Protective Orders

What is a Protective Order?

​It is a legal order issued by a magistrate or judge to protect the health and safety of an abused person and his/her family or household members.

Protective Orders are free

There is no charge for petitioning for a protective order, filing copies of a protective order, or having the order served on the respondent.

 Who is eligible to ask for a Protective Order?

In order to be eligible for a protective order, you must have been, within a reasonable period of time, subjected to an act involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places you in reasonable fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.

Is a Protective Order right for you?

Each situation is different, but a protective order can help provide you with legal protection from a violent act. Protective orders are often a necessary step when implementing a plan for one's safety.

Do I need legal representation for a Protective Order?

No. You do not need an attorney to file for a protective order.  Most areas have domestic violence attorneys or victim agencies available to assist you with the filing.

Do I have to press charges to get a Protective Order?

No. A protective order is a civil order, and is not the same as pressing criminal charges.  However, you may file for a PO in addition to pressing charges.

There are three types of Protective Orders

Protective Orders can impose the following conditions on the respondent (abuser): Prohibiting all contact with the victim; Prohibiting acts of violence, force, or threat against the victim; Possession of a companion animal; and any other conditions the judge or magistrate deems necessary to protect a victim's safety and well-being.

1) Emergency Protective Order (EPO)

A law enforcement officer or a victim may petition a magistrate for the issuance of an EPO.  The magistrate can be reached through your local Sheriff's Department, any time of the day or night.  An EPO lasts for 72 hours or until the next session of court.

2) Preliminary Protective Order (PPO)

Only a judge can issue a PPO, and should be obtained shortly after you have been the victim of an act of violence, force or threat.  You do not have to have an EPO to get a PPO, and the respondent (abuser) does not have to be at the hearing.  If a PPO is granted, it will last 15 days, or until the final Protective Order hearing.  The judge will give you the date for the final hearing and it will also be included on the PPO.

3) “Permanent” Protective Order (PO)

Again, only a judge can grant a PO that lasts for up to two years.  In order to obtain this PO, you must attend the final Protective Order hearing, which is scheduled at the time of your PPO hearing.  The court will subpoena both the respondent (abuser) and the petitioner (victim) to be at the PO hearing for the opportunity to submit testimony. If the PO is granted, the petition (victim) can later amend the PO conditions and/or file for it to be extended.


How to make sure Protective Orders work for you

  • It is important to remember that anyone can start this process at the magistrate's office (24/7).
  • With help from your victim service agencies develop a safety plan that works for you.
  • Go to all the scheduled hearings.
  • Follow all the conditions and terms stated in your protective order.
  • Report any violations of the protective order immediately.
  • Carry a copy of the protective order with you at all times and show it to law enforcement, if it is violated.


(For a complete brochure of "Protective Orders in Virginia - A Guide for Victims"

please see Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services publication page at