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Indiana Protective Orders: Understanding the Process

Unfortunately, protective orders are a common occurrence in our world. Whether you are seeking a protective order or someone has requested one against you, the help of an experienced attorney is critical to protecting your rights. Indiana protective orders put in place serious restrictions on a person’s behavior and location and can even completely shut a person out of another’s life.

While protective orders may seem straightforward, the process has exacting requirements, and the hearing can be very emotional. An Indiana protective order attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP knows the in’s and out’s of Indiana protective orders can help you understand what a protective order is, how to request one or fight a protective order request, and what a granted protective order means for all parties involved.

What Are Indiana Protective Orders?

A protective order, sometimes called a protection order or restraining order in Indiana, is an order from a civil court restricting the contact a person may have with a family member or another individual. The person seeking a protection order is known as the petitioner and the one the protective order is sought against is known as the respondent. There are several behaviors that can support the granting of an Indiana protective order, including:

  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Threatening
  • Domestic violence

Protective orders require the respondent to refrain from directly or indirectly contacting the petitioner of the order or stalking, harassing, or threatening them or their family members. When the court grants a protective order, local police or other law enforcement can arrest a respondent who violates the order, and the respondent can also face criminal charges.

A protective order restricts your conduct—where you can go and whom you can be with–and you can be arrested even if the petitioner invites contact with you. Until the court dismisses the order of protection, the respondent may not make contact with the petitioner regardless of the petitioner’s statements or wishes. An experienced protection order lawyer can explain the process for evaluating a request for an order under the Indiana Civil Protection Order Act (ICPOA), Indiana Code chapter 34-26-5.

Who Is Eligible to File for Indiana Protective Orders?

To be eligible to file for a protective order, the ICPOA requires a petitioner to demonstrate that the respondent physically harmed them or placed them in fear of physical harm. This means that the petitioner must tell their story to establish the presence of physical harm or the threat of it. Supporting evidence may also be helpful to prove injuries or threats. Such evidence could include medical records, emails, texts, voicemails or voice notes, and eyewitness statements.

A person who is or has been a victim of domestic or family violence may file a petition for an order for protection against:

  • A family member or other resident of the home who commits domestic violence
  • A person who has stalked or committed a sex offense against the person filing for protection

Additionally, a parent, guardian, or representative may file a petition for an order of protection on behalf of a minor against:

  • A family member or other resident of the home who commits domestic violence
  • A person who has stalked or committed a sex offense against the child
  • A person who engaged in conduct involving repeated or continuing contact with a minor intended to prepare or condition the minor for sexual activity

How Protective Orders Work

A protective order is a type of injunctive relief, meaning it is a court order that tries to stop certain behavior from happening or repeating. Generally, a protective order prohibits the respondent from going near the petitioner, including identified areas such as the petitioner’s home, school, or place of work. Each order granted is based on the circumstances and facts involved, including whether the parties go to school together, live together, share a child, or other relevant factors.

Additionally, protective orders may include other restrictions or requirements in addition to protecting the petitioner. The order may require the respondent to move out of a shared home, pay child support, or surrender any guns they own. In some cases, the order may allow contact between the petitioner and the respondent for specified reasons, such as parenting time exchanges or discussing parenting issues related to their child.

How Long Protective Orders Are Effective

The length of a protective order depends on the circumstances under which it was granted. House Bill 1137, effective July 1, 2022, amended Indiana Code § 34-26-5-6, providing that a protective order that is issued ex parte or upon notice and hearing remains effective for a period of:

  • Two years after it is issued
  • Indefinitely if the respondent is a sex or violent offender

For an order to be indefinite, the respondent of the order must be a registered lifetime sex or violent offender, and the petitioner must be the person against whom the related sex crime or violent offense was committed. A respondent wishing to challenge the length of an indefinite order must object to the order and request a hearing within 30 days of the order.

For help understanding everything a protective order entails, contact an experienced Indiana protective order lawyer. An attorney can help you understand what your legal rights are under Indiana protective orders.

The Court Process for Indiana Protective Orders

To obtain Indiana protective orders, the petitioner must file and petition the court to grant one. The petitioner must file the petition in civil court in the city or town where he or she lives or where the respondent lives. Notably, there is no requirement for the respondent to have been charged with a crime.

When a protective order is filed, the petitioner must notify the respondent. Both parties typically have the opportunity to present their cases and evidence at an Indiana protective order hearing before the court decides how to rule on the order.

What Is an Ex Parte Protection Order?

When a petitioner feels there is imminent danger, he or she can ask the judge to issue an ex parte protection order. An ex parte order means the court may grant relief without notice to the petitioner or a hearing. When a hearing is requested in an ex parte filing, the court will inform both parties of the date and time of the hearing.

Once an ex parte order is issued, the respondent has 30 days to challenge or respond to the order. Failure to exercise this right opens the potential for the order to be extended for up to two years. The court can also schedule a hearing when neither party requested it.

Relief Granted under Indiana Protective Orders

The relief granted under protective orders comes in the form of rules the respondent must follow regarding contacting the petitioner in person or otherwise, directly and indirectly. Relief allowed in Indiana protective orders includes:

  • Prohibiting a respondent from threats or commission of acts of domestic or family violence against a petitioner and each designated family or household member
  • Prohibiting a respondent from contacting, calling, harassing, or communicating with the petitioner in any way
  • Removing and excluding a respondent from the petitioner’s residence, regardless of who owns it
  • Ordering a respondent to stay away from the home and other main places in the petitioner’s life, including school or work
  • Ordering a petitioner be allowed to possess and use a residence, automobile, and other essential personal effects

Should a protective order require the respondent to move out of the house, this can present significant custody and parenting time issues if the parties have minor children. However, the parties must address child custody in a separate case and may not address the custody issues during the protective order process.

Violating Indiana Protective Orders

It is much easier than imagined to breach the conditions of Indiana protective orders. These orders may contain nuanced legal language and generally contain multiple stipulations limiting what the respondent may and may not do. You face significant penalties if you violate a protective order and should consult with an Indiana protective order lawyer to make sure you understand the limits the order places.

Invasion of Privacy

Invasion of privacy is the most common charge for the violation of Indiana protective orders. Those who violate a protective order or an ex parte order risk a criminal charge as a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in a sentence of up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000.

A respondent with a prior conviction for violating Indiana protective orders faces a Level 6 felony for their violation. A Level 6 felony carries a potential sentence of six months to two and half years imprisonment with a fine of up to $10,000.

Contempt of Court

Violating a protective order can result in a finding of contempt of the court if the petitioner can show the court evidence of an intentional violation of the order by the respondent. When the court finds a willful violation occurred, is occurring, or will occur, it can issue a warrant to bring the defendant to court for an explanation.

Should the court believe the respondent acted intentionally in defiance of the order, it may impose punishments to coerce the respondent into compliance. The court may require the respondent to post a bond to avoid jail time, with the bond to be forfeited should additional violations occur. Contact an experienced Indiana protective order attorney to discuss these matters as they apply to your case if you face a contempt of court charge.

Criminal Stalking

Conduct that violates a protective order may also constitute a criminal offense. Stalking is the harassment of another person on a repeated basis with the intention to cause and the result of causing the victim to feel intimidated, afraid, terrorized, or threatened.

Criminal stalking is considered a Level 6 felony but can become a Level 5 felony if there is already a protective order to prevent domestic or family violence or a judicial order to protect the same person against the respondent. The potential penalty for a Level 5 felony is between one and six years of imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.

Contact an Indiana Protective Order Attorney to Protect Your Rights Today

Having a protective order entered against you can create significant upheaval in your life—where you can go and who you can see. Having experienced counsel early in the process is key to protecting your rights against the consequences of Indiana protective orders. If you face a potential protective order, an Indiana protective order lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you navigate the process and protect your rights. For a free consultation, call today at (317) 857-0160 or complete our online contact form.

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