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Can I get a No Contact order?
by Column provided by a member of the Marion Police Department · February 8th, 2018

Law enforcement officers are asked this question many times throughout their careers. In fact, sometimes it seems people think that anyone can get one, and police officers or sheriff's deputies issue them upon request. There is also the misconception that a no contact order may be issued just because you are not getting along with someone. The fact is, a no contact order is only issued by the court, and only under specific circumstances or criteria that must be met.

First let's talk about the different types of no contact orders - criminal no contact orders and civil no contact orders. What is the difference? A criminal no contact order is issued only when specific criminal charges are filed. Those specific criminal charges are Domestic Assault, Harassment, Stalking and Sexual Abuse. When police arrest a person on any of those listed criminal charges, the offender is taken to jail. If the county attorney files the original qualifying criminal charge, and the defendant is seen by a judge, the defendant will be issued a no contact order. The no contact order will remain in place and valid until the outcome of the case. Even then, sometimes the courts will keep the no contact order in place if the county attorney petitions for it and there is just cause for that action.

A civil no contact order is issued when the petitioner files with the courts asking for an order of protection. A civil no contact order is often the most misunderstood. Who is a petitioner and how can they file for one of these? The petitioner is a victim of domestic abuse who is eligible to obtain a civil protective order by going to the clerk of court and asking to file for a protective order. The petitioner will need to fill out the form and return it to the clerk. The clerk will then file the petition and the petitioner will go see a judge. If granted, a temporary order will be in effect until a hearing can take place. Generally this is about 10 to 15 days after the issuance of the temporary order. At that hearing, both the petitioner, the defendant, and any of their witnesses can give testimony to the courts and the courts will decide if that order of protection is warranted. If the courts rule that an order of protection is warranted, the order will be valid for one year.

You may ask why a civil no contact order exists if the petitioner is a victim of domestic abuse? Why isn't the victim getting a criminal no contact order if domestic abuse occurred? This happens for various reasons. Unfortunately, some victims of domestic violence do not come forward to report their abuse to the police, or anyone else for that matter. Although the police would prefer to know about the abuse to help prevent any future abuse, the police know that victims are oftentimes scared to come forward or to call law enforcement when the abuse is happening. When a victim of abuse decides to come forward and tries to break the cycle of violence, they often want a no contact order to help keep them safe from their abuser. If law enforcement is not involved, the victim can go directly to the courts and petition for an order of protection.

There are, however, criteria that must be met in order to qualify for a civil no contact order. Two questions must first be asked: 1) Has there been an assault, and 2) Are the parties in a protected relationship? If the answer to both of these questions are yes, then a civil no contact may be issued by the courts.

An assault in Iowa is defined by Iowa Code Section 708.1. I encourage you to read this definition to familiarize yourself with it (an assault does not just mean being hit or punched). There are five basic definitions of a protected relationship:

1) family or household members who reside together at the time of the assault,

2) separated spouses or persons divorced and not residing together,

3) persons who are parents of the same minor child,

4) family or household members residing together within the past year but not residing together at the time of the assault, and

5) persons in an intimate relationship or had been in an intimate relationship within the last year.

In conclusion, there are certain criteria that need to be met for either a criminal no contact order or a civil no contact order to be issued. A no contact order can only be issued by the courts a law enforcement official does not have the capability to do so. A no contact order cannot be issued just because someone does not like their neighbor. It cannot be issued against someone just because they find them bothersome. The court orders are meant to help individuals by protecting them from persons who have the capability to be violent.

If you question whether or not you, or someone you know, qualifies for a no contact order, please contact the Marion Police Department at 319-377-1511 or your local law enforcement agency and ask to speak to an officer. Marion police officers can determine if a criminal report/charges should be filed that would qualify you for a no contact order, or help you determine if you qualify for a civil no contact order. If you prefer law enforcement not be involved, you can call 1-800-208-0388 to speak to a professional and seek support for domestic violence or sexual assault.

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