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Comparison Between Criminal Protective Orders (CPOs) And Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVROs) in California

Recently updated on May 8th, 2024 at 12:16 am

In California, when it comes to ensuring personal safety and preventing harassment or harm, two essential legal tools are frequently used: Criminal Protective Orders (CPOs) and Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVROs). These orders are intended to safeguard individuals from harm, but they have distinct differences in terms of their scope, application, and how they are obtained. In this blog, we will explore these two types of orders and help you understand when and how they are used to safeguard individuals from harm,

The types are:

Domestic Violence is for situations when the abuser is your current or former romantic partner or family member (not roommate)


Civil harassment is for situations when the abuser is your roommate, neighbor, coworker, total stranger or anyone who is not a romantic partner or close family member.


Elder Abuse: is for situations when a senior citizen or disabled adult is being abused by a caretaker, neighbor or child .

(Not quite ready for online filing)



Gun Violence: is for cops or family members to apply for when an unstable person has a firearm,  and risks hurting themselves or others. The court order requests firearms to be taken away.

(Not quite ready for online filing)


Workplace Violence: An employer usually requests these to protect their employee(s) from a person who has stalked, harassed, been violent or threatened violence at the workplace.

(Not quite ready for online filing)



School Violence is for school officials to get when there's risk of violence against students at a private college or university when the risk of violence is at the on campus.

(Not quite ready for online filing)


What are Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVROs)?

A Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) is more like a broad shield to protect people from domestic violence, which can involve family members or people in close relationships. Domestic violence is not limited to physical contact causing injury or pain. Emotional, verbal, psychological, sexual and even economic abuse can qualify for a restraining order.

What's their focus?

DVROs have a much wider scope. In California, this order can be used to:

  • Restrain an abuser from either direct or indirect contact with you, your family members, and/or your property.
  • Restrain an abuser from stalking, harassing, threatening you, or disturbing your peace.
  • Prohibit an abuser from owning a firearm (or ammunition).
  • Order an abuser to leave a home that both of you share.
  • Give a victim temporary child custody.


Who initiates DVROs? DVROs are initiated by the person who's been a victim of domestic violence. This person is often called the "petitioner."

Types of DROs:

There are two main types of DVRO in California.

  • Temporary DVRO: It does not require a hearing, and can be awarded without the presence of abuser. These orders are temporary, and generally last for two weeks or until you can have a full DVRO hearing.
  • Permanent DVRO: This order will be protect from specific types of harm over a longer period of time, and usually lasts for about five years.

When you file for protection, your judge will see the evidences, and likely grant a temporary DVRO within one to two days. At that time, you’ll also be assigned a hearing, in order to find out whether or not a permanent DVRO is required.

How do you get a DVRO?

To get a DVRO, the person who's been a victim of domestic violence has to ask the civil court. The court will take a look at the situation and decide if a DVRO is needed to keep the person safe.

Violation of a DVRO

If the person subject to the DVRO violates the order by trying to contact the victim or going where they're not supposed to, there are consequences. A violation of a restraining order is a crime per California Penal Code 273.6 PC. Violating particular provisions of a domestic violence restraining order in California can result in a criminal conviction that carries potential jail time and could be as simple as a fine.

Court forms for DVROs can be prepared anonymously here.


What are Criminal Protective Orders (CPOs)?

Unlike DVROs, Criminal Protective Orders (CPOs) focus on the criminal case at hand. A CPO is like a shield granted by the court in criminal cases. It's there to protect the victim or witnesses involved in a specific criminal case. They are primarily concerned with preventing contact or harassment related to the specific criminal charges. This means that they may prohibit the defendant from approaching the victim, witness, or other parties involved in the case.

Who initiates CPOs?

CPOs are usually initiated by law enforcement or the prosecuting attorney. They do this to keep witnesses and victims safe during the criminal trial.

How long do they last? CPOs only stick around as long as the criminal case does. Once the case is done, the CPO goes away. A victim may request to extend a CPO after the CPO expires.

How do you get a CPO? Here's the thing - victims and witnesses don't directly ask for CPOs. The court automatically puts one in place when it's needed in a criminal case. Victims and witnesses just need to cooperate with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney to make sure they get that protection.

Types of CPOs

Here are two common types of CPOs:

  • No Contact Order: A No Contact Order is a type of CPO that prohibits the defendant in a criminal case from having any contact with the victim, witnesses, or other parties involved in the case. This order is issued to prevent harassment or intimidation during the course of the trial.
  • Peaceful Contact Order: In some cases, the court may issue a Peaceful Contact Order, which allows the defendant to have contact with the victim or other individuals, but only if the contact is peaceful and non-threatening. This type of CPO can be tailored to allow limited communication in certain circumstances, such as for child custody or visitation matters.

Violation of a CPO

Breaking a Criminal Protective Order (CPO) in California can result in criminal charges, including fines, probation, and potential imprisonment, depending on the severity of the violation. Penal Code 273.6 says: “Any intentional and knowing violation of a protective order is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to one year in county jail, and fine of up to $1,000, or both jail and a fine.” However, the type of behavior a protective order will attempt to restrain always depends on the case's details.


Key Differences Between DVRO and CPO

  1. Initiation:

DVROs: The person who's been a victim of domestic violence initiates them in civil court.

CPOs: They're initiated by law enforcement or the prosecuting attorney in a criminal case.

  1. Scope:

DVROs: Cover a broader range of protection, including restraining the abuser, handling child custody, and more, in cases of domestic violence.

CPOs: Focus on protecting people involved in a specific criminal case from harassment or harm related to that case.

  1. Duration:

DVROs: Can last from 15 days to much longer, depending on the circumstances.

CPOs: Last only as long as the criminal case they're connected to.

  1. Application:

DVROs: Require the victim of domestic violence to request one from the civil court.

CPOs: Automatically issued by the court during the criminal proceedings, no direct application needed.

Both Criminal Protective Orders and Domestic Violence Restraining Orders aim to keep people safe, but they are used in different situations and cover distinct types of protection. It's crucial to understand these differences if you're seeking protection in California. If you need a CPO or DVRO, it's advisable to seek help from a legal expert to navigate the process successfully and ensure your safety. In order to file for DVRO, you can prepare your court forms anonymously here.



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