Peace Orders

The following is provided for information purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice for any particular situation.   For questions or issues regarding protective orders and peace orders you should consult with an attorney before making any decisions.

A peace order is a type of protective/restraining order that one party seeks against another when the parties are not related by blood, marriage, cohabitation or a common child.   Peace orders commonly address disputes between neighbors, co-workers, friends, non-cohabitating romantic partners, and strangers.    To obtain a peace order, the petitioner must present testimony and evidence that establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent, within the previous 30 days, has committed one or more of the following:

(1) an act that causes serious bodily harm,
(2) an act that places the petitioner in fear of imminent serious bodily harm,
(3) assault in any degree,
(4) rape or a statutory sexual offense, or an attempt to commit one of those offenses,
(5) false imprisonment,
(6) harassment as defined by law,
(7) stalking as defined by law,
(8) trespass as defined by law,
(9) malicious destruction of property as defined by law.

If a judge decides to issue a peace order, it may be enforceable for up to 6 months.   A judge is limited in what he or she can put in a peace order.   A peace order can order the respondent to stop contacting or harassing the petitioner, order the respondent to stay away from the petitioner’s house or workplace, order the respondent to participate in counseling, and order the respondent to pay the court costs.  The purpose of a peace order is primarily to provide a "cooling off" period between the parties. 

Procedurally, a person seeking a peace order first goes to the county District Court building to file a petition.   A judge may issue the temporary peace order that day, without the respondent being present in the courtroom.    The order will often direct the respondent to, among other things, have no contact with the petitioner.  But a temporary peace order cannot alter child custody, direct someone to pay money, or surrender possession of a car (as happens with domestic violence protective orders).   The judge will set a final peace order hearing approximately one week later.  During this time the respondent has to be served with the temporary peace order.   If he or she is not served, the final peace order hearing may have to be continued to another date.    Sometimes a respondent wants his or her own peace order against the petitioner.  So the respondent would have to file a separate petition at the courthouse.  

 If the courthouse is closed when the petitioner wants a temporary peace order, the petitioner can go to District Court Commissioner’s office to obtain an “interim” peace order.   If a commissioner issues an interim peace order, the petitioner will be directed to appear in court on the next business day for a judge to determine if a temporary peace order should be issued.  If the respondent is served before the temporary peace order hearing, the respondent may appear and consent to a final peace order, or agree to have a contested final peace order hearing that day.

If a person is served with a temporary peace order, it is important to determine if criminal charges have also been requested.    Everything that is said in a courtroom at a peace order hearing is recorded.  Therefore, what is said might be used at a criminal trial.   It is a criminal offense to violate the terms of an interim, temporary, or final peace order.   A petitioner cannot abate the restrictions of a peace order without getting approval from the court by filing a motion to modify or rescind the peace order.

When attorneys get involved, a lot of good work can be done to address the underlying dispute so that a peace order, (and criminal charges) may not be necessary.   Judges hope that attorneys will mediate a resolution and avoid a contested hearing.   We have also seen judges get frustrated with petitioners and respondents who don't have counsel and don't understand the process.  Many petitions are filed based on allegations that have no merit or don't provide a legal basis for obtaining a final peace order.   Many are filed for vindictive or retaliatory reasons, and not because someone is worried about his or her safety.   If you feel you have a situation in which you may want to get a peace order against someone else, or may have to defend against someone else's claim for a peace order, call us at 301-251-9001.

To view an application for a peace order, click here.