Colorado Restraining Orders


Violating a protective order in CO – Can the judge lock me up?

Top Colorado criminal defense attorney discusses the penalties for violating a protective order. Learn more about Colorado Legal Defense Group at or call (303) 222-0330 for a free consultation. CAN THE JUDGE LOCK ME UP FOR VIOLATING A PROTECTIVE ORDER IN COLORADO? A surefire way of getting thrown in a Colorado jail is to violate a protective order for domestic violence. Even if you were falsely accused of domestic violence, once a protective order has been issued against you, the police can arrest you if you harass, contact, or go near the alleged victim. Violating a protective order is a misdemeanor in Colorado. Under C.R.S. 18-6-803.5, the judge can sentence you to serve up to 18 months in jail or pay up to $5,000 in fines, or both. The judge can impose these penalties even if the underlying domestic violence-related charges against you get dismissed. The best way to defend against a protective order is to fight the order as soon as it goes into effect by petitioning the court to dismiss it. But if you do ultimately get arrested for violating a protective order, common defenses to fight the charge are: 1) Any contact you had with the alleged victim was purely accidental, and you stopped it as soon as you realized there was contact; 2) You didn’t knowingly violate the protective order; or 3) You were falsely accused by the alleged victim of contacting him or her. Remember that is never a defense that the alleged victim or witness contacted you or consented to contact with you. COLORADO LEGAL DEFENSE GROUP If you or a loved one is charged with a crime we invite you to contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We serve Denver, Lakewood, Littleton, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Pueblo, Boulder, Broomfield, Grand Junction, Eagle, Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail and throughout Colorado. Colorado Legal Defense Group 4047 Tejon Street Denver CO 80211 (303) 222-0330

Restraining orders in Colorado are court-issued demands that an alleged abuser avoid contact with the victim. Restraining orders are meant 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 restraining orders. This typically occurs following domestic violence-related arrests.

Colorado law makes it a misdemeanor to violate a restraining order (18-6-803.5 C.R.S.). Depending on the case, penalties include:

  • 3 to 24 months in jail, and/or
  • $250 to $5,000 in fines

In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

pen and paper with gavel
Violating a restraining order is a misdemeanor in Colorado.

1. What is a restraining order in Colorado?

Courts issue restraining orders prohibiting contact between people to prevent further harm. The person the order is meant to protect is the "victim." The person ordered to stay away is the "adverse party." (Other names for "adverse party" are "defendant", "respondent", or "restrained person".) 

Restraining orders are often issued in domestic abuse situations. Other reasons include:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Restraining orders go by various other names. These include:

  • Protection orders
  • Protective orders
  • Stay away orders
  • 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.)

2. What is a temporary restraining order (TRO)?

TRO are restraining 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. 

The victim needs to show he/she is in imminent danger. If the judge agrees, the TRO will issue. (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 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 TRO

TROs do not take effect until the adverse party is served.1

TROs also go by the name TPO (temporary protective order). For detailed instructions on how to apply for a TRO, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.

3. What is a permanent restraining order (PRO)?

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 PRO. In contrast, the adverse party does not have to be at the hearing for the judge to issue the PRO. But if the PRO 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.

4. What is an emergency protection order (EPO)?

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 court opens. Otherwise, there may be a gap in protection.3

For detailed instructions on EPO procedures, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.

5. How are civil and criminal restraining orders different?

Civil restraining orders are sought by victims. And judges will grant them if they believe the victim is in danger. Civil restraining orders comprise TROs, PROs, and EPOs (discussed above).

In contrast, criminal restraining orders are sought by courts. 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

6. What happens if I violate a restraining order?

Police may arrest an adverse party whenever police have probable cause to believe he/she violated a restraining order's terms. It does not matter whether the victim or someone else reported the violation.

The punishment for violating the terms of a restraining order 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)

First offense

Class 2 Misdemeanor:

  • 3 - 12 months in jail, and/or
  • $250 - $1,000 in fines

Subsequent offense

Class 1 Misdemeanor (extraordinary risk):

  • 6 - 24 months in jail, and/or
  • $500 - $5,000 in fines

Criminal protection order (mandatory protection orders in criminal cases)

First offense

 Class 1 Misdemeanor:

  • 6 - 18 months in jail, and/or
  • $500 - $5,000 in fines

Subsequent offense

Class 1 Misdemeanor (extraordinary risk)

  • 6 - 24 months in jail, and/or
  • $500 - $5,000 in fines5

7. How do I get removed from a restraining order? 

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, 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 in criminal restraining orders can file a motion at any time to modify or dismiss them. But judges usually uphold these orders until the criminal case ends.

For detailed instructions on how to modify a restraining order, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch website.

8. Can restraining orders show up on background checks? 

Yes, restraining orders 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.

Receptionists waiting for your call.
Call our Denver criminal defense attorneys. 303-222-0330. We offer free consultations.

Call us for help...

Are you the subject of a restraining order in Colorado? We may be able to get it dismissed or change the terms. Contact our Denver criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation. Call us at 303-222-0330. Or fill out the form on this page.

Legal References

  1. 13-14-104.5 C.R.S.; FAQ about Civil Protection Orders, Colorado Judicial Branch.
  2. 13-14-106 C.R.S.
  3. 13-14-103 C.R.S.
  4. 18-1-1001 C.R.S.
  5. 18-6-803.5 C.R.S.
  6. 13-14-108 C.R.S.

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