What is the Difference Between a Civil Restraining Order and Criminal Charges?

What is the Difference Between a Civil Restraining Order and Criminal Charges?

A civil restraining order and criminal charges are two different legal mechanisms that serve distinct purposes in addressing issues of harassment, violence, or other unlawful behavior.

Civil Restraining Order:

Purpose: A civil restraining order, also known as a protective order or injunction, is a legal order issued by a civil court to protect an individual from harassment, abuse, threats, or violence by another individual.

Initiation: Civil restraining orders are typically initiated by the victim or someone acting on behalf of the victim (such as law enforcement or an attorney) by filing a petition in civil court.

Standard of Proof: The standard of proof in civil cases is usually lower than in criminal cases. In most cases, the petitioner must demonstrate that they have a reasonable apprehension of harm or that harm has already occurred.

Penalties for Violation: Violating a civil restraining order can result in civil contempt of court charges, fines, and/or imprisonment, but it does not lead to a criminal record.

Duration: Civil restraining orders can be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances and the discretion of the court.

Criminal Charges:

Purpose: Criminal charges are brought by the state against an individual accused of committing a crime, such as assault, harassment, stalking, or other offenses.

Initiation: Criminal charges are typically initiated by law enforcement or prosecutors based on evidence gathered during an investigation.

Standard of Proof: The standard of proof in criminal cases is higher than in civil cases. Prosecutors must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Penalties: If convicted of criminal charges, the defendant may face penalties such as fines, probation, community service, imprisonment, and a criminal record.

Burden of Proof: In criminal cases, the burden of proof rests entirely on the prosecution to prove the defendant's guilt, whereas in civil cases, the burden may shift between the parties depending on the stage of the proceedings.

In summary, while both civil restraining orders and criminal charges aim to address issues of harassment or violence, they operate under different legal frameworks, have distinct standards of proof, and entail different consequences for the accused. If you have further questions about this, please feel free to consults with one of our attorneys at any time.

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