By Andrea Kim
If you are served with a protection order, you should consult with an attorney and hire one to represent you against the protection order. There are multiples kinds of protection orders: Anti-Harassment Protection Orders, Domestic Violence Protection Orders, Sexual Assault Protection Orders, and Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders. These are different than restraining orders entered as part of a family law case and they are also different than no contact orders issued in criminal cases.
1) You do not have the Right to a Court Appointed Attorney
· The ONLY time a party to a protection order has the ability to ask the court to appoint an attorney for him or her is in a Sexual Assault Protection Order. RCW 7.90.070 States that “the Court may appoint counsel to represent the petitioner if the respondent is represented by counsel.” That means that if the Respondent hires an attorney, then the court CAN appoint an attorney to represent the Petitioner who originally requested the order BUT only in a Sexual Assault Protection Order. That is the only situation where the court has the ability to appoint an attorney for either a Petitioner or Respondent in a Protection Order. Therefore, if you do not hire an attorney to represent you, then you will be defending yourself in court alone without the assistance of an attorney. While the court rules are designed for a person to be able to seek a protection order without the assistance of an attorney, there are zero court resources or assistance for Respondent’s responding to a Protection Order.
· Having an attorney represent you against a protection order provides you with the wealth of knowledge and expertise of the attorney. An attorney is going to know the proper etiquette to use in the courtroom and with the Petitioner’s attorney. Judges can be very particular and become very angry if a Respondent inadvertently offends them or does not abide by courtroom rules and decorum. An attorney is also going to know what documents to file and present to the court. Hiring an experienced protection order attorney provides you with someone that can decide which documents are going to be most important for the judge and will also be able to inform you of what documents you should not submit to the judge and why. The attorney can also provide you with advice and guidance in crafting your own affidavits and declarations to make sure they are as effective as possible. The attorney does a majority of the speaking for you in court so that you do not have to speak with the judge as much when you are nervous or do not enjoy public speaking. Every single client that has hired me to represent them against a protection order has left the case saying it was money well spent and that my services and expertise were invaluable.
2) There are potential implications of your 5th Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination
· In order to obtain a protection order, the Petitioner has to allege some sort of conduct or action that you took because of which they need protection from you. That alone means that the Petitioner is often accusing you, the Respondent, of illegal actions or crimes. Every person’s natural inclination is to defend themselves against such allegations. However, there can be many consequences for submitting documents or making statements to the court defending yourself that go far beyond what you are aware.
· Most importantly, if you admit to any crime whatsoever, then a prosecutor could use your admission to the protection order court against you in a criminal case. Every person has a right to not make self-incriminating statements under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. If there is any chance that you could be charged with a crime for the allegations made in a Petition for a Protection Order, then it is imperative that you hire an attorney to represent you in responding to the protection order because of the potential criminal implications it could have for you. You may not even know that you could be charged with a crime for something you admit to doing and you would not know that unless you speak with an attorney. If you hire an attorney to represent you against the Protection Order, that attorney knows exactly how to defend you against the protection order without saying anything that could get you in trouble later on down the road.
· If you already have criminal charges pending against you for the same actions alleged in the protection order, then it is even more important that you hire an attorney to represent you in the protection order because the prosecutor in your criminal case will be paying close attention to the things that you say and admit to during the protection order proceedings. If you have an attorney represent you during protection order proceedings they can even request a longer continuance of the hearings in order to allow you the opportunity to fully defend against the allegations without suffering the criminal consequences for those statements.
3) There are many other potential consequences that you may not be aware of
· For example, if you have a pending family law case involving children or a divorce, the judge in your family law case can see the documents that you submit as part of the protection order and if you admit to anything that the judge does not like, then you could lose custody of your children, or lose your divorce case.
· Some other potential consequences of having a protection order entered against you can include loss of your job or career. For example, some medical professionals cannot be the Respondent in a protection order. I have represented many nurses and a few doctors that would have lost their job if the judge granted the request for a protection order against them. Another consequence of having a protection order entered against you is that, depending on the type of order, you cannot possess or own firearms while you are controlled by the protection order. You also may not be able to vacate or seal a prior criminal conviction for an extended period of time if you have a protection order entered against you. There are many unforeseen consequences of having a protection order entered against you and it is incredibly important that you consult with an attorney before responding to a protection order. Unfortunately, because protection orders are a civil matter and not a criminal matter, no one has the right to an attorney for a protection order, but as discussed throughout this article, it is well worth the cost to hire an attorney to represent you against a protection order to protect your rights and make sure you understand all of the potential consequences of a protection order.
If you or a loved one has been served with a Protection Order, you need an experienced, aggressive, and knowledgeable defense attorney. Call Gause Law Offices today for a free consultation – 206-660-8775.