Domestic Violence, Stalking or Sexual Assault : Enforcement of Protection Orders

What are the penalties for violating a domestic violence protection order?

A violation of either a criminal temporary protection order (TPO) or a civil protection order (CPO) is a crime under Revised Code Section 2919.27 and also constitutes contempt of court.

Generally, violators are prosecuted under Section 2919.27, convicted, and sentenced to the applicable criminal penalties.

A first conviction of violating a protection order is a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.


A second or subsequent conviction of violating a protection order is a felony of the fifth degree, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

Are law enforcement officers required to enforce domestic violence civil protection orders (CPOs)?


The CPO statute requires law enforcement officers to enforce CPOs. See RC 3113.31(S). Moreover, Ohio’s preferred arrest statute provides that arrests is the “preferred course of action” when any officer has reasonable cause to believe that someone has violated a domestic violence civil or criminal protection order. See RC 2935.03(B).

If law enforcement officers fail to enforce a protection order, they might be sued by the victim in a “failure to protect” lawsuit.

Are domestic violence protection orders enforceable statewide?


Sometimes, the victim moves from the county where they obtained the civil or criminal protection order to another county. In many of those cases, they are fleeing the abuser.

Ohio civil and criminal protection orders issued in one county are enforceable in any other county in Ohio. Specifically, law enforcement officers in any county in Ohio are required to enforce the protection orders issued in any other county in the same way that they would enforce a protection order issued in their own county. See RC 2919.26(G) and 3113.31(F).

Should the police arrest a person who violates a domestic violence protection order?

In most cases, yes.

Ohio’s preferred arrest statutes, RC 2935.03(B) and 2935.032(A), provide that it is the “preferred course of action” for police officers and sheriff’s deputies to arrest violators of civil or criminal protection orders.

Can a victim of domestic violence who obtains a protection order be charged with violating her own protection order?

Probably not.

Some prosecutors and judges believe that a victim can be prosecuted or otherwise punished for violating a protection order if she permits or encourages the abuser to contact or meet with her in violation of the stay-away provisions of the protection order. However, the protection order is directed against the abuser, and not against the victim. Therefore, the victim should not be liable to criminal prosecution or contempt for violating her own protection order.

A recent case from the Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals strongly supports that position. See City of North Olmstead v. Bullington, No. 76224, 8th Dist. Ct. App. (Cuyahoga, July 27, 2000). In Bullington, the Court of Appeals held that a victim who was found talking to her abuser in his car after she had obtained a criminal protection order against him could not be prosecuted for aiding and abetting the abuser’s violation of the protection order.

Must Ohio law enforcement agencies and courts enforce domestic violence protection order issued by the courts of other states?


Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), 18 U.S.C. Section 2265, Ohio courts must enforce protection orders issued in other states if the other state provided notice and an opportunity for a fair hearing to the abuser. With the possible exception of West Virginia, virtually all states provide a hearing to alleged domestic violence abusers, thereby making their protection orders enforceable in Ohio.

Likewise, domestic violence protection orders issued by Ohio courts are enforceable in other states.

Do law enforcement agencies and courts in other states have to enforce domestic violence protection orders issued by the Ohio courts?


Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), 18 U.S.C. Section 2265, police departments, sheriff’s departments, and courts in other states must give “full faith and credit” to domestic violence protection orders issued by Ohio courts. They must enforce Ohio domestic violence protection orders as if they were protection orders issued by their own state court.

For example, if an Ohio court issues a domestic violence protection order against an abuser, and the abuser then violates that protection order by committing further abuse against the victim in Michigan, Michigan law enforcement officers and prosecutors may arrest and prosecute the abuser for violating the Ohio protection order.

Is medical evidence or photographs required to prove domestic violence?

Photographs or medical evidence of actual injuries sustained by the victim are helpful to proving a domestic violence case. However, domestic violence may occur without the abuser inflicting visible injuries or marks on the victim.

The abuser’s actions in using physical force against the victim constitute domestic violence regardless of whether there is any visible or medically verifiable injuries. Therefore, medical evidence or photographs are not always necessary to prove the occurrence of domestic violence.

Is evidence of “other acts” of domestic violence not alleged in the domestic violence criminal complaint or the petition for a domestic violence civil protection order admissible at the domestic violence hearing or trial?

Evidence of “other acts” not alleged in the criminal complaint or the petition for a CPO is sometimes admissible. Typically, where the victim is alleging domestic violence consisting of threats that placed her in reasonable fear of imminent physical harm, she or her lawyer may introduce evidence of prior acts of actual physical violence in order to prove that the victim’s fear arising from the threats of violence is a reasonable fear.

For example, if the victim files a petition for a CPO alleging as grounds for the CPO her partner’s recent threat to “beat her to a pulp,” she could introduce evidence of prior beatings to prove that she had a reasonable fear of imminent serious physical harm based on the recent threat even though those prior incidents may have happened a long time ago and were not mentioned in the domestic violence petition.

What are some examples of “acts of force” that constitute domestic violence under Ohio’s domestic violence laws?

Such acts as kicking, choking, slapping, pushing, throwing physical objects at a person, pointing a weapon at a person, sexually assaulting a person, physically restraining a person, tearing a person’s clothing, or any other type of hitting or harmful touching to any family household member constitutes domestic violence.

Trying to run over a family or household member with a car or shoving her into the path of a vehicle is also domestic violence.

Any acts of physical violence or attempted physical violence against a family or household member, regardless of whether the victim suffers any visible injuries or requires any medical attention, constitute unlawful acts of domestic violence under Ohio law.

What form do I need to complete to get a civil protection order?

If you or a family member are being physically abused or threatened with harm by a family or household member (person living in your home, even if not related to you by marriage or blood) you can apply for a Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order now.

For more information on domestic violence visit the Ohio Domestic Violence Resource Center.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.


The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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