Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Judge Dale Harris
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Understanding restraining orders

Judge's View

 

January 16, 2020



When a person feels threatened or harassed, they have the option of seeking a court order to keep the other person away from them. While the public tends to call all of these documents “restraining orders,” there are several different types of these orders, and they each have different requirements, scope, and procedures.

First, there is an Order for Protection, or OFP. These orders are limited to domestic abuse situations. The person seeking this type of order must be a family or household member of the other party, which means sharing a residence, having a child in common, being related by blood, or having a current or past significant romantic or sexual relationship. A parent or guardian may also request an OFP on behalf of a minor child. Domestic abuse can mean physical abuse but also the threat of imminent physical harm. The term of an OFP is at a judge’s discretion, and can be up to 2 years. If there are multiple subsequent violations, the OFP can be extended for a term of up to 50 years. The scope of an OFP is extremely broad. The judge can order no contact, set geographic boundaries around the protected person’s home, work, or school, order financial restitution, set parenting time schedules, and order the return of property. The Court can also order treatment or counseling for the offending party. An active OFP usually bars the offender from possessing any firearms while the order is in place. Procedurally, the Court can issue an initial order without a hearing, but the respondent has the right to demand a full hearing where both parties can provide evidence and testimony.

The second type of order is a Harassment Restraining Order, or HRO. These orders do not require any sort of family relationship. You often see this type of order between feuding neighbors. An HRO requires a single incident of physical or sexual assault, or repeated instances of harassing conduct. An HRO is not as broad as an OFP, but can prohibit further harassment and all contact. Procedurally, they are similar in that the Court can issue an order for up to two years without a hearing, subject to a later, more formal hearing with evidence and testimony.

The third type of order is a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order, or DANCO. As the name suggests, it is limited to domestic abuse situations. Unlike an OFP, however, a DANCO is issued as part of an underlying criminal proceeding, usually at a separate hearing immediately following the person’s arraignment or first appearance on charges of domestic assault. Although the victim can provide input, the decision is ultimately up to the judge, who can issue a DANCO over the victim’s objection if the situation calls for it. The DANCO remains in place during the pendency of the criminal case. If a victim wishes to have a DANCO dropped, many judges will require the victim to complete a safety plan through a domestic violence victim advocate before considering cancellation of the order. The scope is usually limited to prohibiting contact. In the case of a shared residence, the Court can allow retrieval of personal belongings with a police escort.

It is important to distinguish between these types of orders, so the person seeking help gets the right tool for the job. Form petitions for OFPs and HROs are available at the Court Administrator’s Office or online at http://www.mncourts.gov/GetForms.aspx.

 

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