Recent Changes to DC CPO and Stalking Laws

by | Aug 25, 2021 | CPO

A “CPO,” or Civil Protection Order in the District of Columbia, is an order from the court for the petitioner, one individual, to stay away from another individual, the respondent, that remains in effect for one year. This is similar to what many would call a “restraining order.” Although CPO cases are considered civil, they do contain criminal aspects, involving the criminal legal system. For example, CPOs are handled in domestic violence courts.

CPOs are filed with a petition as a written request to the courts for either a CPO or a TPO, a temporary protection order, or both. This request has to demonstrate imminent danger requiring court action.

Upon the initial CPO hearing, a judge decides whether or not to issue the protection order based on the candor and validity of the allegations. TPOs remain in effect until the next court hearing, where it is then decided whether to continue onto a trial where a formal and full CPO may be granted and issued. When granted, a CPO remains in effect for one year.

There are two types of CPOs: No-contact orders and No Harassing, Assaulting, Threatening, or Stalking behavior, commonly referred to as “NO HATS” orders. No-contact orders prohibit the respondent from being within 100 yards of the petitioner. They also are prohibited from any contact by phone, email, social media, or through third-party.

Violations of a no-contact order may result in a criminal contempt charge that likely includes fines and jail time. These types of violations are common in parties who share children.

Should a CPO trial commence, it proceeds like any other trial. The petitioner’s evidence needs to prove a case by a preponderance of evidence or “good cause shown.” The respondent then has an opportunity to show and relay their own evidence. In the event that a TPO is already in effect, it will additionally require the respondent to agree to this request.

In the event that the petitioner does not appear in court, the judge will have no choice but to dismiss the case “without prejudice” — allowing the petitioner the opportunity to submit another petition. However, when a respondent does not appear in court, it is likely that the judge will order a default CPO.

The Intrafamily Offense and Anti-Stalking Amendment Act

December 15, 2020, marked the first date of the Intrafamily Offense and Anti-Stalking Order (AOS) Amendment Act unanimously passed by the District of Columbia Council. The purpose of the new legislation is to add further protections for family, household members, intimate partners, members, and survivors of sex trafficking and sexual assault in Washington, D.C.

Though the new legislation was passed in December of 2020, it came into effect during the Spring of 2021. The key adjustments made mainly include the age of petitioners, duration of effect for the protection order, and the making of the Anti-Stalking Order (AOS).

In regards to petitioners, CPOs will now be accessible to intimate partners, family members, household members, sexual assault, and sex trafficking survivors. The new legislation allows minors between the ages of 13 and 16 to file without parental approval against any person, not just an intimate partner, who has sexually assaulted them. This excludes a minor filing on their own behalf if the minor has a significant relationship with the person they are wanting to file against.

Additionally, under the Intrafamily Offense and AOS Amendment Act, TPOs may now be extended for up to 28 days for good cause. Respondents will also be required to turn over any possession of firearms or ammunition and will also be prohibited from purchasing any others during the duration of the active TPO.

CPOs will now be valid for up to 2 years rather than just one year, in which a judge is still permitted to grant and extend after the 2 years is up if good cause has been demonstrated. The new implementation of the Anti-Stalking Order (AOS) will pertain to already existing petitions in effect within the preceding 90 days to be eligible to file. Minors older than the age of 16 will also be eligible to file on their own behalf.

If you or someone you know is either responding to an Anti-Stalking Order or in need of obtaining one, it’s important to discuss your case with a qualified DC civil protection order attorney. At Scrofano Law, we have successfully represented both petitioners and respondents in a variety of CPO matters. Contact us today for a full case evaluation.

Joshep S.

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