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What Happens if you Breach a Restraining Order?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines a restraining order as “a written instruction made by a court that forbids a particular action until a judge has made a decision about the matter”. In legal terms, restraining orders are also known as injunctions.
Someone may impose a restraining order against you if they have first brought criminal proceedings as the result of a criminal offence you are found to have committed against them. Even if you are acquitted of this offence in court, a restraining order may still be put in place in order to provide the alleged victim with peace of mind.
This kind of order is put in place to restrict you from taking certain actions and protect a person. The aim of this is to prevent you from causing further harm or anguish to the person who applied for it. Restraining orders may be applied in cases of domestic violence, stalking, harassment or causing unnecessary suffering or anguish.
There are three different types of restraining order:
- A family violence restraining order
- A violence restraining order
- A misconduct restraining order
What Happens if you Breach a Restraining Order?
The limitations and requirements of each restraining order injunction that is put in place depend on the issues the court intends to address. This means that any actions that might constitute you breaching your restraining order will vary from case to case.
Furthermore, relevant “breach of restraining order” sentencing guidelines will recommend different punishments depending on the nature of your original offence and the way in which you supposedly contravened the court’s demands.
If it is reported to the police that you have breached your restraining order, it is highly likely that they will take action against you. Depending on the type of restraining order that has been imposed and the way in which you have allegedly breached it, you may be taken into custody as officers investigate the complaint.
If there is compelling proof that you have been breaching your restraining order, it is most probable that you will be prosecuted in either the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court depending on the type and severity of the breach.
If you are charged with breaching your restraining order, it’s likely that you will be kept in custody until a court appearance – though you may be able to apply for bail. This, again, depends on the seriousness and nature of your alleged contravention of the terms of your order.
If you are prosecuted for breaching your restraining order, your case may be heard in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court, depending on the seriousness of the transgression involved. In the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum sentence for this offence is 6 months’ imprisonment, while a jury trial in the Crown Court may see you jailed for up to five years if you are found guilty.
If you have committed repeated restraining order breaches within 2 years, there is a possibility that you will be handed the maximum penalty. You will also receive a criminal record as a result of any breach.
What Exceptions are there to Breaching a Restraining Order?
You may avoid punishment for the breach of a restraining order if reasonable excuses can be offered that explain why you did so as a defence. Excuses are considered on a case-by-case basis by a court to determine whether or not they are reasonable. For example, if your order forbids you from being within a certain distance of a particular person, you may be able to prove that you were not initially aware that you were both present at the same location at the time of the alleged breach, and that your actions at this time were not intentional.
There are also other restraining order defences and excuses that may be used if you are accused of contravening the restrictions applied to you by the court. These include:
- Voicing your intention to use a family dispute resolution or mediation service to resolve the issues between yourself and the individual(s) who requested the restraining order
- Taking action with the assistance of a police officer or specialist lawyer rather than taking matters into your own hands
- Proving that you have followed instructions given by a child welfare officer or another authority figure and that you continue to do so. The person in question will need to attend court as a party or witness to testify to this.
Breaching a Restraining Order – Sentencing Guidelines
Remember, breaching your restraining order is not a matter to be taken lightly. According to the sentencing council, the maximum sentence that can be imposed is 5 years imprisonment. However, the actual sentence that you will receive depends upon a number of factors, including
Your intention and motivation at the time of the breach.
What harm was committed as a result of the breach?
Whether there were any factors that make your breach worse. For example, if the victim or the person the court order is designed to protect is particularly vulnerable or is forced to leave their home as a result of the breach.
As we’ve previously discussed, mitigating factors are those which lessen the severity of the breach. For example, if you had previously complied with the order for a long time before breaching it, if the contact was not initiated by the target of the restraining order, or if a mediation service was used in order to settle a disagreement.
Contact DPP Law For Legal Assistance
If you believe that you may have breached a restraining order handed to you by a court of law, you must first begin gathering evidence to prove that you had a reasonable excuse for acting in the way you did. You should then seek the help of legal aid to help you collect further proof and present it to investigators or to a court of law in order to defend your position.
Do not make any statements or discuss your case or order with police officers or other officials without a legal professional by your side.
For further information regarding the consequences of breaching a restraining order, or for assistance from the specialist solicitors from DPP Law call our team today on 0333 200 5859 or get in touch via our handy contact form here. Whatever your requirements or concerns, we can help you by providing support and information, helping you to collect evidence of your innocence, commuting a harsh sentence to a more fitting one, or building a strong defence in order to successfully represent you in the courtroom.