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Criminal Protection or Civil Restraining?

The differences between criminal protection orders and civil restraining orders are subtle, but there are key distinctions that everyone should know about.

Below, the Denver defense lawyers from Wolf Law detail criminal protection orders and how they differ from civil restraining orders; plus, real-world examples to help illustrate when and how these court orders are used.

What Is a Criminal Protection Order?

Criminal protection orders are issued against individuals accused of committing a crime. These court orders are automatically triggered in every criminal case; they forbid a criminal defendant from interacting with alleged victims and any witness to the crime itself.

In a domestic violence case, for example, intimate partners and children face potentially dangerous situations if allowed to interact with a partner/parent charged with domestic abuse.

Criminal protection orders were legislated to keep people with evidence of a crime safe. In Colorado, criminal protection orders specifically forbid: harassment, molestation, intimidation, retaliation, and tampering with witnesses.

In most cases, protection orders are handed down during a defendant’s first court appearance, usually at an arraignment hearing for the initial crime.


Criminal defendants should do everything in their power to avoid a protection order violation. This can be emotionally challenging for people, as these orders have the potential to keep defendants away from loved ones, their home, and other familiar places.

Criminal protection orders can also restrict other activities such as possessing a firearm, drinking alcohol or using drugs. Criminal protection orders will show up on a background check while the order is active.

Protection Order Violations—A Slippery Slope for Defendants

Most judges make the criminal protection order a condition of the defendant’s bond. In other words, if the defendant is found in violation of the protection order (e.g., sending messages to the protected party or camping out in front of the protected party’s job) this can result in severe consequences and additional criminal charges.

For example, the act of violating a protection order is in and of itself a crime in Colorado. Violating a protection order is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can result in up to 18 months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.

If you’re found in violation of a protection order, guess what? You’re probably also breaking the terms of your bail, which is an altogether different criminal violation that carries its own set of penalties, typically determined by the severity of the original crime.

What’s more, defendants who violate a protection order and are subsequently convicted of the original crime will be forced to serve each sentence consecutively. Meaning, the totality of probation and jail time for all sentences is added together and served in order. This is different from sentences that can be served concurrently, or at the same time.

Finally, protection order violation sentences must be served, even if the defendant is acquitted of the original charge. However, the terms of a criminal protection order can be altered by filing a motion with the court. This is a formal process that takes time and a judge’s approval. During this process, and even if the protected party agrees to ignore the terms, the defendant can still be charged with a violation.

A criminal protection order ends only when the criminal case has been resolved (i.e., jury verdict, plea deal, etc.). Depending on the crime, this can mean a very long time.

If you’re facing a protection order violation, you need Wolf Law. Call 720-479-8574 or contact Wolf Law online and we’ll reach out to you.

What Is a Civil Restraining Order?

Civil restraining orders are used to prevent potential crimes. In a civil case, the person seeking the restraining order is the petitioner, and the person who is being restrained is the respondent or defendant.

Restraining orders are fairly simple to obtain in Colorado. A victim of domestic violence, or any victim of violence or a person who is in fear of personal harm, may go to civil court to get a restraining order from a judge. Filing criminal charges or calling the police isn’t typically needed to secure a restraining order.

If the petitioner is granted a temporary restraining order by a judge, the order is in effect as soon as it’s been served to the defendant and continues until the court date on the temporary restraining order.

Defendants have a right to a hearing regarding whether the temporary order should be made permanent. This includes a minimum two-week continuance of the hearing to prepare. If the defendant wins the hearing, the restraining order is no longer in place. If the defendant losses the hearing, the order is made permanent.

A permanent restraining order will show up on a background check in perpetuity.

Just like criminal protection orders, a civil restraining order is used mainly for personal protection, which may involve removing the defendant from a family home and/or shared care and control of any children. A judge can also order the defendant to stay a specific distance away from friends and family or public places where the petitioner frequents. 

Importantly, a restraining order does not send a respondent to jail. However, the violation of a restraining order is a crime in Colorado; it’s a Class 2 misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail.

If the police have probable cause to believe that the defendant violated the restraining order, they are required to arrest the defendant and take the defendant to jail.

Aggressive Representation—Knowledge You Can Trust

In addition to providing accurate and detailed resources to our Denver-area community, Wolf Law provides aggressive legal representation to individuals facing a wide range of criminal charges including criminal protection order violations and civil restraining order violations.

Protection order violations are serious, as they can easily lead to an avalanche of compounding charges, financial drains, and life-altering consequences.

If you’ve been charged with a crime that involves a mandatory protection order or if you’ve been served a civil restraining order, it’s in your best interest to avoid a violation, even if it means not seeing the people you care about.

Wolf Law can help! Call 720-479-8574 or contact Wolf Law online for a free initial consultation. And be sure to ‘like’ and follow Wolf Law on Facebook for important news, legal commentary, and much more.