How Orders of Protection Work in Memphis, Tennessee
People in Memphis, Tennessee often want to get an order of protection against someone, or they have been served with an order of protection by someone else and need to know what to do. This article will examine what these orders actually are, what are the consequences of having one, and who is involved. I am a lawyer in Memphis and I’ve handled numerous protection order cases. If you find yourself involved with an order of protection, this article may help you. Please note that this is specifically about protection orders in Memphis. Other cities may do it differently. For instance, where in Memphis a judge may deny an order where the only evidence is he-said-she-said testimony, in another jurisdiction they may not. Also in Memphis when you go to court you may be waiting all morning. It’s pretty busy here. Smaller towns may have faster dockets.
Orders of Protection, at least temporary ones, are very easy to get here in Memphis. These temporary orders are called ex parte orders (pronounced “ex PAR-tay”); ex parte is Latin meaning “for one side only.” This means that the person requesting the order (called the Petitioner) can simply go to the courthouse, located on the 2nd floor at 201 Poplar Avenue in Memphis, and have the order filed against the other person (the Respondent). The Petitioner must show that they are in an immediate danger of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault. The Petitioner does not have to notify the Respondent. They do not even need to have a lawyer or witnesses. Simply making a sworn statement in front of the judge will probably be enough. The order will then be served on the Respondent by the Sheriff’s Office. It must be served at least five days prior to the court date.
When the ex parte order is filed, a hearing date will be set to determine whether that order will be extended. By law the hearing is supposed to be within 15 days, but this is often extended because here in Memphis there is a huge backlog of cases. The judges here understand as well that it sometimes takes time to get a lawyer hired or to get ready for trial. The Respondent must be there on the court date if they wish to defend against the order. If they do not then the order will automatically be extended. Ex parte orders may be extended up to one year.
At the hearing the Petitioner must prove that they are in danger of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault. Most of the parties involved in orders of protection are couples who have been involved in some sort of intimate relationship. Usually it’s people who have dated, were (or are) married, or share a child together. At this point both the Petitioner and the Respondent may want to have an attorney, as well as any witnesses or evidence brought to court. This may include eyewitnesses and it also could mean subpoenaing phone or internet records, such as email or Facebook accounts.
If the Petitioner proves their case then the order may be extended for up to one year. If they do not prove their case the order will be dismissed. Under Tennessee law, if an ex parte order is granted then the Respondent must refrain from committing or threatening to commit domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault. They must not have any contact with the Petitioner, whether in person, on the phone, or over the internet. If the two live together then the Respondent will be evicted from the house, and if they share a child together then the Petitioner may be granted temporary custody, along with financial support to be paid by the Respondent. If they share a pet, the Petitioner may be given possession of it as well. The Respondent may be ordered to attend anger management or drug counseling classes. Finally, if the Respondent owns any guns they must get rid of them within 48 hours of the order being issued. The Respondent does not necessarily have to sell their guns, but they cannot be in possession of them once the order is in effect. It is a federal offense to be in possession a firearm with an order of protection against you.
If the Respondent violates the order of protection, they will be arrested. Violations of protection orders are Class A misdemeanors in Tennessee, punishable up to 11 months and 29 days in jail. If there is an underlying criminal charge to the violation, such as assault, stalking or vandalism, the two sentences may be ordered to be served consecutively.