedings between the you and the abuser.3

Note: If you don’t have some of the information listed above, you can still register/file your order in court (and later enforce your order).3  Also, the information form should be kept confidential.4

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

1 R.C.W. § 26.52.030(1)
2 R.C.W. § 26.52.030(3)
3 R.C.W. § 26.52.030(5)
4 See the “Foreign Protection Order Information” form, which states: “Confidential” and “Do Not Show or Serve this form to the restrained person” and “Do not file in the court file”.

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

No. Neither federal law nor Washington state 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 Washington law enforcement official to determine whether your order is real, and it could take longer to get your order enforced.)

Washington state law says that if you show an order of protection from another state to a police officer for enforcement, the law enforcement officer must enforce it if it appears to be a valid order. The out-of-state protection order is valid if the court that gave it to you had the legal authority (power) to do so and it has not expired, or been changed/dismissed by the court. Also, the abuser must have been told about the hearing for the protection order and been given an opportunity to be present at the hearing (even if s/he never showed up at the hearing).2

1 R.C.W. § 26.52.030(2)
2 R.C.W. § 26.52.020

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.  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 WA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

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

1 R.C.W. § 26.52.030(3)