Mandatory protection orders in Colorado are court orders. They forbid a criminal defendant from harassing the alleged victim of the crime. They also protect any witnesses to the crime. The protection order can forbid you from even contacting these people.
Mandatory protection orders are even more serious in domestic violence cases. In these cases, a protection order can keep you from seeing your family. Violating the order can lead to additional criminal charges.
Mandatory protection orders should not be confused with civil restraining orders:
- Civil restraining order (CRS 13-14-102). These are requested by an alleged victim. They can be issued before a crime has occurred.
- Temporary restraining order, or TRO. Temporary protection orders are a type of civil restraining order. TROs are issued quickly by courts to people asking for one. The subject of a TRO does not have an opportunity to defend against one. However, TROs expire in a short amount of time.
- Permanent restraining order, or PRO. Permanent protection orders are another type of civil restraining order. PROs prohibit certain kinds of conduct forever. They are more severe than a temporary order. Therefore, the subject of a PRO can fight to keep it from being issued.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys will explain:
- 1. What is a mandatory protection order?
- 2. What are the penalties for violating a mandatory protection order?
- 3. What is the difference between a mandatory protection order and a civil restraining order?
1. What is a mandatory protection order?
A mandatory protection order (MPO) is a court order issued against a criminal defendant. It forbids that criminal defendant (“restrained person”) from interacting with the alleged victim of a crime. It also protects any witnesses to the crime from harassment. The victim and/or witness named in the MPO order is considered a “protected party.”
CRS § 18-1-1001 is the law that allows courts to issue mandatory protection orders. That law specifically forbids:
- Acts meant to intimidate,
- Acts that retaliate against someone with evidence of the crime, and
- Tampering with witnesses.
1.1. When does a court issue a mandatory protection order?
Courts issue mandatory protection orders whenever someone has been accused of committing a crime in Colorado.
The issuance of a mandatory protection order is done during your first court appearance. This is often the arraignment for the underlying crime. At this stage of the process, the judge will inform you of your rights. The judge will tell you not to interact with the alleged victim or witnesses. This is the mandatory protection order outlined by CRS 18-1-1001.
Most judges make the mandatory protection order a part of your bond. Violating the protection order breaks the terms of your bail. This can lead to serious penalties. It can lead to additional criminal charges, as well. It can also make the terms of your bail much stricter.
1.2. What kind of conduct is forbidden by an order in Colorado?
CRS 18-1-1001 focuses on conduct that harasses victims or tampers with witnesses. In domestic abuse cases, those alleged witnesses and victims are family members. In these cases, a mandatory protection order can make your life difficult.
The details of a protection order depend on each case. Important factors are the crime you are being charged with and your criminal background. In many cases, a mandatory protection order is very standard. It forbids all interactions with the victims and witnesses of the alleged crime. In some cases, though, the terms of the order are more detailed and harsh.
People facing domestic violence charges have the harshest mandatory protection orders. The terms of these protection orders often include rules that forbid:
- Talking to your spouse, children, or relatives. The rule applies if they initiated the contact or consented to it,
- Interacting with relatives in any way. This includes on the internet, over the phone, or through text message,
- Indirectly contacting your spouse, children, or relatives. This includes sending them a message through a friend,
- Going in or even near your marital home without law enforcement agency supervision,
- Going near your spouse, children, or relatives. This includes going near their workplace, where they live, or where they often go,
- Drinking alcohol,
- Using drugs,
- Possessing guns or other deadly weapon, and
- Committing any other crime.
Example: Ralph has been accused of domestic violence. He has been ordered not to contact his girlfriend. He shows up at her doorstep with a bouquet of flowers to say he is sorry. He gets arrested.
1.3. How long does a mandatory protection order last?
In Colorado, mandatory protection orders last throughout the court process. They begin at your first court appearance. They end when your case is resolved.
Mandatory protection orders are issued at your first court appearance. This is most often the arraignment. The arraignment is where you will learn the charges you are facing.
The mandatory protection order lasts until the final disposition of your case. A final disposition includes:
- A jury verdict of guilty or not guilty,
- A finalized plea deal, or
- The prosecutor dropping all the charges against you.
A dismissal of some of the charges, however, does not count. It is not a final disposition of your case.1
1.4. Can I get the terms of a protection order changed?
The terms of a mandatory protection order can be changed. You can request a change by filing a motion with the court.2
The process for changing the terms of a mandatory protection order is a formal one. It has to go through the court system and get approved by a judge to be effective.
Until the judge signs off on the motion requesting the change, the terms of the protection order remain in effect. It does not matter if you and the alleged victim can agree to ignore the terms of the order. If you do, you can still get arrested for violating it.
2. What are the penalties for violating a mandatory protection order?
Violation of a protection order can lead to additional criminal penalties. It can also complicate your underlying criminal case by altering the terms of your bail bond.
2.1. Bail problems for your ongoing criminal case
Many judges treat mandatory protection orders as a part of your bond. You have to comply with the requirements of your bond to stay out of jail before trial. The most well-known requirement is posting bail, though there are others, as well. Breaking a term of a protection order violates one of those other terms of your bond.
If you break the terms of your bond, the judge hearing your criminal case can revoke your bond completely. If your bond gets revoked, you will have to wait for your trial in jail.
More often, though, the judge changes the terms of the bond for your original criminal case. After violating a protection order, the amount of the bond you will have to post for pre-trial release will be much higher. The terms will also be much stricter.
To make matters worse, violating bail conditions is itself a crime in Colorado.3
2.2. Criminal penalties for violating a mandatory protection order in Colorado
There are three potential criminal consequences for the crime of violation of a protection order:
- A criminal charge for the violation of a protective order (CRS 18-6-803.5),
- An additional criminal charge for the violation of bail conditions (CRS 18-8-212), and
- Any sentence for violating the protection order is served after a sentence for the original crime.
The crime of violation of a protective order is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Colorado. This is the most severe type of misdemeanor in the state. It carries the following penalties for a conviction:
- Up to 18 months in jail, and
- Up to $5,000 in fines.
Prosecutors can also charge you with violating the terms of your bail. If you were originally charged with a misdemeanor, violating your bail is a Class 3 misdemeanor. Convictions carry:
- Up to 6 months in jail, and
- Fines from $50 to $750.
However, if you were originally charged with a felony, violating your bail is a Class 6 felony. These convictions are more serious, carrying:
- Between 12 and 18 months in jail, and
- Fines between $1,000 and $100,000.
If you are convicted for the original crime and for violating a mandatory protection order, the sentences have to be served consecutively.4 This is unlike many other sentences involving multiple criminal charges. It means the jail time and probation period for all of the sentences are added together. In other cases they can be served concurrently, or at the same time.
Even if you are eventually acquitted of the original crime, you will still have to serve whatever sentence you received for violating a protection order.
3. What is the difference between a mandatory protection order and a civil restraining order?
Mandatory protection orders get issued against people accused of committing a criminal offense. Meanwhile, civil protection orders get issued against people accused of putting an intimate partner in danger.
The subjects of mandatory protection orders are already facing criminal charges. That is why these orders are often called “criminal protection orders.” Meanwhile, restraining orders can be issued to keep someone from committing a crime.
The goals of a protection order and a restraining order are different, too. Mandatory protection orders keep people with evidence of a crime safe.5 Restraining orders aim to protect people who are in volatile living situations.6
- People v. Sterns, 318 P.3d 535 (Colo. App. 2013).
- Colorado Revised Statute § 18-1-1001(3).
- C.R.S. § 18-8-212.
- C.R.S. § 18-6-803.5(2)(c). See also People v. Delfeld, (October 28, 2021) 2021 COA 131.
- People v. Brockelman, 862 P.2d 1040 (Colo. App. 1993).
- People v. Brockelman, Supra.