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California Restraining Order Law

To learn about California restraining order laws please click on the video below for a full explanation of the topic by California restraining order attorney Lawrence Gund.  

California Restraining Orders

Below are answers to fifteen frequently asked questions about restraining orders under California law,   a discussion of Penal Code Section 273.6 (Violation Of A Court Order), and a description of the three levels of protective available under California restraining order law.

What Is A Restraining Order?

Restraining orders (also known as “protective orders”) prevent a specified person, known as “the protected party,” from harassment or abuse by another person, known as “the restrained person.”

Spouses, ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, cohabitants, family members, roommates, coworkers and even pets can be protected parties.

What Kinds Of Restraining Orders Exist?

There are four kinds: domestic violence restraining orders, civil harassment restraining orders, elder- or dependent-adult abuse restraining orders and workplace violence restraining orders.

What Exactly Does A Restraining Order Do?

Restraining orders can include personal conduct orders, “stay away” orders, and “move out” orders. If a restraining order is issued, a court will order a restrained party to refrain from doing any of the acts described in the order. Violation of the order is its own basis for arresting the restrained person.

Personal conduct orders usually include prohibitions against attacking, stalking, or communicating with the protected party. This can include personal forms of contact and contact using social media. “Stay away” orders dictate a distance that must be maintained between the affected persons (often about 100 yards, although accommodations can be made). “Stay away” orders also can include restrictions on places the restrained person can go, such as the home of a spouse or the restrained person's workplace.

What Is The Difference Between A Domestic Violence Restraining Order And A Civil Harassment Restraining Order?

Domestic violence restraining orders are suited for situations where the restrained person and the protected party have, or have had, some kind of intimate relationship. This includes husbands and wives, ex-spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, former intimates and all those who've lived together in intimate relationships. Blood relatives are also eligible to apply for domestic violence restraining orders.

Civil harassment restraining orders apply where the parties don't have an intimate relationship. Examples include orders that apply to roommates and orders that bind coworkers. Preventing unwanted attention originating with a stranger is another appropriate use of a civil harassment restraining order.

Does There Have To Be Physical Abuse For A Restraining Order To Be Granted?

Restraining orders require some sort of threatening behavior which has affected the protected party or by which there's reasonable cause to believe the protected party may be affected. Domestic violence orders tend to include showings of emotional, psychological, and/or physical abuse.

Can A Firearms Owner Subject To A Restraining Order Continue Possessing Firearms?

A firearms owner will likely have to sell his or her weapons, store them with police, or otherwise part with her or his firearms for the duration of a Restraining Order. The restrained person will likely also be prevented from purchasing firearms for the lifetime of the order.

Can A Restraining Order Force A Person To Leave His Or Her Own Home?

Yes. Domestic violence restraining orders are often issued in situations requiring that a restrained person leave the home that she or he shares with the protected party. While the consequences can be negative, and broad-ranging, courts are willing to issue orders requiring people to leave their homes.

May Judges Order Restrained People To Attend Classes Or To Receive Treatment?

Yes. Restrained persons can be ordered to do everything from briefly attending anger management classes to enrolling in batterer's intervention courses that last fifty-two (52) weeks. Parenting classes can also be required, if children were involved in the situation leading to the restraining order. Such classes can be required for as long as the judge issuing the order thinks is appropriate for the restrained person.

How Long Do Restraining Orders Usually Last?

Restraining orders can last no longer than five years. Three years is not an uncommon length of time. Some orders are measured in terms of months, if the facts justify it. The protected party may seek to extend the life of a Restraining Order, however, if that person still feels threatened at the expiration of the order. Extensions can be granted even for a five-year order.

What Happens If A Person Violates A Restraining Order?

Violation of a Restraining Order can result in arrest and time in jail.

How Are Restraining Orders Obtained?

A person seeking a Restraining Order can go to a court and fill out paperwork to apply for the order or have an attorney complete the documents. The initial paperwork requires describing the situation and why it poses a danger. This statement will be reviewed by a judge, who'll then decide whether a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) should be issued. The restrained person doesn't have to be present for this to happen.

The TRO will usually last for a few weeks. Then there will be a hearing to decide whether the applicant should get a Permanent Restraining Order. (This order is actually limited to five years.)  Evidence will be presented to a judge by both sides, without a jury, and based on this the judge will decide whether to issue the Restraining Order.

What Should I Do If Someone's Trying To Get A Restraining Order Against Me?

If a TRO has been granted against you, orders that the court requires you to follow will be stated in the temporary order. The TRO will also include a date for the Permanent Restraining Order hearing. You may dispute the requested permanent orders in writing. You'll then have to appear in court to dispute the Permanent Restraining Order. This may include showing why the situation isn't serious enough to warrant a Restraining Order or proving that you didn't do what you've been accused of having done.

If A Restraining Order Is Granted, How Can It Affect Me?

Since restraining orders prevent you from having contact with someone, the effects of having one granted against you can range from losing the right to visit places you enjoy to losing the right to see family members – including children. Restraining orders can also place conditions on interacting with others, such as requiring supervised visitations with children, which can become expensive, since you will have to hire someone to supervise the visitations. In that case, if you can't afford the supervision, you may be prohibited altogether from family visitation.

What Kind Of Proof Is Required To Obtain A Restraining Order?

The standard of proof in criminal matters (“proof beyond a reasonable doubt”) does not apply in the case of domestic violence restraining orders, where the “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof applies. Thus it has only to appear likelier than not that the Petitioner (the protected party) should be protected from the restrained person for an order to be granted in domestic violence situations.

But the “clear and convincing evidence” standard of proof, the middle ground of certainty between the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard and the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, applies in civil harassment restraining order applications. “Clear and convincing evidence” is a more demanding standard than the “preponderance” approach but not as strict as “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Do I Need A Lawyer If I'm The Petitioner Or The Respondent?

You should have an attorney no matter which side you're on while in the Restraining Order process.

What Is California Penal Code [CPC] Section 273.6(a) [Violation Of A Court Order)?

Penal Code § [Section] 273.6(a) makes it a crime to intentionally violate a protective order issued under any of several listed sections of California law.[1] You must have known of the protective order, had the ability to follow it, and chose instead to violate the order if you're to be convicted under CPC §273.6(a).[2]

A violation of CPC §273.6 that doesn't result in physical injury to a protected party can be punished by one (1) year in a county jail, a fine of up to $1,000 (one-thousand dollars), or by both a fine and imprisonment.[3] But multiple violations that include injury to a protected party can be punished under California's “Three Strikes” system.[4] In that case, you'll serve as many as three (3) years in state prison for a first “strike,”[5] and a minimum of twenty-five (25) years for a third,[6] in addition to paying a fine of as much as $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars).[7] Courts can order additional payments under CPC §273.6 as well, such as compensation for expenses incurred by the victim of the violation,[8] or fines that must be paid to battered women's shelters or shelters “for abused elder[9] persons or dependent[10] adults.”[11]

Violation of CPC §273.6 may, furthermore, prohibit your possession of firearms.[12]    

What Are The Three Levels Of Protection Available Under California Protective Order Law?

The three levels of protection available under California protective order law are: Emergency Protective Order (EPO), Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), and Permanent Restraining Order (PRO).

  • Emergency Protective Order (EPO)

EPOs are issued often in response to domestic violence calls. If an officer responding to such a call believes that one or more persons require immediate protection from a specific person, the officer may call a judge who's on-call for the purpose of hearing EPO appeals.[13]  The subsequent EPO, if granted, takes immediate effect and may last as many as seven (7) days.[14]     

  • Temporary Restraining Orders

A Temporary Restraining Order is appropriate for people who are being harassed or those shielded by emergency protective orders that are about to expire. “Harassment,” for purposes of a TRO, is defined in the Code of Civil Procedure.[15] The meaning includes “unlawful violence”[16] and credible threats of violence. TROs often last for as many as three (3) weeks.[17]

  • Permanent Restraining Orders

PROs are issued when a court concludes that a person or persons must be protected for an extended period. These orders follow a hearing in which both the person seeking the order and the target of the order can present evidence explaining why the court should (or should not) grant the PRO request. A judge will then decide whether to grant the PRO,[18] what the order should consist of, and how long the PRO should last. These orders can last for as many as five (5) years without being extended by a court[19] and can cover issues from personal distance[20] to whether a restrained person can possess firearms.[21]    

Who Should I Contact If I'm The Target Of A Restraining Order?

The attorneys at the Kann California Defense Group have an excellent understanding of the local courts and an extensive knowledge of California's criminal justice system. We can represent you in Ventura, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles, Encino, Pasadena and many other Southern California cities. 

If you or someone you know is facing a Restraining Order, our attorneys will analyze the facts of your case and plan a defense strategy that will help you obtain the very best possible outcome.

Contact the Kann California Defense Group today to schedule your free and confidential consultation.  


[1] The statute refers  to “Section 6218 of the Family Code,” sections “527.6, 527.8, [ ] 527.85 of the Code of Civil Procedure,” and “Section 15657.03 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.” See California Penal Code [CPC] §273.6 (a).

[2] See California Criminal Jury Instructions 2701 (CALCRIM) (2017).


[3] See CPC §273.6 (a).

[4]  See CPC §273.6 (e).

[5] See CPC §1170 (h) (1). [Amended (as amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 36, Sec. 17) by Stats. 2018, Ch. 1001, Sec. 1. (AB 2942) Effective January 1, 2019.]

[6] See CPC §667 (e) (2) (A) (ii).

[7] See CPC §672.

[8] See CPC §273.6 (h) (2).

[9] “An elder is someone who is at least 65 years old.” See California Criminal Jury Instructions 2701 (CALCRIM) (2017).

[10] “A dependent adult is someone who is between 18 and 64 years old and has physical or mental limitations that restrict his or her ability to carry out normal activities or to protect his or her rights. This definition includes an adult who has physical or developmental disabilities or whose physical or mental abilities have decreased because of age. A dependent adult is also someone between 18 and 64 years old who is an inpatient in a health facility, psychiatric health facility or chemical dependency recovery hospital.” See California Criminal Jury Instructions 2701 (CALCRIM) (2017).

[11]  See CPC §273.6 (h) (1).

[12] See CPC §273.6 (g) (1).

[13] See CPC §646.91 (a).

[14] See CPC §646.91 (g) (2).

[15] See California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) §527.6 (b) (3).  

[16] See CCP §527.6 (B) (7).

[17] See CCP §527.6 (g).

[18] See CCP §527.6 (i).

[19]  See CCP §527.6 (j) (1).

[20] See CCP §527.6 (b) (6) (A).

[21] See CCP §527.6 (u) (1).