Violation of an order of protection is a Class A misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The court may also sentence the defendant to probation, counseling, and community service. Supervision is available for this offense, which means that a first offender may be eligible to have the record of this charge expunged.
The offense is governed by section 720 ILCS 5/12-3.4, which provides the following:
A person is guilty of violating an order of protection if he or she commits an act which was prohibited by a court or fails to commit an act which was ordered by a court as a remedy in an order of protection, and such violation occurs after the offender has been served notice of the contents of the order or otherwise has acquired actual knowledge of the contents of the order.
Typically, a defendant is charged with violation of an order of protection for making contact with a protected party by telephone, voicemail, email, or text message. The protected party is usually an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, a former spouse, or a child. Ceasing all contact is difficult. Violations happen all the time but are not reported.
Other means of violating an order of protection include going within 500 feet of a protected party, residence, or place of employment, and having other persons pass on messages to a protected party.
The law in Illinois provides that an order of protection can last for up to two years. This is called a plenary order.
A plenary order of protection comes about when the respondent was served by the sheriff with a petition for an emergency order of protection alleging abuse or harassment, and given an opportunity to be heard in court.
Once a plenary order is put into place by the court, the only way it can be removed during the two-year period is where the petitioner agrees to vacate the order.
Most people believe that if they have not been served with an order of protection, they cannot be arrested for making contact with the petitioner. This belief is mistaken. If the police have evidence that the defendant knew about the order of protection and contacted the petitioner anyway, this is probable cause to arrest.
If a charge comes about this way, it is a defensible case because the prosecution will have proof problems. How will the State prove the defendant had actual knowledge of the contents of the order? The prosecution would have to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant’s state of mind.
A second offense of violating an order of protection can be charged as a Class 4 felony offense, which carries 1-3 years in the Department of Corrections and a possible fine of $25,000. The court may sentence the defendant to probation, but there is a minimum 24 hours of incarceration in jail.
Violation of an order of protection is a serious case because judges tend to impose disproportionately harsh sentences for this offense.