In this post, you’ll find:
- How the restraining order process works
- Implications of restraining orders
- The answers to 14 common questions about restraining orders
- How, where, and when to file a restraining order in South Carolina
There is a variety of ways in which someone else can threaten you, harass you, or otherwise make you feel unsafe. The state of South Carolina provides you recourse to restore your personal security by way of a restraining order.
Here are 14 questions that are most commonly asked in a discussion about restraining orders:
1. What’s a Restraining Order?
A restraining order is a mandate ordered by a court when you are being harassed, threatened, stalked, or otherwise made to feel unsafe. Basically, it’s a piece of paper saying that the accused has to stay away from you to avoid legal penalties.
A restraining order, in the eyes of the state of South Carolina, is a type of order of protection, typically involving two people that aren’t close with each other as opposed to protective orders among family members or people who otherwise live together.
2. What Does a Restraining Order Mean?
When ordered by a magistrate justice, a restraining order says that the person (perpetrator) accused of making you feel unsafe has to stay a reasonable distance away from you at (almost) all times. These are issued for your protection, part of a category called “orders of protection”.
3. How Can I Get a Restraining Order?
To file a restraining order, there are some important steps to take. First, you must document all instances or incidents where the accused made you feel threatened, harassed, or unsafe. They must be detailed before the judge when you go through with a restraining order hearing so that he or she can judge the validity of the threat to your safety.
You’ll acquire the paperwork needed to file a restraining order at the magistrate’s office in the county in which you choose to file. This will be the same place you’ll eventually file the completed paperwork.
The final step will be a hearing to decide the validity of your claims and give the perpetrator the opportunity to defend themselves. If the court decides that your evidence is sufficient to prove that the defendant is a threat to your safety, the restraining order will be granted.
4. How Do Restraining Orders Work?
If you feel unsafe as a result of another person’s actions, you have to prove to a judge that threatening behavior has occurred on more than one occasion. The restraining order mandates that the perpetrator has to stay away from you.
Restraining orders may be broken, but there are penalties for doing so.
5. Is a Restraining Order a Felony?
Restraining orders aren’t felonies because they are considered civil actions in court, not criminal charges. With that said, there are penalties for violating a restraining order.
South Carolina chooses not to set a specific distance that the order mandates that the perpetrator stay away from you. Instead, the court directs both the plaintiff and the defendant to act in good faith and stay away from each other. If the perpetrator violates the restraining order, they can be made to pay up to a $500 fine and/or serve up to 30 days in jail.
6. Does a Restraining Order Cost Money to File?
Restraining orders are free to file in South Carolina. The paperwork is free to acquire at a magistrate’s office, and there are no filing fees associated with the impending court hearing.
7. Where Do I File a Restraining Order?
Once you’ve acquired and completed the necessary paperwork, your filing options are as follows:
- You can file in the county where the documented incidents occurred.
- You can file in the county where the alleged perpetrator has residence, which may be especially appropriate if you reside in the same county.
- If you don’t have an address for the defendant and can’t find one, you can file a restraining order in the county where you live.
The county in which you choose to file will handle the rest of the proceedings for this particular civil action.
8. What Warrants a Restraining Order?
If you can show two acts of stalking or intimidating behavior in a period of the last 90 days, you have a valid case for a restraining order. This is why it’s so important to document any behavior on the part of the perpetrator that makes you feel unsafe. You’ll need to show proof during a hearing.
9. What’s the Difference Between a Restraining Order and a No Contact Order?
A no contact order is issued by a judge to prevent the defendant from contacting the alleged victim of a crime after being released from jail on bond. No contact orders are nearly always granted in conjunction with a criminal offense, while restraining orders are civil orders of protection.
10. Do Restraining Orders Appear on a Criminal Record?
If you have a restraining order granted against you, you may be wondering if it gives a criminal record or shows up on one. While the state of South Carolina doesn’t take restraining orders lightly, as long as you don’t face charges for violating a restraining order, it won’t appear on a criminal record because it is a civil action.
11. How Does a Restraining Order Hearing Work?
When the magistrate in the county where you filed the order sets a date for the hearing, both you and the defendant will be notified. Both parties (or their legal representation) will have a chance to state their case for or against the protective order being granted.
12. Do Restraining Orders Expire?
In South Carolina, restraining orders last for one year but may be extended based on extenuating circumstances, for example, if the perpetrator continues to be a threat to your safety or well-being.
It should be noted that restraining orders aren’t meant to be permanent solutions. You can request an extension, however.
13. Can a Restraining Order Be Lifted?
A judge may lift a restraining order, but usually not without the consent of the victim. A victim may ask for the order to be lifted, or consent to the order being lifted due to a variety of other considerations.
14. Will a Restraining Order Ruin My Career?
Because they aren’t criminal charges, restraining orders will not show up on background checks or criminal records, meaning that they won’t be seen by potential employers, military recruiters, or other parties.
With that in mind, if you have a restraining order granted against you and others find out, it can hurt your standing in the community and your professional reputation.
Both Parties Should Seek Legal Guidance
Whether you’re the victim or harassing or threatening behavior or you’re being accused of it, a lawyer can help you with guidance on how to proceed.
To learn more, contact the Kent Collins Law Firm. We have experts ready to help you file or defend yourself against a restraining order action.
Contact us, today, at 803-808-0905 to set up a consultation. You can also fill out our online contact form, and we’ll be in touch with you.