If you or a loved one have received notice that someone has taken out an order of protection against you, then it is time to get aggressive about defending your rights. While these are civil and not criminal in nature, they can still have a lasting negative impact on your life. Understanding your rights in an order of protection hearing is critical, and the best way to protect yourself is to hire an experienced attorney. All of the attorneys at CROSSROAD LEGAL, LLC are experienced litigators who have either served as public defenders or prosecutors during their careers, meaning they have handled thousands of criminal and quasi-criminal cases.
What is an Order of Protection (OP)?
An Order of Protection (or "OP") is what people typically think of when they refer to a restraining order. In Illinois, orders of protection are most commonly used in the context of family court, such as in custody or divorce matters where there is domestic violence. Created with a lofty goal of protecting abused or battered women in dangerous relationships, OPs are very simple to initially obtain but much harder to make permanent. An order of protection creates a legally enforceable mechanism for forcing someone to stay away from another person or group of persons. For instance, a woman may seek an OP to keep a violent boyfriend from having further contact, following a domestic violence incident. Many people think "an OP is just a piece of paper," and to some extent they would be right. However, an OP has a lot of power that should not be overlooked.
What Does an Order of Protection Do?
Getting an order of protection is a two-step process. First, the petitioner (person seeking an OP) must fill out the forms at the local county courthouse. Most people do not need an attorney to do this. They simply go to the circuit clerk, obtain the form, fill it out, and go before a judge immediately. This is called an "Emergency Order of Protection Hearing." It is informal, and the judge simply reviews whatever the individual filled out and may let the petitioner make a brief statement. In the vast majority of cases, the judge will grant a temporary emergency OP, which is good for about 14-21 days. The key to this process is that there is no notice to the other person involved. This means that anyone can go to court and ask for an order of protection against you without giving you any notice whatsoever. You are not present, you have no right to confront your accuser, and you usually will have no idea this is even happening. Once the emergency OP is entered by the judge, law enforcement will be notified, and this information is entered into a statewide database. The matter is then set for a permanent hearing, known as a plenary hearing.
The Formal Plenary Hearing
At the formal hearing on the OP, a judge will hear evidence, testimony, and review documents. He or she may also allow the parties to introduce documents and other evidence. This hearing is scheduled at the time of the emergency order of protection being requested. The individual accused of violent behavior is then required to be given notice of this formal hearing. This is usually done through civil process service by a Sheriff. There is no jury. It is simply a judge deciding whether there is sufficient evidence of violence or threat of violence in order to create a legal duty for the police to enforce an OP.
How an Order of Protection Can be Harmful to You
If someone obtains an order of protection against you in Illinois, this will become public record. In most rural counties of southern Illinois, a collective database website, Judici.com, publishes records of all civil and criminal court matters. This includes OPs. This means prospective employers and other members of the community will be able to see that someone has successfully asked a court to order you to stay away from them. Likewise, the actual petition is public record, which means that any allegation, no matter how extreme or false, will also be public. An order of protection can create problems that include:
- Loss of employment
- Negative reputation
- Adverse military discharge
- Loss of college scholarships
- Dismissal from college
- Potential criminal investigations
- Loss of child custody
- Other negative outcomes in a divorce or family court matter
- Loss of gun rights (FOID card)
Hire an Experienced Lawyer to Protect Yourself
You may not care about the person who obtained the order of protection against you, and you may have no interest in ever seeing them again, but the fact remains that having the OP in place can be devastating to your future. An order of protection that is denied or withdrawn still leaves a mark on your public record, showing that at some point someone accused you of physical or sexual violence or threats of such violence. But if it is granted, then depending on your career, educational path, or other goals, this can destroy your chances of pursuing your dreams. If you are in the military, you will almost certainly be disciplined. This could lead to a negative military discharge. If you are in college on a scholarship, it will likely be lost. If you work in law enforcement or any other profession that requires firearm use, you will lose your job due to federal laws that prohibit you from having a gun. Finally, even those working in schools, daycares or nursing homes - anywhere with vulnerable populations - may lose their job over this. So, the time for action is now. Do not take it lightly, and do not delay getting help. Call CROSSROAD LEGAL, LLC today.
How to Get Help Today!
It all starts with a free 30-minute consultation. Just call the number below or fill out a contact form on our website, and you will be able to setup a time to talk to one of our dedicated Crossroad Lawyers! We take cash, credit card, debit card, check, or e-check online.
Do not speak to your accuser or attempt to call this person without first speaking to an attorney. If police are involved or you are contacted by law enforcement, DO NOT SPEAK TO POLICE WITHOUT A LAWYER PRESENT.