Almost every part of our lives has been impacted by COVID 19. Schools, most businesses, and, to a large extent, the Courts, have all been shut down due to the global pandemic. The tricky issue is, just like not all businesses are closed, not every part of the court has closed either. This has led to some of our clients having a similar question: if I receive a petition for a protection order against me during this crisis, can I just wait until the pandemic, or at least the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order, is over before I respond?
Back on April 13, 2020, the Washington State Supreme Court extended their earlier emergency orders, advising that courts close in almost all instances. However, in their order, they specifically carved out civil protection orders. In their Revised and Extended Order Regarding Court Operations, they stated:
“Courts shall continue to hear emergency civil protection order and restraining order matters. Courts must provide an accessible process for filing petitions for civil protection orders and motions for temporary restraining orders, which may include filing petitions in person or remotely. Courts are encouraged to provide alternative means for filing, including electronic filing options whenever possible, especially when the courthouse is closed to the public or public clerk’s office hours are restricted due to the public health emergency.”
This carveout comes with public policy in mind. Recent studies have shown that during this pandemic, domestic violence is on the rise worldwide. To try to combat this, Washington is leaving open the ability of folks to petition for protection orders.
The courts in Spokane have followed the State’s lead on this as well. Both the District and Superior Courts in Spokane County have allowed for petitions for the various protection orders to be filed remotely. These ex parte temporary orders can be granted without either party physically appearing in court.
However, at this time, it seems that most substantive hearings for the permanent orders have been delayed. What this means is that folks who are restrained by a temporary order may have to wait longer than normal before getting to have their appearance before the court to address the allegations made by the petitioner. This also would likely extend the amount of time that you have to respond to these allegations in writing, but those rules are unclear at this point.
The best way to respond if you receive a petition for a protection order against you is to contact our office as soon as possible so we can assist you in this matter. The sooner we get started, the sooner it can hopefully be resolved! Contact our Spokane Criminal Defense Lawyers today if you have any questions.