Colorado restraining orders are court-issued demands that an alleged abuser or harasser avoid contact with the victim. The purpose is to protect people from domestic violence assault or other threats.
Here are the three types of restraining orders in Colorado:
- Temporary protection orders (TPOs): The first step for victims is to apply for a TPO from their local court. The judge can grant TPOs without hearing from the abuser, and they last for 14 days.
- Permanent protection orders (PPOs): If the threat persists, the court converts the TPO into a PPO which may last forever. Before the judge grants a PPO, they must hold a hearing where the abuser can choose to defend themself.
- Emergency protective orders (EPOs): Police can get EPOs for victims outside of normal court hours. EPOs last for only three days, so victims should apply for a TPO once court reopens.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is a restraining order in Colorado?
- 2. What is a temporary protection order (TPO)?
- 3. What is a permanent protection order (PPO)?
- 4. What is an emergency protection order (EPO)?
- 5. How are civil and criminal restraining orders different?
- 6. What happens if I violate protection orders?
- 7. How do I get removed from a protection order?
- 8. Can restraining orders show up on background checks?
- 9. How much does it cost to get a restraining order in Colorado?
Civil courts issue restraining orders prohibiting contact between people to prevent further harm. The person the court order is meant to protect is called the “petitioner” or “victim.” The person who is ordered to stay away is referred to as the “adverse party.” Other names for “adverse party” are
- “restrained party,” or
- “restrained person.”
Restraining orders are often issued in domestic abuse situations where an angry (ex)spouse or (ex)partner commits – or threatens to commit – violence or coercion. Other reasons to get restraining orders are to prevent:
- Stalking (see our article on domestic violence harassment)
- Sexual assault
- Unlawful sexual contact
- Abuse of the elderly or at-risk adult
- Physical assault, threat, or other dangerous situations
Each restraining order is unique to each case. Typical conditions include:
- Avoiding contact with the victim. This includes communicating in person or by phone, text, email, and/or social media, whether the communication is harassing or not.
- Avoiding certain locations. This includes the victim’s workplace, vehicle, home, children’s schools, and/or other places.
- Temporarily surrendering custody of children and/or pets to the victim or other family.
- Refraining from transferring or selling certain assets.
They go by various other names. These include:
- Protection or protective orders
- Stay away or no contact orders
- Orders of protection
As discussed below, there are different types of protection orders.
(As of 2020, people can have their guns temporarily taken away if they are deemed to be an extreme risk. This is called an extreme risk protection order a.k.a. red flag law. Learn more about Colorado gun laws.)
TPOs are temporary civil protection orders that typically last 14 days. They are the first step to getting a permanent protection order (PPO).
Victims apply for TPOs by filing a JDF 402 form in court. The judge usually holds a hearing that same day. The victim can have an attorney appear with them. The adverse party does not need to be there. (This is called an “ex parte” hearing.)
The victim needs to show they are in imminent danger. If the judge agrees, they will grant the temporary order. (The judge may then set a hearing date to decide whether to grant a PPO.)
The adverse party must then be served with the TPO. The protected person may not do this themself. Instead, the victim can ask:
- The local sheriff,
- A process server, or
- Anyone 18 or older not named in the TPO
Temporary protection orders do not take effect until the adverse party is served.1
A TPO also goes by the name TPO (temporary protective order). For detailed instructions on how to apply for a TPO, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
PPOs are restraining orders that can last forever. Judges can agree to modify or recall them. However, adverse parties must wait two years before asking. (Scroll down to section 7 to learn how to change or cancel a PPO.)
Judges will hold a hearing before issuing a PPO. This is like a mini-trial. The victim and adverse party can hire attorneys to argue their sides. And they can present evidence and call witnesses.
(At this hearing, the judge can extend the TPO for up to 120 days. Then, the judge would schedule another hearing to determine whether a PPO is still necessary.)
The victim must be at the hearing for the judge to issue a permanent protection order. In contrast, the adverse party does not have to be at the hearing for the judge to issue the PPO. But if the permanent order does issue, then the adverse party needs to be served with it.
The victim may not serve the adverse party themself. Instead, the victim can ask:
- The local sheriff,
- A process server, or
- Anyone 18 or older not named in the PPO2
PPOs also go by the name PPO (permanent protective order). For detailed instructions on PPO procedures, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
Depending on the case, there may be a filing fee to get a PPO. However, courts may waive the fee for indigent victims.
EPOs are restraining orders that last three days. The police can obtain an EPO for a victim when:
- The victim is in danger of domestic abuse or a sex offense, and
- It is outside of normal court hours (evenings, weekends, or holidays)
The adverse party must then be served with the EPO. The victim may not do this themself. Instead, the victim can ask:
- The local sheriff,
- A process server, or
- Anyone 18 or older not named in the EPO
Victims should then apply for a TPO as soon as the court opens. Otherwise, there may be a gap in protection.3
For detailed instructions on EPO procedures, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
Civil orders are sought by victims. Judges will grant them if they believe the victim is in danger. They comprise
- PPOs, and
- EPOs (discussed above).
In contrast, criminal restraining orders are sought by Colorado courts in conjunction with criminal charges. And courts issue them whether the victim wants them or not.
For example, criminal restraining orders are mandatory following certain domestic violence arrests. The victim does not have to apply for the order. And there does not have to be a hearing. Defendants are automatically prohibited from contacting the victim.
Criminal restraining orders typically last for the duration of the underlying criminal case.4
Violating a protection order is a criminal offense.
Law enforcement may arrest an adverse party whenever the police have probable cause to believe they violated the terms of a PPO or TPO. It does not matter whether the victim or someone else reported the violation.
The punishment for a TPO or PPO violation depends on whether:
- The restraining order is civil or criminal; and
- The defendant has previously violated a restraining order
Colorado protection order
Sentence for violating protection order
|Civil protection order (TPOs, PPOs, or EPOs)
If the basis for issuing the protection order included an allegation of stalking or the parties were in an intimate relationship, then a first offense is a class 1 misdemeanor carrying:
Otherwise, a first offense is a class 2 misdemeanor, carrying:
Class 1 Misdemeanor (extraordinary risk):
|Criminal protection order (mandatory protection orders in criminal cases)
Class 1 Misdemeanor:
Class 1 Misdemeanor (extraordinary risk)
Adverse parties in civil restraining orders should contact an attorney right away. It is easier to prevent a TPO from becoming a PPO than to cancel an existing PPO.
Once a PPO is in effect, adverse parties must wait two years before asking the court to modify it or cancel it. However, the victim can ask that the order be changed or dismissed at any time.
Predictably, county courts are more likely to dismiss PPOs if:
- The adverse party never violated the PPO;
- The adverse party committed no other crimes; and
- The victim no longer needs the PPO6
Defendants can file a motion at any time to modify or dismiss PPOs. But judges usually uphold them until the criminal case ends.
For detailed instructions on how to modify a PPO, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
Yes, a restraining order is generally part of the public record. Therefore, they can show up in criminal records. Even if the adverse party was never convicted of anything, the employer/landlord/etc. running the background check might assume that the adverse party is a troublemaker.
That is why people named in a TPO are strongly advised to hire an attorney to fight against it becoming a PPO.
Filing for a restraining order is free in Colorado as long as the person seeking the restraining order is either:
- A victim of domestic abuse, stalking, rape, or unlawful sexual contact, or
- Unable to afford the filing fee (people who cannot afford the fee can submit an additional motion to file without payment)
Otherwise, the filing fee to get a restraining order is $85.7 In some cases, there may be a filing fee to get a PPO, though judges may waive the fee for indigent victims.
- CRS 13-14-104.5; FAQ about Civil Protection Orders, Colorado Judicial Branch.
- CRS 13-14-106.
- CRS 13-14-103.
- CRS 18-1-1001.
- CRS 18-6-803.5. See, for example, Garcia v. People (2019) CO 64, 445 P.3d 1065. Note that prior to March 1, 2022, violating a civil protection was always a class 2 misdemeanor for a first-time offense. SB21-271.
- CRS 13-14-108.
- Protection Orders, Colorado Judicial Branch.