When a relationship has become particularly abusive, or there is the serious threat of abuse, the Alabama courts might grant a restraining order. If you find that you are on the receiving end of dangerous or threatening behavior, you have the right and are encouraged to seek this legal protection.
What is a Restraining Order in Alabama?
A restraining order is a legal document issued by the Alabama courts that orders one party to stay away from another. Also referred to as a protective order, this mandates that person named refrain from contacting you and stay a certain physical distance away from you at all times.
Who Can Get Protective Orders?
In Alabama, any adult can request a protective order on their own behalf or on behalf of minor children. The person named in the order can be a current or former romantic partner, family member, or another household member.
If you are domestic violence victim, you can ask the court to issue a restraining order. For these purposes, the state considers domestic abuse to include:
- Assault in the first, second, or third degree
- Sexual assault
- Criminal trespass
- Reckless endangerment
- Unlawful imprisonment
The order itself will protect you from further harm from the perpetrator. The courts have discretion on what they can include in a protective order. Some of the orders can include that the named person must or must not:
- Communicate with you or minor children
- Threaten or abuse you or any minor children
- Come near your workplace or your children’s school
- Enter your home, which might involve their eviction
- Give you possession of a jointly-owned vehicle
- Pay your attorney’s fees
How to Get a Restraining Order in Alabama
A restraining order can be issued by either a criminal or civil court in Alabama. If it is issued by a criminal court, this means that the perpetrator also has criminal charges pending. With a civil court case, you aren’t asking that the person be jailed, but rather that they stay away from you and stop the abuse.
A petition for a protection from abuse (PFA) order can be filed in county court. Your attorney will file the petition, and most are handled in family court. Some of the information that is helpful to include with your petition include information about the abuser’s vehicle (make/model and tag #), home address, employer, history of gun ownership, drug or alcohol abuse, dates of marriage, separation, and divorce, and a photo.
When your attorney files the petition, you will be asked to describe the history of abuse and detail the last incident of violence or abuse involving the defendant. Be as specific as possible. If the request is urgent, you will go before a judge for an “ex parte” hearing. The defendant will not be present to ensure your continued safety and wellbeing. If the judge grants an emergency order, this is just a temporary protective measure until the final PFA hearing.
Since everyone has a right to due process, the person being accused will be able to defend themselves in court. The defendant will be officially served with papers that tell them about the PFA and the upcoming hearing, which is generally set within ten days of the date the petition was filed.
You will need to be present at this hearing. If you are not there, your emergency PFA will expire, you will need to re-start the process, and the court will not take your allegations as seriously in the future. If the abuser doesn’t show up for the hearing, the judge will likely issue a default judgment in your favor.
Provided the hearing takes place, you will have the opportunity to testify about the abuse and present evidence. You can also have an attorney represent your legal interests. If a judge decides in your favor, you will have a PFA that could be valid for up to one year.
If the abuser violates the terms of the PFA, they could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, this is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000.
Contact a Qualified Alabama Domestic Abuse Attorney
No one deserves to live their life fearing harassment or harm from someone else. If a spouse, roommate, family member, or another qualified person is hurting you, there are legal ways to protect yourself. Contact the compassionate and experienced Alabama criminal law attorneys at Darley Law, LLC for help with this often emotional process. You can reach us at 251-441-7772 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.