Restraining order abuse is a form of abuse of process or malicious prosecution in which a plaintiff applies for a restraining order for a purpose other than that for which it was intended. Typically this purpose is a vengeful, exploitative, or otherwise vicious one—though restraining orders are also misused by the delusional, who may falsely believe their need to be valid and have no ulterior motive.
Restraining order applicants aren’t screened, whether based on their being under psychiatric care or having a history of mental illness, on their possessing criminal records, or on their having previously sought one or multiple restraining orders in the past. Some restraining order abusers are repeat offenders who know how to game the system for malicious ends.
Restraining order abuse is open to all comers. The courts don’t discriminate, and it doesn’t take a criminal mastermind. It doesn’t in fact even take a good liar, just a willing one.
Though lying to obtain a restraining order is a felony offense (perjury), this crime is never prosecuted, so all a malicious plaintiff risks is disappointment if his or her application is denied or his or her injunction is quashed on appeal—and there’s nothing to stop him or her from reapplying. Getting fraudulent restraining orders against the same defendant in multiple jurisdictions isn’t unheard of, nor is getting fraudulent restraining orders against multiple defendants.
Accountability in this process is nil.
Obtaining a restraining order can require less than an hour’s time and is usually free for the asking. Any adult who walks into a courthouse is entitled to apply. Actual time before a judge may be mere minutes, and restraining orders are issued ex parte, which means a judge’s basis for approving one is the plaintiff’s word alone, along with any evidence s/he may present during the brief interview, which evidence may of course be forged, skewed, or misrepresented. And injunctions may be approved in the absence of any corroborating “evidence” at all.
The entitlement to due process is categorically denied to restraining order defendants. Per Black’s Law Dictionary (6th ed.), “Due process of law in each particular case means such an exercise of the powers of the government as the settled maxims of law permit and sanction, and under such safeguards for the protection of individual rights as those maxims prescribe for the class of cases to which the one in question belongs.” In regard to restraining order defendants, the prescribed “safeguards for the protection of individual rights” are none.
The reason for this is a relic of the past.
Restraining orders were conceived decades ago in response to public outcry as a measure to arrest domestic violence, which was largely ignored or discounted at the time. Accordingly, the customary standard for substantiating a complaint to the court that bears criminal implications and consequences (namely, proof beyond a reasonable doubt) is suspended in restraining order cases, and plaintiffs are given broad latitude to ensure that those in legitimate need of protection will get it. This also explains restraining orders’ being free or inexpensive to procure.
This in turn explains the popularity of restraining orders as instruments of avarice, malice, or vendetta. A false allegation of domestic violence, for example, may require no material substantiation and risks a vicious plaintiff nothing yet may cost an innocent defendant everything, including home, property, and access to children and pets—and even, conceivably, freedom and income. Loss of health, reputation, and enjoyment of life goes without saying.
Motives for restraining order abuse run the gamut. Restraining orders are commonly abused by plaintiffs to gain the upper hand in child custody battles (spouses may portray their husbands or wives as monsters, and even coerce and coach their children to do the same). They’re abused preemptively by stalkers to disarm and dominate the targets of their obsessions. They’re abused by lovers to get clear of unwanted boy- or girlfriends or to spitefully injure boy- or girlfriends who rejected them (or even to injure former boy- or girlfriends’ new girl- or boyfriends). They’re abused to gain sole ownership of pets and property. They’re abused to end extramarital relationships (while casting the accuser—who’s usually the cheater—in a positive light). They’re abused to blackmail: “Give me what I want, and I’ll drop the restraining order.” They’re abused to intimidate, harass, and maim.
Restraining orders are abused, in short, for the petty gratification of anyone who’s low enough to exploit the process.
Copyright © 2012 RestrainingOrderAbuse.com