Colorado restraining orders are court-issued demands that an alleged abuser or harasser avoid contact with the victim. The orders function to protect people from domestic violence assault or other threats.
Anyone fearing for their safety can seek restraining orders from the local court. The judge may then grant a temporary restraining order (TRO), good for 14 days. And if the threat persists, the court may grant a permanent restraining order (PRO). PROs may last forever.
In some criminal cases, courts automatically issue protective orders. This typically occurs following domestic violence-related arrests.
- Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is a restraining order in Colorado?
- 2. What is a temporary restraining order (TRO)?
- 3. What is a permanent restraining order (PRO)?
- 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.)
TRO are temporary civil protection orders that typically last 14 days. They are the first step to getting a permanent restraining order (PRO).
Victims apply for TROs 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 him/her. The adverse party does not need to be there. (This is called an “ex parte” hearing.)
The victim needs to show he/she is in imminent danger. If the judge agrees, he/she will grant the temporary order. (The judge may then set a hearing date to decide whether to grant a PRO.)
The adverse party must then be served with the TRO. The protected person may not do this him/herself. Instead, the victim can ask:
- The local sheriff,
- A process server, or
- Anyone 18 or older not named in the TRO
Temporary protection orders do not take effect until the adverse party is served.1
A TRO also goes by the name TPO (temporary protective order). For detailed instructions on how to apply for a TRO, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
PROs are restraining orders that can last forever. Judges can agree to modify or recall them. But adverse parties must wait two years before asking. (Scroll down to section 7 to learn how to change or cancel a PRO.)
Judges will hold a hearing before issuing a PRO. 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 also has the option to extend the TRO for up to 120 days. And then the judge would schedule another hearing to determine whether a PRO 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 PRO. 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 him/herself. Instead, the victim can ask:
- The local sheriff,
- A process server, or
- Anyone 18 or older not named in the PRO2
PROs also go by the name PPO (permanent protective order). For detailed instructions on PRO procedures, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
Depending on the case, there may be a filing fee to get a PRO. But 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 him/herself. 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 TRO 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. And judges will grant them if they believe the victim is in danger. They comprise
- PROs, 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 he/she violated the terms of a PRO or TRO. It does not matter whether the victim or someone else reported the violation.
The punishment for a TRO or PRO 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 (TROs, PROs, 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 TRO from becoming a PRO than to cancel an existing PRO.
Once a PRO 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 PROs if:
- The adverse party never violated the PRO;
- The adverse party committed no other crimes; and
- The victim no longer needs the PRO6
Defendants can file a motion at any time to modify or dismiss PROs. But judges usually uphold them until the criminal case ends.
For detailed instructions on how to modify a PRO, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
Yes, they can show up in criminal records. And 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 TRO are strongly advised to hire an attorney to fight against it becoming a PRO.
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
Our DUI and criminal defense law firm offers free consultations and legal advice in person or over a phone call. We have law offices in Denver, Greeley, and Colorado Springs.
- 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, e.g., 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.