Protective Orders

Common Questions About Protective Orders

There are two types of Protective Orders:

 A No Contact Order is issued after an arrest by the bail commissioner or judge. No Contact Orders are automatically issued for all Domestic Violence crimes by statute.  A No Contact Order is in effect for the entire length of the criminal case, including through the length of the sentence.  It can be dropped only at the request of the victim and with the approval of a judge.

 Restraining Orders can be sought whether or not there is a criminal case. Restraining Orders can be issued by a judge when there has been physical or sexual abuse, threats of violence, stalking or cyber-stalking or if the other party has placed you in imminent fear in another way.

 Where do I go to apply for a Restraining Order?

It depends on your relationship with the person whom you are seeking protection against. Use the following guidelines to determine which court you will go to:

Family Court:

  • Spouses
  • Former Spouses
  • Child in Common
  • Adults related by blood/marriage
  • Juveniles in a dating relationship

District Court:

  • Adults who live together currently or have lived together within the past three years
  • Adults in a dating relationship currently or within the past year
  • Adults who have been sexually assaulted and do not have a “domestic relationship” to the individual he or she is filing against

 Superior Court:

Any person who does not qualify for a Family or District Court restraining order may apply for a Superior Court order. Violation of the order is not an arrestable offense.

 What is the criteria for obtaining a District or Family Court Restraining Order?

You must complete the required paperwork, including an affidavit describing the specific ways that the defendant either physically or sexually abused you, threatened to abuse you, or stalked you. You must also provide a photo ID to file.

 Is there any cost to get a Restraining Order?

District and Family Court Restraining Orders are granted free of charge. If the defendant lives out of state, there may be a fee for service of the order, depending on the state’s policy. There is a fee for filing Superior Court orders and there may also be a fee for serving a Superior Court order. All or part of a Superior Court order fee may be waived by the Judge if income guidelines apply.

 How long will the order be in effect?

A Temporary Restraining Order is issued when you first apply. This order is active for up to 21 days, to allow time for the defendant to be served. If the defendant cannot be served, the Temporary Restraining Order will be extended and a new summons issued. At the second hearing, if the Restraining Order is granted, it can be in effect for up to three years, depending on the circumstances. Before the order expires, you can return to the court to apply for an extension if you are still in fear of the defendant, provided the relationship still falls under the statute.

How do I find out if the defendant has been served with the Temporary Restraining Order?

If the defendant lives in Rhode Island then you will need to contact the Rhode Island Sheriff’s Department to find out whether or not he or she was served. You can reach the Sheriff’s Department at (401)275-2900. If the defendant lives out of state, you will need to contact whichever department you originally contacted to have the individual served.

 What happens if the defendant violates the Order?

Violations of the Family or District Court Restraining Orders are criminal offenses, and can be punishable by up to one year in prison, or up to $1,000 fine. Any contact in person, by phone, letter, email, social media or through a third party is considered a violation of the Restraining Order (there may be some exceptions to this depending on the case). Even non-threatening contact is a violation. Violations of a Superior Court Restraining Order are considered civil violations, so the defendant must be brought back in to court for contempt of a court order.

 What if I have a Protective Order from another state?

If you have an active Protective Order from another state, that Protective Order will cover you in Rhode Island under Full Faith and Credit. It is a good idea to keep a physical copy of the Protective Order on you at all times should you need to contact the police.

 Do I need a Restraining Order if I already have a No Contact Order?

No Contact Orders are connected to a criminal case, and they will expire when the case is disposed, either through acquittal or the end of the defendant’s sentence. So, for example, the No Contact Order will be in effect for the entire time the case is pending, and if the defendant is sentenced to one year suspended with probation, the No Contact Order will be in effect for that year. A Restraining Order can be granted for up to three years, so it could potentially be in effect longer than a No Contact Order. Also, when you are filing for a Restraining Order you can ask that the defendant be vacated from the household, that the defendant relinquish his or her firearms and/or that the court grant you temporary custody of children you have in common with the defendant.

 What if there is no formal custody agreement for our children?

Most judges will award the plaintiff temporary custody of the children, but most judges will also order some type of visitation for the defendant at the second hearing. So, if you have any concerns about the defendant having access to the children, you should contact an attorney or speak with an advocate before filing for the Temporary Restraining Order.

 For more information, contact the Court Office of the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center at (401) 822-6680. The Court Office is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 – 12:30, the office is closed from 12:30 -1:30 for lunch, and reopens 1:30 – 4:30.