You or a loved one may face a charge (or charges) under Penal Code § 273.6(a) of intentionally and knowingly violating a civil protective order and you want to know what the punishment is and how certain common issues are resolved in addressing the charge.
Each violation is punishable by a fine up to $1,000, plus penalties and assessments, or by imprisonment in county jail for up to one year, or both the fine and imprisonment. See People v. Farber (2017) 15 Cal. App. 5th Supp 41, 223 Cal. Rptr. 3d 329 (imposition of a 6.5-year jail sentence on 13 counts of violating protective orders under Penal Code § 273.6(a)).
Brief Synopsis: Violating a civil protective order issued to protect a spouse or former spouse, elder adult, former employer or a school employee is usually a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in county jail, but it can be a felony, punishable by up to three years in state prison (served in county jail) if a firearm or weapon is involved or the defendant has a prior history of doing so.
However, it should be emphasized that Penal Code § 273.6(a) applies only to violations of civil protective orders as defined in Family Code § 6218, to violation of an order issued under the Civil Harassment Prevention Act (California Code of Civil Procedure § 527.6), to violation of an order issued under the Workplace Violence Safety Act (California Code of Civil Procedure § 527.8), to a violation of an order issued under California Code of Civil Procedure § 527.85 (injunctive relief against postsecondary school violence), or to violation of a protective order enjoining elder or dependent adult harassment or abuse under Welfare & Institutions Code § 15657.03.
Penal Code § 273.6(a) therefore appears inapplicable to a violation of a criminal protective order issued under Penal Code § 136.2.
A second conviction for a violation occurring within seven years of a prior conviction for violating an order described in Penal Code § 273.6(a) and involving an act of violence or a “credible threat” of violence as defined in Penal Code § 139(c) is a “wobbler.” It is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to one year or punishment by imprisonment pursuant to Penal Code § 1170(h) (county jail for a felony) for 16 months, or two years or three years. A “credible threat” is a defined as a threat made with the intent and apparent ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the target of the threat to reasonably fear for personal safety or the safety of immediate family. Penal Code § 139(c).
Another common issue that arises in the context of civil restraining orders is firearm possession. A person who owns, possesses, purchases or receives a firearm (even if it does not work) while knowing he or she is prohibited from doing so by the provisions of a protective order as defined in Penal Code § 136.2 (criminal protective order), Family Code § 6218, Code of Civil Procedure §§ 527.6, 527.8, or 527.85, or Welfare & Institutions Code § 15657.03 must be punished under Penal Code § 29825 according to Penal Code § 273.6(g)(1). A violation of 29825 is a “wobbler,” meaning the judge can sentence defendant to county jail for one year or state prison for sixteen months, two years or three years.
If the judge grants probation for a conviction for a violation of Penal Code § 273.6(a), (c) or (d), the judge must impose probation consistent with Penal Code § 1203.97. Such conditions may include, in lieu of a fine, the payment of up to $5,000 to a battered women’s shelter, or the reimbursement to the victim for the costs of counseling and other reasonable expenses that the court finds are the direct result of the defendant’s offense. Penal Code § 273.6h).
Orders to pay a fine or restitution must be conditioned on the defendant’s ability to pay. Orders to make payments to a battered women’s shelter must not be made if it would impair the defendant’s ability to pay direct restitution to the victim or to pay court-ordered child support. Penal Code § 273.6(i). In addition, the injury to a married person if caused in whole or in part by the criminal acts of his or her spouse in violation of Penal Code § 273.6, separate property of the offending spouse must be exhausted before community property can be used for payment of restitution to the injured spouse. Penal Code § 273.6(j).
For more information about protective orders and restraining orders, please click on the following articles: