Domestic violence is a serious issue in West Virginia. For this reason, the law empowers judges to impose protective orders on someone accused — but not convicted — of domestic assault, or of making threats.

Commonly known as restraining orders, protective orders limit the ability of the suspect to be around the alleged victim. If issued, a protective order could force you to move out of your home and limit your ability to see your children.

There are two types of protective orders in West Virginia: emergency orders and permanent orders. An individual who says you have committed or threatened to commit domestic violence may petition the local magistrate court for an emergency protective order. For an emergency order, the accused person is not required to be there, so the court may only hear one side of the story.

If the judge grants the emergency protective order, he or she will usually schedule a hearing to determine whether to enter a final order. This hearing gives the accused the chance to testify and call witnesses. Obviously, the stakes are higher when a permanent order is being considered. If the accused is later arrested and found in violation of the order, he or she could be sentenced to up a year in jail on that charge alone.

While many domestic violence claims are legitimate, some people try to take advantage of the system to get an edge in a divorce proceeding, or simply to get “revenge” against a spouse or significant other. This is why someone facing a protective order and associated domestic assault charges needs an experienced defense attorney on their side.