The Indiana Civil Protective Order Act (“Act”) provides powerful relief to help ensure the safety of certain covered Hoosiers who find themselves in dangerous situations, such as a victim of domestic violence or repeated harassment. Additionally, the Act covers certain minor children in harmful situations or individuals, such as from an abusive or drug-addicted parent. While Protective Orders are a powerful tool that can be used for good, they can also be used to wrongfully harm an individual who is not a threat to anyone. This blog provides a brief overview of protective orders, the ramifications of same, and how you can defend yourself.
Before discussing how an individual can defend against a protective order, it is first important to understand who can file for a protective order and the grounds for seeking a protective order. Indiana statutory code provides a specific list of individuals who can obtain a protective order (“PO”). First, a person who is, or has been, a victim of domestic or family violence may file for a PO against a family or household member who committed the act of domestic or family violence.1 Second, a victim of stalking or a sex offense can obtain a PO against the perpetrator.2 Third, a person who is, or has been, subjected to harassment may file for a PO against the person committing the harassment.3 Finally, a parent or guardian can file for a PO on behalf of a minor child who has been subject to domestic or family violence, or a victim of stalking.4
The Act provides three (3) basic grounds for obtaining a protective order: being a victim of domestic or family violence; being a victim of stalking; or being a victim of harassment. Domestic or family violence is defined by several different acts, for example, attempting to cause, threatening to cause, or causing physical harm to another family or household member. Stalking is defined as a knowing or an intentional course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another person that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened.5 Finally, harassment is defined as conduct directed toward a victim that includes but is not limited to repeated or continuing impermissible contact that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress.6
With an understanding of who can seek a PO, and the grounds for obtaining same, we can now discuss how an individual may defend themselves against a PO. In Indiana, individuals have many options and avenues to pursue in defending themselves against a PO. Unfortunately, however, due to the extremely fact sensitive nature of POs, there is no global, clear cut answer in which we can provide that will be applicable to all individuals. Thus, we will look at an example to highlight the many ways a person may defend against a PO.
One final thing to note is that any petitioner who is seeking a PO has the burden of proving one of the grounds for a PO. Now, in looking at an example, suppose that an individual files for a PO against you, claiming that you committed harassment. As pointed out above, harassment is “repeated or continuing impermissible contact that would cause a reasonable person emotional distress and actually causes emotional distress.” Thus, taking our example, the petitioner would have to show that you committed: (1) repeated or continuing impermissible contact; (2) that would cause a reasonable person emotional distress; and (3) that actually causes emotional distress. If a petitioner does not prove all of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence, then the court should deny petitioner’s request for a PO.
If you find yourself on the wrong end of a protective order, there can be some serious consequences. One such consequence is you will become Brady disqualified, meaning you will no longer be able to own or possess a firearm. Furthermore, you could see an adverse consequence at work or in your search for employment as employers may be hesitant to hire an individual with a protective order against them. Finally, if you have children, it could have an effect on your parenting time with them. While the Protective Order may later get dropped due to lack of proof, the mere fact that there was an Order of Protection against you can lead to serious and permanent consequences.
There are ways to defend yourself against a protective order. However, Protective Orders are unique and very complex. They take a skilled attorney to navigate and guide you through the murky waters. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys practice throughout the State of Indiana and understand the complication associated with Protective Orders. This blog post is written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates who handle all facets of Protective Orders throughout the state. This blog is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.