By Kevin L. Jamison
A woman took out a protective order against her husband for rational and appropriate reasons. Under federal law the respondent (her husband) in a protective order cannot possess guns. The judge in her case decided to go one better and forbid both parties from possessing guns. The judge operated in the naive belief that this would prevent gun violence. The judge was right. The husband stabbed the woman to death.
Each state has its own version of protective orders which are generally designed to be easy and inexpensive to obtain. They are civil orders that the general public can file. They may be filed against anyone with a relationship to the plaintiff (the person filing the order) as defined by the state statute. This includes family members, current and former boyfriends, even co-workers and neighbors. Stalkers are often recipients of these orders. The process begins with a petition accusing the other party of threats or abuse which is then filed with the clerk of the court. After a cursory hearing, a judge will issue temporary order that the respondent appear for a full hearing. The temporary order will also require the respondent to stay away from the plaintiff until the hearing. Respondents can be ordered to leave their homes on just a few minutes notice. A temporary order does not deprive the respondent of the right to own guns under federal law, but state laws may be more restrictive.
Courts are making up for centuries of disinterest in domestic violence by issuing orders on trivial or even absurd evidence. For example, a Kansas City man discovered his girlfriend in the act of committing suicide. He twisted the gun out of her hand and she survived. She subsequently filed an adult abuse petition. At trial she admitted the facts, and the judge issued a protective order. The respondent was a policeman, suddenly unable to do his job and very sorry for his action. Courts are notorious for rubber-stamping such petitions on the grounds that if they deny the petition and violence ensues they will be criticized by the public. On the other hand, if they grant a baseless petition, they will only be criticized by the victim. One judge justified excessively granting protective orders because, “they only require him to obey the law.”
Obeying the law is not the only effect of protective orders. Aside from disarming the respondent the order publicly labels him as an abusive and dangerous person. The more evil elements of society have stumbled onto this fact and unfortunately file frivolous orders that harass the petitioner. There is no way to stop these individuals who are intent on misusing the system. An abusive husband obtained a protective order against his estranged wife in retaliation for her actions. He concealed himself in a place near her work and when she passed by, he popped out and then hustled to complain she had violated the order. Fortunately he was not successful in his attempt, but the judge did not punish him for his abuse of the system either.
Some have avoided the worst results of protective orders by agreeing to a “consent order” in which both sides agree to stay away from each other. This is not a perfect solution; but may be the best option there is in an imperfect system.
Kevin L. Jamison is an attorney in the Kansas City Missouri area concentrating in the area of weapons and self-defense.
Please send questions to Kevin L. Jamison 2614 NE 56th Ter Gladstone Missouri 64119-2311 KLJamisonLaw@earthlink.net. Individual answers are not usually possible but may be addressed in future columns.
This information is for legal information purposes and does not constitute legal advice. For specific questions you should consult a qualified attorney.