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  • What Happens If You Violate a Restraining Order?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    A restraining order violation is a serious matter. Before you violate a restraining order, stop and consider the consequences of that decision and whether you can choose a different alternative. In most cases, a restraining order violation is a criminal offense. A restraining order violation is often punishable by monetary fines, incarceration, or both. A restraining order violation can sometimes aggravate the underlying offense, resulting in harsher penalties.

    Before violating a restraining order, consider whether the violation is worth the potential consequences it can inflict on you and your loved ones. The last thing you want to worry about, besides the restraining order, is additional criminal penalties.

    What Is a Restraining Order?

    A restraining order is an order that prohibits one party, referred to as the restrained party, from contacting, harassing, injuring, intimidating, molesting, threatening, touching, stalking, or abusing another person or group of people, referred to as the protected parties. It also prohibits the restrained party from coming within a certain distance of specific locations like the residence and workplace of a protected person.

    A criminal restraining order is often issued automatically after allegations of domestic abuse. A criminal court can also issue a restraining order for accusations of sexual assault or stalking. The automatic protection order is usually temporary. There is a hearing later where the judge decides whether to extend or terminate the restraining order.

    Most states also offer a civil alternative to a criminal restraining order. For a civil protection order, the person seeking the order must petition the court and explain why the protection order is necessary. The civil court may grant a temporary civil restraining order and hold a hearing to determine whether to extend it. The restrained party can respond to the opposing party’s accusations, justifying the protection order in the hearing.

    What Is a Violation of Protection Order?

    Every restraining order is different. Each restraining order outlines the terms by which the restrained and protected parties must comply. Examples of a possible restraining order violation include:

    • Showing up at the protected party’s workplace,
    • Sending social media messages to the protected party,
    • Sending messages to third parties to communicate to the protected party,
    • Staying at a residence you share with the protected party, or
    • Sending threatening text messages to the protected party.

    Although some restraining order violations are straightforward, others may happen inadvertently. For example, the restrained party may inadvertently go to a restaurant for dinner without realizing the protected party is already eating at the same restaurant. As long as the restrained person leaves the premises as soon as they recognize the protected party is there, they will likely not face additional charges for the minor infraction. The prosecutor will review text messages, social media posts, and surveillance footage to determine whether the contact was intentional or accidental. 

    What Happens If You Violate a Restraining Order in New Mexico?

    In New Mexico, a first-offense violation of a restraining order is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 (NMSA §40-13-6). A second restraining order violation is a fourth-degree felony. It is punishable by a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 72 hours, a maximum sentence of 18 months, and a fine of up to $5,000. 

    A third or subsequent violation is a third-degree felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. 

    A restraining order violation can cause collateral consequences in matters such as:

    • Child custody disputes,
    • Potential job opportunities,
    • Legal possession of firearms, 
    • Legal use of drugs and alcohol, and
    • Your reputation among your peers.

    Like any criminal accusation, a restraining order violation is a serious matter. You should only decide to violate a restraining order after carefully considering the ramifications of doing so.

    What Happens If You Break a Restraining Order? 

    A lawyer can explain the consequences of a conviction and ways to avoid a violation.

    If a restraining order is filed against you, you must comply with the guidelines outlined in the legal document. Violating the terms of the restraining order is an easy way to find yourself facing additional criminal charges. Even though you may want to contact your accuser, any attempts to communicate with them, directly or indirectly, constitute a violation of the restraining order. 

    A seasoned New Mexico Criminal Law Offices attorney can explain what happens if you violate a restraining order. Contact our office so a member of our team can answer your questions.