Protective Order and Effect on Your Gun Rights

Utah victims of domestic violence, family violence, sexual assault, or a similar offense may wish to seek protection from their abusers in the form of a temporary protective order. These court orders place certain restrictions on respondents, or those served with these temporary orders, that may prevent them from going certain places, initiating contact with certain people, or possessing or purchasing firearms until a hearing takes place, among other possible limitations. 

Understanding What a Protective Order Does 

Once someone requests a protective order in Utah, the district court or circuit court decides whether to move forward with scheduling a hearing and enacting the temporary restrictive order by determining whether the respondent committed, threatened, or attempted violence or domestic violence against the other party. If the circuit or district court determines there is a real threat of bodily injury, continued harassment, or family abuse, it may place one or more restrictions on the restrained person. 

An emergency protective order or restraining order may restrict the respondent from:

  • Committing violence or domestic violence against anyone named therein
  • Contacting anyone named in the criminal protective order
  • Avoid the home, school, workplace, or place of worship of the other party
  • Surrender rights to possess or purchase a firearm

If a judge grants a petitioner’s request, he or she may issue a temporary ex parte order that typically lasts until the hearing date, which is usually within 20 days of the date of the filing. Once a protective order is in place, any violations may lead to criminal charges or additional legal trouble. 

Protective Order Types

Utah recognizes three main types of protective orders. 

Cohabitant Protective Orders 

Cohabitant protective orders extend protections from threats or abuse to sexual violence or domestic violence victims who are in a marriage, who live with, or have certain familial relationships or ties to the respondent. Petitioners must be over 16 to request these court orders, and those under 18 may not request protective orders against a parent or minor sibling. 

Dating Violence Protective Orders

Dating violence protective orders, or domestic violence restraining orders, extend protections to victims of domestic abuse who are involved in a dating or intimate relationship with the other party. Parties must be at least 18 to request a domestic violence protective order. Victims may have a chance to meet with a victim advocate when pursuing this type of protection order. 

This kind of temporary order does not apply to work colleagues or casual contacts. However, a proposed bill, if passed, would create a workplace violence restraining order in Utah.  

Sexual Violence Protective Orders

sexual violence protective order places limitations on a respondent who commits sexual violence against someone with whom they do not share a personal relationship.

In some cases, victims of stalking or harassment may also request protective orders or civil harassment restraining orders. Following, monitoring, photographing, or surveilling someone may constitute stalking, depending on circumstances. If a defendant in a stalking case engages someone else to follow, monitor, surveil, or otherwise track, someone may also fall under the stalking umbrella. 

The Process of Getting a Protective Order

The first step in obtaining a temporary protective order against an abuser involves requesting a hearing by completing the required protective order forms and filing them with the court clerk’s office. A judge then reviews the protective order application, and if he or she decides to grant it and allow for a hearing, the judge then sets a hearing date within 20 days. If the judge denies the request, the party making it may fill out a Request for Hearing form for an opportunity to try to convince the circuit or district court during a subsequent hearing that the request has merit. 

If both parties show up for the hearing with or without legal counsel, the judge typically listens to both sides before deciding whether to dismiss the temporary protective order request or issue a final protective order. A final protective order has civil and criminal components. Any violations of a final protective order may lead to charges or sanctions. In some cases, a judge may also consider creating a permanent protective order. 

How Law Enforcement Enforces Protective Orders

If the respondent violates the criminal elements of the restraining order, they may have to go to court for a class A misdemeanor and face criminal penalties, including a fine and possible jail time. If the respondent violates a civil component of the protective order, the other party may file a motion for an order to show cause, which asks the court to enforce the order. If the respondent fails to comply, they may be in contempt of court.