Getting Served With a Restraining or Protection Order Is No Time to Panic

Getting served with a protection order would raise anyone’s blood pressure. If this has happened to you, you probably have tons of questions. To answer one of the most frequently asked questions our firm gets, a protection order is NOT a criminal charge or indictment. Simply being the subject of a protection order (sometimes referred to as a no-contact order or restraining order) will NOT result in your going to jail or prison.

However, a protection order in Washington state is not some toothless court order you can glance at once and throw away. You need to know exactly what the order has accused you of doing, who filed the petition, and what you should refrain from doing.  You also need to follow the order to a T.

Clarifying Terminology

In Washington state, a restraining order is something different from a protection order and no-contact order. The general differences are:

  • Restraining orders are court orders granted in conjunction with a divorce or other family law matter. The main purpose of a restraining order in Washington state is allowing for child custody, spousal support, and property division during the legal process, as well as preventing either spouse from selling off assets. 
  • No-contact orders are the most common court orders imposed on Washingtonians charged with a crime. What most people think of or refer to as restraining orders might actually be a no-contact order
  • Protection orders are granted when a person asks the judge to order someone not to have contact with them. Protection orders can be given in cases of proven domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, harassment, and extreme risk situations related to firearm possession.  

Common Conditions of No-Contact and Protection Orders in Washington State

The purpose of a no-contact or protection order is to provide civil and/or criminal recourse for certain actions that may not already be a crime. For instance, domestic violence, which is defined as assault, stalking, physical harm, or bodily injury against a family or household member (or intimate partner), is already a crime. Coming within 1,000 feet of an individual’s residence, work, or school is not a crime unless the no-contact or protection order forbids it.

Other conditions of protection orders in Washington state are firearm surrender and prohibition of any contact with the petitioner and protected minor children. As the subject of the court order, you will be served with the pertinent papers. These papers should contain nearly everything you need to know.

Some things might not be so obvious or understood, such as the need to leave your own residence immediately, turn over your firearms to the police, or not have any contact with your own kids, which includes messages through third parties and social media. Innocent mistakes and misunderstandings can have costly consequences.


Although getting served with a protection order can be frightening, it is only a civil court order and will not automatically land you in jail. However, it is a legally enforceable order that requires a sober response. If you are falsely accused of violating the order or unintentionally break it, you can face arrest and criminal charges. The worst thing you can do is lash out at the petitioner; the best thing you can do is contact an experienced lawyer.

Burke Brown Attorneys, PLLC is a Seattle-based firm with deep experience in protection order cases and related legal matters. We routinely assist individuals with defenses against protection orders. For a caring legal advocate, fill out a form on our website today.

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Burke Brown Attorneys, PLLC

The first step of our approach here at Burke Brown Attorneys, PLLC? Listening to you explain your legal situation. Our attorneys have nearly 40 years of combined experience in successfully defending people against the most serious accusations.

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