A common misconception about an Order of Protection is that it is only a piece of paper. What is it really? It is a piece of paper with legal ramifications, that can include arrests, fines, and even incarceration. However, it will not stop a bullet or an attack by a determined aggressor. What it will do is deter a law abiding citizen from continuing with threats and bullying tactics and possibly physical abuse. It will also provide a paper trail if you are in the unfortunate position of needing one. We have recently been personal witness to this when one of our own had an order of protection and was shot by her ex boyfriend in spite of the order. Fortunately, due to her fear and her desire to protect herself from his continued threats and harassment, she had obtained a concealed carry permit and a firearm. She had filed numerous police reports to no avail regarding his violations of the order of protection. Other than protect herself, there was nothing else she could have done.
Orders of Protection are viewed differently by the courts. Some courts will barely issue an Order of Protection due to the overuse and abuse of such orders. Some people use them as leverage to make someone else obey them or to get a leg up in their litigation. This makes some courts reluctant to issue them, sometimes, even when they are legitimately needed. For example, in one of the counties in the central Arkansas area, it is nearly impossible to get an order of protection, especially if there is a pending divorce matter. In that county, you basically, not only have to have been threatened with physical harm, there has to have been physical harm – and recently.
Other courts will issue them almost automatically out of a sheer abundance of caution.
There is no rhyme or reason as to how the different jurisdictions decide to issue these orders. Some counties use the prosecuting attorneys office to assist a person wanting an order, some use the sheriff’s office and others use the clerk’s office. Sometimes the petition doesn’t even make it to the judge because the person assisting the person seeking the order decides that the judge won’t sign it.
There can be significant consequences for having an order of protection against you. For example, you cannot possess a firearm while under an order of protection. If your spouse or ex seeks out and obtains a frivolous order of protection, it can be very harmful to your reputation and your rights.
The legislature has tried to add teeth to the law and additional protection by lengthening the time an order can be in place. Violating of an order of protection is currently a class A misdemeanor, which may get the offender up to a year in jail. Regardless of what the legislature does with this statute, a piece of paper does not stop a bullet. It is about the best protection that can be offered in the situation, other than completely uprooting your life and moving and changing your name; and even that may not prevent the person wanting to harm you from doing so.