If you are charged with a criminal offense in California and the offense includes an alleged victim there is a good chance that the court will issue a “no contact order” at your initial hearing. As a defendant in a criminal case it is crucial that you understand what a no contact order is, what the potential consequences are of violating the order, and what to do if the alleged victim wants to drop a no contact order.
People often get a “no contact order” confused with a “restraining order”. While the two are very similar, and often include many of the same terms, they are not the same thing. A restraining order is a civil order that is issued after an individual requests the order, a judge reviews the order, and the order is granted. A restraining order in California typically involves two individuals who have had an intimate relationship with each other, such as a husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, or parents with a child in common. A restraining order will typically order you to stay away from the protected person, or person who applied for the order. You may also be prohibited from contacting the individual by telephone, email, or at his or her place of work. If the protected person no longer feels the need for the restraining order he or she may contact the court that issued the order and request that the order be vacated, or dropped.
A no contact order, on the other hand, is issued by a criminal court judge. A no contact order may be issued as part of your conditions of release from custody while your case is pending or may be included in your sentence if you are ultimately convicted. Unlike a restraining order the protected person in a no contact order is not always a spouse or partner. In fact, you may not even know the protected person. While no contact orders are frequently issued in domestic violence cases, they may also be issued if you are charged with assault, burglary, or any other criminal offense where a victim is involved. The terms of a no contact order are determined by the judge; however, they are frequently similar to the terms of a restraining order in that they will likely order you to stay away from, and have no contact with, the alleged victim in the case. Violating the terms of a no contact order will typically result in your return to custody if your case is pending or a violation of probation if you have already been sentenced.
Sometimes, the victim gets word to you that he or she wishes to “drop” the no contact order. It is imperative that you understand that the alleged victim does not have the legal authority to drop a no contact order. Only a judge can vacate a no contact order. The alleged victim can contact the prosecuting attorney, or the court, and express his or her desire to have the no contact order vacated but unless and until a judge officially vacate the order you are still bound by the terms and will likely end up in jail if you violate the order.
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