A Military Protective Order (MPO) is a court-issued order that provides protection to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other crimes. An MPO is only relevant if the principal parties involved are affiliated with the military, such as active-duty service members. In the civilian world, a Personal Protective Order (PPO) is a similar legal tool.
What Is a Military Protective Order?
An MPO, like a PPO, is a temporary court order. It prohibits the respondent from contacting or coming within a certain distance of the victim, their family members, or their residence. It may include additional stipulations at the discretion of the ordering judge. The purpose of the MPO is to ensure the safety and well-being of the victim. It also aims to limit or eliminate the possibility of additional abuse, harm, or criminality where the relationship between the two parties is concerned. An MPO can be aggressively enforced by military law enforcement authorities.
When someone is involved in a military protective order case, it is important to consult with a qualified attorney for several reasons:
- An attorney can help the accused or victim understand their legal rights and options. This includes the process for obtaining a protective order, the consequences of violating the order, and the potential outcomes of the case.
- An attorney can provide emotional support and help their client navigate the complex legal system for active-duty military members. This can be overwhelming, intimidating, and sometimes quite different from the civilian legal system.
- An attorney can represent their client in court, advocate for their interests, ensure that their voice is heard, and protect their rights to the maximum extent of the law.
Military protective orders are an important tool for protecting military-affiliated victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and related crimes. If you are involved in a military protective order case, it is vital that you consult with a qualified attorney.
The Difference Between a Civilian Personal Protective Order (PPO) and a Military Protective Order (MPO)
Most people are familiar with the concept of a “restraining order” or personal protective order. A military protective order is essentially the same tool for military-affiliated persons. However, there are some key differences between an MPO and a civilian PPO:
- Jurisdiction: Military protective orders are issued under military law. Therefore, they only apply to individuals who are affiliated with the military, such as active-duty service members and military spouses. Often, when an MPO is issued, the crime or pattern of criminality has occurred on military property. For example, one service member is found stalking another on a military base where both parties are stationed. Civilian PPOs, on the other hand, are issued under state law and apply to civilians who are not affiliated with the military. However, they can certainly still apply to a victim or perpetrator with a military background.
- Duration: Another difference between MPOs and PPOs is the typical enforcement period. Military protective orders are usually temporary orders that last for a specific period of time, sometimes as little as 14 days. However, they can be extended if necessary. Personal protective orders in the civilian world are also often temporary. Nevertheless, they can also be ordered permanently, depending on the circumstances of the case.
- Method of Enforcement: Military protective orders are enforced by military law enforcement authorities, such as military police (MPs) or on-base security officers. Civilian personal protective orders can be broadly enforced by any legally operating law enforcement agent. Typically, this is the local sheriff or city police department.
- Consequences of Violation: Violating a military protective order can result in special disciplinary action under military law. This can include a court-martial, administrative action, or even discharge in extreme cases—and this is in addition to possible criminal charges. Violating a PPO in the civilian world will result in criminal charges and penalties, such as fines, probation, and jail time. However, it will have no direct impact on your military career or record.
MPOs and PPOs are powerful parallel legal tools used to protect victims of domestic violence, stalking, and related crimes. They are employed in similar situations but differ in jurisdiction, duration, enforcement, and consequences. It is important to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the specific laws and procedures that apply to your particular situation.
What Are the Grounds for a Military Protective Order?
To successfully file for a military protective order, the petitioner (the person requesting the order) must meet certain criteria. These criteria can vary slightly depending on the exact jurisdiction and other specific circumstances of the case. However, the common requirements include:
- Qualifying Relationship: The petitioner must have a qualifying relationship with the respondent (the person the order is being filed against). Most often, this means that the petitioner and respondent are married, have a child in common, or are otherwise seriously involved.
- Evidence of Abuse: The petitioner must provide some relevant evidence of the abuse being claimed. Common examples would be bruises and other marks resulting from physical violence. It could also be screenshots showing serious threats of harm. Note that this does not necessarily require direct evidence of physical harm. In some cases, emotional abuse and harassment can be grounds for an MPO.
- Imminent Danger: The petitioner should be able to demonstrate that they are in immediate danger of harm if the MPO is not granted.
- Military Affiliation: MPOs are only relevant to military-affiliated persons. The petitioner or respondent must be demonstrably affiliated with the military. They can be an active-duty service member, someone living on a military base, a military spouse, etc.
There is no exhaustive list of situations that do or do not meet the criteria for filing an MPO. Often, it depends on how serious or immediately dangerous the situation is. Some of the most typical situations behind the filing of military protective orders include:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Two or more of the above forms of abuse combined
Some of these forms of abuse—such as those that do not leave visible marks—can be difficult to prove. Filing an MPO can provide victims with temporary relief and protection while they seek more permanent solutions, such as counseling, therapy, or divorce. Filing for an MPO—or having one filed against you—is a serious legal matter. If you are the subject of an active MPO case or investigation, seek the advice of an attorney with experience in military cases. They can help you understand the full extent of your legal rights and options.
How Long Does a Military Protective Order Last?
The duration of a MPO will vary depending on the specific circumstances and the jurisdiction. Generally, MPOs are designed to be temporary solutions, so the initial order for an MPO will often last between 14 and 30 days. However, this can be renewed or extended as necessary, either by the court or an agreement between the parties involved.
If there is an extended or indefinite need for protection, MPOs can be replaced by a more permanent legal tool. This could be a domestic violence protection order (DVPO) or a civilian personal protection order (CPO/PPO). These orders work similarly to MPOs. However, they can provide broader and longer-term protection to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Violating a military protective order can result in serious consequences. This includes disciplinary action under military law in addition to criminal charges. If you have been issued an MPO, or are subject to one, it is important to understand the terms and conditions of the order. You must comply with them fully to avoid any additional legal repercussions.
If you feel you have been wrongfully targeted by an MPO, contact a criminal defense lawyer. They can help you develop a comprehensive legal strategy.
Aaron Meyer Law: A Trusted Partner for Navigating MPO Cases
If you find yourself involved in a military protective order case, you need a comprehensive legal strategy from the team at Aaron Meyer Law. We can help see you through this difficult time and mitigate the potential consequences. We are proud to work with active-duty service members and veterans from all military branches. Contact us today for a no-pressure, judgment-free consultation.