CO Protective vs. Restraining Order: How to Remember Which is Which

Many people think of protective orders and restraining orders as interchangeable. The truth is that they are two very different things in Colorado.

Here’s what you need to know about these two distinct orders, how they’re different, and what happens if one is violated.

Colorado Restraining Orders

Restraining orders are court-issued. They demand that a person suspected of domestic abuse or violence avoid contact with a victim.

What a Restraining Order Is

Anyone who fears for their safety can ask the court for a restraining order. The judge can grant either a temporary restraining order or a permanent restraining order.

A temporary restraining order is good for up to 14 days while a permanent restraining order can continue indefinitely. In some cases, a court will automatically issue a protective order in a domestic violence case.

What a Restraining Order Does

A restraining order prohibits contact between the parties listed in the order. It is meant to help reduce or prevent further harm to a person. Aside from cases involving domestic violence, restraining orders can also be issued in other situations, which include:

  • Abuse of the elderly
  • Abuse of an at-risk adult
  • Stalking
  • Unlawful sexual contact
  • Physical assault or threat
  • Sexual assault

What a Restraining Order Means

The circumstances surrounding restraining orders are unique to each case, but in general, the conditions that must be followed are:

  • No contact with the victim — no text messages, phone calls, social media, and/or email
  • Temporary surrender of child or pet custody to the victim or other family members
  • No visiting certain locations like the victim’s workplace, vehicle or home, or the children’s schools
  • Abstaining from selling or transferring shared assets

In general, protective orders are meant to help prevent victims from being threatened or abused further. A restraining order is meant to prevent someone from doing something.

They are often used in family law cases to keep them from doing something such as selling assets during divorce proceedings.

Both temporary and permanent restraining orders, as well as orders of protection, are served to the adverse party by the local sheriff, a process server, and anyone over 18 not named in the order.

Emergency Protective Orders in Colorado

Emergency protective orders are restraining orders that are good for three days. The biggest difference between a protective order and other restraining orders is who makes the request.

Law enforcement can request a protective order on behalf of an alleged victim when they are in danger of a sex offense or domestic abuse or when an incident occurs outside of normal court hours, such as a holiday or weekend.

When an emergency protective order is granted, a temporary restraining order needs to applied for as soon as the court reopens. Otherwise, it will expire and leave the victim unprotected.

Violating a Protective Order or Restraining Order

Violating a Protective Order or Restraining Order in Colorado


When a protective order is violated by the adverse party named in the order, then they can be arrested. Police must have probable cause to believe they violated the order, but anyone can report a violation – it doesn’t need to be the victim listed in the order.

Punishments for the violation of protective orders can vary. Normally it depends on the type of restraining order it is as well as the history of the adverse party.

General penalties for violations of protective orders are outlined below. Note, if an offender has violated the order in the past, then the punishment may be more severe.

First Offense

For a first offense, violation of a protective order is a Class 2 misdemeanor and can land the adverse party in jail for up to one year and subject them to fines up to $1,000.

Subsequent Offenses

Any violation of a protective order beyond the first offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor. This can result in a punishment of up to two years in jail and fines up to $5,000.

If the adverse party keeps violating the orders, then they can be charged with a felony. Violations may also be viewed as contempt of court and charges can be filed based on that.

Who Can Get an Order of Protection?

Restraining orders and protective orders can be applied to adults who are being abused including spouses, siblings, parents, and in-laws. They can also be sought by ex-spouses, people living in the same home, or those that have a child together.

Denver Protection Order Defense


Protective orders and restraining orders serve an important purpose — they help victims to feel safer in situations related to domestic violence or intimate partner abuse.

They are, however, sometimes used in a manner that isn’t accurately representative of a situation as well, say as a tool in asset protection strategies or work on child custody issues.

If you ever feel a protective or restraining order has been inaccurately placed against you or when you have properly rehabilitated, your best bet is to seek legal counsel on the matter so that you can learn about what steps you can take to have the order lifted.

About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020 and is Lead Counsel rated.