Getting a Protection Order in Indiana
A victim of domestic or family violence, stalking, harassment, or sexual assault can request a protection order in Indiana against the alleged perpetrator, but the process can be daunting for both sides. If you rush into requesting a protective order—or defending against such a request—without getting adequate advice and guidance, the results can be dire. An experienced Indiana protective order attorney can help you navigate the process and greatly improve your chances of protecting yourself and your rights.
A Primer on the Protection Order in Indiana
What is an order of protection? It is an order tailored to protect or safeguard one or more victims from future harassment or violence from a named individual. There are several types of protection orders, but the vast majority in Indiana are intended to keep the perpetrator away from the victim.
Any adult may file for a protection order to protect him- or herself. In addition, Indiana law also permits adults to file for a protection order on behalf of a child under certain circumstances. For example, if a person has committed an act of violence or stalking against the child.
Protection orders are an important tool to protect victims of violence, but they have far-reaching effects on all parties involved. Depending on the specific circumstances, alleged perpetrators subject to the protection order can experience a significant impact to their job, visitation with their children, their living situation, and more.
Three Steps to Obtaining a Protection Order in Indiana
The Indiana Civil Protection Order Act sets out the requirements for the protection order process in Indiana including what steps need to be taken, who is eligible to file one, and how the orders are enforced. Following are the basics steps in this process.
Step 1: Filing a Petition for a Protection Order in Indiana
To obtain a protection order in Indiana, an alleged victim, called the petitioner, must file a petition with the court to formally request one. The petitioner can file the request at the courthouse in person or e-file the protection order request through the court website.
When filing a petition, a victim must provide specific information to the court to support the need for a protective order. For example, the petition might include the name of the individual against whom the protective order is sought, called the respondent; the incident(s) that make the victim fear for his or her safety from that individual; where the incident or incidents happened; and who was present during the incident. It is particularly important to note whether children were present during the incident as that can impact the alleged perpetrators future contact with them.
Supporting evidence such as photos, text messages, or a police report is not necessary when filing the petition although that information will likely be necessary later. If the form is incomplete or lacks sufficient detail, the court may dismiss it immediately or, instead, request more information from the petitioner.
The petitioner must also include detailed information about the respondent, including the full name, date of birth, and address. This allows the court to properly notify the respondent of the protection order if it is granted.
Step 2: A Judge Reviews Every Request Protection Order in Indiana
The court does not automatically grant a request for a protection order in Indiana. Instead, the judge will review the petition to determine whether it meets the legal standard for issuing a protective order. Unlike other legal proceedings, where a respondent is entitled to be notified of the legal action and be heard before a judge issues a ruling, in certain circumstances, the court may be able to grant the request for a protection order without the respondent ever knowing about the proceeding, often the same day the petition was filed.
Although a judge usually rules on a petition without any involvement from the respondent, there are exceptions in which the court must set the matter for hearing. If the court issues an ex parte protective order in the following circumstances, it must also set a hearing within 30 days of the date the order is issued if the petition:
- Alleges harassment of the child for whom the protective order is sought
- Seeks to have the respondent evicted from the petitioner’s household
- Requests possession of a vehicle, personal items, or an animal
- Requests an order prohibiting respondent from taking action against an animal
- Requests law enforcement to accompany the petitioner to a home shared with respondent to retrieve items
In addition, a respondent in Indiana has the right to request a hearing contesting the order.
In a hearing, the victim often testifies under oath about what happened and why the order of protection is needed. The petitioner bears the burden of proving that the alleged perpetrator presents a threat to them. The respondent also has a right to testify and explain their side of the situation.
Both the petitioner and the respondent are encouraged to bring witnesses who can testify on their behalves. They can also bring other forms of supporting evidence such as text messages, photos, or emails. While the parties may proceed without counsel, the better course is to obtain assistance from an Indiana protection order attorney.
Hearings typically last a couple of hours and most of the time, the judge makes a decision on the order shortly afterward. Protection order attorneys have deep experience in this area of law, making them able to help both sides effectively present their case and achieve a favorable outcome.
Step 3: The Order Goes into Effect and the Respondent is Notified
When the court grants an order of protection, the court gives notice to law enforcement, the petitioner, and the respondent. The court also enters the order into the Indiana Protection Order Registry, which links to the Indiana Data and Communications System (IDACS), and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The Indiana Protection Order Registry is a publicly available, searchable website, so anyone with access to the Internet can view details about the case.
The court also emails notification of the protective order to local law enforcement agencies where the affected parties live and work. The notification process ensures that law enforcement agencies are aware of the order and allows them to easily verify the order in the case of a violation. It is the responsibility of law enforcement to serve the protective order on the respondent. The respondent receives copies of the petition, the order, and any hearing dates that may apply.
Enforcement of A Protection Order in Indiana
Once a protection order is issued, all parties—including law enforcement—are made aware of the requirements of the order. Thereafter, a petitioner who believes the respondent has violated the protective order may seek to enforce it by filing a petition with the court. If, after a hearing, the court determines that the respondent has indeed violated the protective order—whether intentionally or accidentally—it must then determine an appropriate sanction for the violation.
In determining the consequences for violation of a protective order, the court may consider factors such as the nature of the violation or any previous violations. A respondent who violates an order of protection may be found in contempt of court. In addition, the court may also consider any prior violations when determining whether to renew the order of protection or not. If the court holds the respondent in contempt for violating the protective order, it may fashion appropriate punitive consequences, such as time in jail or paying the petitioner’s attorney’s fees. The petitioner may also seek to have the respondent charged with invasion of privacy under Indiana Code § 35-46-1-15.1, which can be a Class A misdemeanor or a Level 6 felony depending on the facts.
Persons covered by a protective order should call 911 if the respondent is violating the order and it is an emergency. If it is not an emergency, they are advised to record the details of the incident and then contact law enforcement to make a report. Law enforcement will then arrest the respondent, and the matter will proceed through the court system for the violation. Violators of protection orders are often released after arrest with little to no bail, but a respondent who cannot make bail may remain in jail until the hearing date.
Getting a Protection Order Dismissed
While Indiana law often gives the benefit of the doubt to the victims of harassment or domestic violence, the law also provides avenues for protection order respondents to contest the order.
Step one in getting a protection order dismissed is obeying by the order until the matter is resolved—no matter how unfair it may seem. If a respondent violates the order, not only is it a criminal matter, but it will make it extremely unlikely that the order will subsequently get dismissed.
Step two is hiring an attorney. A respondent’s chances of getting a protection order dismissed are greatly improved with qualified legal representation. Protection order attorneys have experience in this area of law and know how to navigate the process. They know what evidence to look for and can help the respondent put together an effective defense strategy.
Step three is requesting a hearing by filing a verified request for a hearing within 30 days of receiving notice of the protection order. The filing does not need to include any details about the case. Instead, that evidence can be offered at the hearing itself.
After hearing the respondent’s evidence and arguments and any response from the petitioner, the court will determine whether the respondent has, in fact, committed the acts that formed the basis of issuing the order of protection.
The most effective way to get the order of protection dismissed is to prove that the petitioner does not qualify for the protection order or that the respondent’s conduct did not rise to the level of severity necessary to justify a protection order. Respondents have access to all the petitioner’s allegations ahead of the hearing, so they should make every effort to present evidence that refutes those allegations.
Where to Turn for Help with a Protection Order in Indiana
A protection order—or the lack of one—can have extreme consequences for you, your family, your work, and your living arrangements. To protect yourself and your rights, you need qualified counsel in your corner. An Indiana protective order attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP has the experience and skills needed to help in this precarious situation. For a free consultation to learn how we can help you, call (317) 857-0160 or fill out our online contact form.