Laws and procedures presented here apply to all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, ability, race, national origin, language, or immigration status. You have the right to all protections and services described in this book.
Legal & community service options
There are two primary legal options for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking: protective orders and criminal charges. Victims can use one or both options.
A protective order is protection from future abuse by setting limits on offender behavior. The person the order is filed against will not go to jail unless the order is violated. The order can help protect you whether or not you want to remain in the relationship. During the protective order process, the judge makes decisions based on a “preponderance of evidence,” meaning the judge believes it is more likely than not that violence has occurred.
A criminal complaint is a request for the judge to issue criminal charges against a person accused of committing a crime. A criminal charge lets the offender know violence is unacceptable and illegal. For a criminal conviction, the judge or jury must believe “beyond a reasonable doubt” violence has occurred.
Protective Orders & Criminal Charges:
Sometimes victims file for a protective order and a criminal complaint is filed. Criminal charges and protective orders are two separate court procedures that can result in separate orders and/or consequences. What happens in one court procedure does not affect what happens in the other court procedure. A change to one order, such as a dismissal or amendment, does not automatically apply to the other.
Many agencies in our community provide safety and support for victims and are available regardless of whether or not you seek protection through the court. Physical and emotional support services are available including shelter, therapy, support groups, advocacy, and more. For more information on these services, see the Community Resources. (LINK)