What Is An Order Of Protection In TN?
An Order of Protection is an order signed by a judge upon a Petition prohibiting you from contacting or going near another person. Orders of Protection are meant to protect victims of 1) domestic abuse, 2) stalking, or 3) sexual assault and should not be taken lightly. They have very serious legal consequences and often involve domestic assault accusations. Before you make any decisions, it is highly advised for you to speak with an Order of Protection lawyer (criminal attorney). Information about the new Lifetime Order of Protection can be found here. Read More >
This page contains the answer to nearly every question about how to get or fight an Order of Protection in TN. View this page’s Table of Contents for a quick reference. You can also view our article on TN Order of Protection records, background checks, and expungements to learn more about that. To only see information specifically related to your situation, check out our Tennessee Protection Order chatbot helper.
Restraining Order vs Order Of Protection
In TN, people commonly mistake a Restraining Order for an Order of Protection. They are not the same. In TN, a Restraining Order is used for business purposes in civil litigation, while an Order Of Protection is for personal protection.
Ex Parte & Temporary Orders Of Protection In Tennessee
An Ex Parte Order of Protection is sought by the Petitioner when he or she is seeking immediate relief. The victim petitions the court, and the court will grant an Ex Parte Order if good cause is shown. An immediate and present danger of abuse to the Petitioner constitutes good cause. Considerations for a showing of good cause may include the Petitioner’s injuries and fear of retaliation, as well as the Respondent’s history of violence, pattern of conduct, access to weapons, criminal history, proclivity to drink and do drugs, history of mental illness, and threats and attacks against the petitioner. If granted, Ex Parte Orders of Protection only last fifteen (15) days after the Respondent has been served with the order. Within that 15-day period, a hearing must be held to determine if a Temporary Order of Protection will be granted. The Respondent will be served at least five (5) days prior to that hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, if the Petitioner has proven the allegation(s) of domestic abuse, stalking or sexual assault by a preponderance of the evidence, the court will issue a Temporary Order of Protection for a definite period of time, not to exceed one (1) year. If the petitioner has not proven the allegation(s) of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault by a preponderance of the evidence, the court will dissolve the Ex Parte Order of Protection. The types of protections included in an Ex Parte Order of Protection may include, but are not limited to:
Who Can Get An Order Of Protection?
Under Tennessee law, these people can get an order of protection:
- Domestic abuse victim (see Definition [A] below);
- Sexual assault victim; and/or
- Stalking victim (see Definition [B] below).
A domestic abuse victim is defined as: “adults or minors who are current or former spouses; adults or minors who live or have lived together; adults or minors who are dating or have dated or who have or had a sexual relationship; adults or minors related by blood or adoption; adults or minors who are related or were formerly related by marriage; or adult or minor children of a person in a relationship that is described above” who have been subjected to, threatened with, or placed in fear of domestic abuse.
Stalking (T.C.A. § 39-17-315 Web Search) is defined as: “a course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.” No special relationship needs to be present for a stalking Order of Protection as it does under the domestic abuse Order of Protection.
How Does Someone Get An Order Of Protection?
To obtain an Order of Protection in TN: The Petitioner for the “OP” may seek relief by filing a sworn petition alleging the abuse. Upon filing the petition for an Order of Protection:
Note: If the Ex Parte Order of Protection is granted, a hearing must be set within fifteen (15) days of the service of the Ex Parte Order of Protection so the Respondent can defend themself.
What All Can An Order Of Protection Do?
In Tennessee law, the scope of an Order of Protection may include, but is not limited to:
- Directing the Respondent to refrain from committing abuse or threatening to commit abuse against the Petitioner or the Petitioner’s minor children;
- Prohibiting the Respondent from telephoning, contacting, or otherwise communicating with Petitioner, directly or indirectly;
- Prohibiting the Respondent from stalking the Petitioner as defined in T.C.A. § 39-17-315 (Web Search);
- Granting to the Petitioner possession of the residence or household to the exclusion of the Respondent by evicting the Respondent, by restoring possession to the Petitioner, or by both;
- Directing the Respondent to provide suitable alternate housing for the Petitioner when the Respondent is the sole owner or lessee of the residence or household;
- Awarding temporary custody of, or establishing temporary visitation rights with regard to, any minor children born to or adopted by the parties;
- Awarding financial support to the Petitioner and such persons as the Respondent has a duty to support;
- Directing the Respondent to attend available counseling programs that address violence and control issues or substance abuse problems; and
- Ordering payment of attorney fees and court costs.
How To Fight An Order Of Protection
How The Petitioner Can Drop The Order of Protection
Yes, the victim can chose not to go forward with the Order of Protection. The two ways this can happen are:
- The Petitioner agrees to dismiss the petition and/or
- The Petitioner fails to show up for the hearing.
Unlike domestic violence crimes, an Order of Protection is a civil matter, although it is handled in criminal court. Because it is a civil matter, the Petitioner is free to dismiss the Petition without the permission of the State of Tennessee.
About The Order Of Protection Hearing
Oftentimes, Petitioners are talked into seeking an OP, either by the police or family. Many times the allegations in the OP do not meet the standard (although the standard is very low) or the offenses are simply overstated by the Petitioner.
Virtually any time a police officer responds to a domestic violence call and makes an arrest, they try to convince the “victim” to take out an OP. At the time the offense allegedly occurs, emotions are high, and the parties may speak out of anger rather than fact.
One of the most important parts to defending an OP is to identify and interview any other witnesses to the incident other than the victim or the alleged suspect. This could be a friend, family member, or even a neighbor who overhears the argument through the apartment walls. However, in many cases, the only witnesses are the alleged victim and you, and there is often little or no physical evidence.
In these cases it is often a battle of credibility between the Petitioner and you. A Petitioner with a history of repeatedly calling the police may be less credible. Each case is different, but by fully investigating the situations, the parties, and the available witnesses and evidence, many protection orders can be defended at the hearing.
Order Of Protection Consequences
The following is what happens to you if an order of protection is granted against you:
Order Of Protection Violations
If the Respondent, having knowledge of, or having been served with, the Ex Parte Order of Protection, is alleged to have violated the order, the Respondent will be arrested. To be clear, the Respondent will be arrested if the Petitioner alleges that they have violated the order. No investigation or proof is required.
The Respondent will have a contempt hearing no more than ten (10) days following his or her arrest to answer for the alleged violation. For this hearing, the Petitioner will be asked to show cause why a contempt order should be issued.
If, at the conclusion of the hearing, the court finds that the order was in fact violated, the Respondent:
- Will be held in civil or criminal contempt for each act of contempt, the punishment for each act being up to ten (10) days imprisonment and a fifty ($50) dollar fine; (§ 29-9-103) and
- May also have to pay any support designated in the Order of Protection.
- Will have to post a bond in an amount the court determines is necessary to reasonably assure the safety of the Petitioner, but it will not be less than two thousand five-hundred dollars ($2,500). (§ 36-3-610)
(Source: Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-611)
If the Respondent is alleged to have violated the temporary order, the Respondent will be arrested. The Respondent will have a contempt hearing no more than ten (10) days following arrest to answer for the alleged violation, for which the Petitioner will be asked to show cause why a contempt order should be issued. (§ 36-3-611)
If, at the conclusion of the hearing, the court finds that the order was in fact violated, the Respondent:
- May be held in civil or criminal contempt for each act of contempt, the punishment for each act being up to ten (10) days imprisonment and a fifty ($50) dollar fine; (Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-9-103)
- May have to pay any support designated in the Order of Protection;
- Will have to post a bond in an amount the court determines is necessary to reasonably assure the safety of the Petitioner, but it will not be less than two thousand five-hundred dollars ($2,500); (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-610)
- May be charged with a violation(s) of the order, including for possessing a firearm or ammunition, (Tenn. Code. Ann. § 36-3-625; § 39-17-1307) each violation being a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 11 months and 29 days; (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-113) and
- May be charged criminally for the act(s), including unlawful possession of a firearm, which causes the violation. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-113; § 36-3-612)
In addition, the court may extend the Order of Protection for up to five (5) years after the Respondent’s first violation of the order, and then up to ten (10) years after the Respondent’s second or subsequent violation of the order.
(Source: Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-605)
Get An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Protection Order hearings are incredibly biased in favor of the Petitioner. The right criminal attorney is critical to achieving success. At SBL, we provide defense services for those responding to Orders of Protection or seeking an Order of Protection. Moreover, Cynthia Sherwood was Chair of the Domestic Violence Project for several years and has seen these cases from not only the Respondent’s side, but has also represented Petitioners in many cases. To say the least, she knows how the Petitioner and/or his/her attorney might look at the case. If you’re looking for an Order of Protection lawyer, look no further. Call SBL at (615) 873-5670 today.