A restraining order is a court order that prohibits someone from contacting or being in close proximity to another person. Restraining orders are commonly issued in cases of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, or other threatening behaviors. So, will a restraining order affect military careers? For military members, the implications of having a restraining order filed against you can go far beyond the typical civilian consequences. A restraining order has the potential to seriously damage your military career and change the entire course of your service.

Key Takeaways

  • Restraining orders can lead to loss of security clearance, problems with housing, inability to possess firearms, administrative punishments, and even discharge from the military.
  • Violating a restraining order is a criminal offense that can result in fines, jail time, and a federal conviction.
  • Seek legal counsel immediately if served with a restraining order to understand your options and develop a strong defense strategy. An experienced attorney can help mitigate consequences to your military service.

Overview of Restraining Orders

There are a few key things to understand about restraining orders:

Overview of restraining orders

Types of Restraining Orders

The two main categories are:

  • Temporary restraining order (TRO) - Provides emergency short-term protection, usually for 10-14 days until a hearing.
  • Final restraining order - Longer-term protection order issued after a hearing, typically for 1-5 years.

Restraining orders can also be categorized by their purpose, such as:

  • Domestic violence restraining order
  • Civil harassment restraining order
  • Workplace violence restraining order
  • Elder abuse restraining order

How Restraining Orders Restrict You

Typical restrictions in a restraining order include:

  • No contact with protected person directly or indirectly
  • Stay 100+ yards away from protected person
  • Move out of shared residence
  • No possession of firearms
  • Stay away from protected person's home, workplace, school, etc

Punishment for Violating an Order

If you violate a restraining order, you can face:

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Up to $1000 fine
  • Criminal record

Effects of a Restraining Order on Military Service

While the restrictions of a restraining order impact civilians and military personnel alike, those serving in the armed forces face additional career-threatening consequences unique to military service.

Effects that restraining orders have on military service

Security Clearance Issues

Possessing and maintaining security clearance is essential for many military jobs and promotions. However, restraining orders can raise red flags about your character, trustworthiness, judgment, and reliability. You must disclose any restraining orders against you when applying for security clearance on form SF-86. Both temporary and final restraining orders must be reported. While a restraining order alone may not automatically disqualify you, the behavior that prompted it will be scrutinized. Things like domestic violence, stalking, and harassment could prevent you from being approved due to concerns about your propensity for violence, poor self-control, lack of candor, and susceptibility to blackmail.

Did You Know: As a member of the military police, a restraining order presents additional career complications? Military police often require higher security clearances, so an order could more severely jeopardize your position. Police may also face stricter scrutiny from commanding officers regarding domestic violence allegations given their security role.

Firearm Prohibitions

Under the 1968 Gun Control Act, you cannot possess firearms or ammunition if you are subject to a restraining order that meets certain criteria:

  • The order states you pose a credible threat to the physical safety of an intimate partner or child
  • You are explicitly prohibited from threatening/harassing/stalking the protected person
  • The order prohibits the use of force against an intimate partner or child

While there are exceptions for military members to possess government-issued weapons for official duties, your commander may still restrict your access if deemed appropriate.

Military Protective Orders (MPO)

In addition to civilian court restraining orders, military commanders can issue Military Protective Orders (MPOs) to protect victims of domestic/family abuse. MPOs are considered a direct order. Violating an MPO can result in discipline under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), including court martial.

OutcomeConsequenceAction Required
Accusations MadeInvestigation and Possible MPO IssuanceConsultation with a Defense Attorney Specializing in Military Law
MPO IssuedRestriction of Movements and ContactAdherence to Order Specifications
Court-MartialPotential for DischargeActive Defense through Legal Representation
ConvictionLoss of Firearm Rights under Lautenberg AmendmentExploration of Legal Recourse and Appeals
potential outcomes and necessary legal actions prompted by domestic violence accusations in the military landscape

Military Housing Issues

If the protected person resides with you in military housing, the restraining order will require you to immediately vacate quarters on base. You will need to find alternate approved housing, potentially at your own expense.

Limitations on Duties and Assignments

Your ability to perform military duties and certain assignments could be restricted by a restraining order, depending on the specifics of your role. For example, if you are prohibited from possessing firearms, you may be unable to deploy or continue serving in special operations positions. Geographic restrictions could also limit some assignments.

Military Justice Consequences

In addition to punishments in civilian court, you may face discipline under the UCMJ for underlying misconduct related to the restraining order through:

  • Article 128 - Assault (domestic violence)
  • Article 133 - Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman (fraternization, harassment, etc.)
  • Article 134 - General article offenses (adultery, stalking, child abuse/neglect, etc.)

Potential military punishments range from counseling statements and reprimands to court martial with penalties such as rank reduction, forfeiture of pay, confinement, and punitive discharge.

Violating a Restraining Order

If you violate the terms of a restraining order, you will face legal consequences in civilian court and almost certainly discipline under UCMJ as well.

ScenarioPotential UCMJ ActionCareer Impact
Restraining Order Issued (No Additional Violations)Observation & Periodic ReviewPossibly Minimal Immediate Impact
Restraining Order ViolationInvestigation & Possible Non-Judicial PunishmentMay Affect Deployability & Promotions
Criminal Conduct Leading to Qualifying ConvictionCourt-Martial & Potential DischargeCareer-Ending Consequences
table that outlines potential outcomes for service members with a restraining order:

Civilian Court Punishments

In civilian court, violating a restraining order is a misdemeanor in most states. Typical penalties include:

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Fines up to $1000

Second or subsequent violations may be charged as felonies with harsher punishment.

Additional Military Penalties

In addition to civilian punishments, military personnel who violate restraining orders also commonly face:

  • Article 90 - Willfully disobeying superior commissioned officer
  • Article 92 - Failure to obey order or regulation
  • Article 128 - Assault
  • Article 133 - Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman

Federal Domestic Violence Convictions

If convicted of the crime of violating a restraining order, you will have a federal domestic violence conviction on your record. Under the Lautenberg Amendment, this permanently prohibits you from possessing firearms or ammunition, even for military duty purposes. Since military members cannot serve without ability to bear weapons, this is essentially a career-ending conviction.

Getting Legal Help for a Military Restraining Order Case

Seeking counsel from an experienced defense attorney is highly advisable if you are a military member facing a restraining order or allegations of domestic violence. Here are some reasons why:

Getting legal help for a restraining order if your in the military

Understanding Your Rights & Options

An attorney well-versed in restraining order litigation can advise you on your rights and carefully examine the claims against you to determine the best defense strategy. They can also explain the process and consequences so you know what to expect. This knowledge is power when it comes to protecting yourself.

Early Intervention

By law, a final restraining order hearing must be held 10-14 days after initial service. Your lawyer can file motions, launch investigations, and take other swift actions during this critical window to build your defense for the hearing.

Negotiating Alternatives

In some cases, a compromise agreement can be negotiated in lieu of a restraining order, such as a no negative contact order. This may suffice to protect the reporting party without all the career fallout of a restraining order for the service member.

Mitigating Career Impact

While a restraining order can still have negative effects, an attorney may be able to get certain provisions added or removed to reduce collateral damage. For example, explicitly allowing on-base housing or possession of duty weapons.

Defending Against False Allegations

Unfortunately, restraining orders are occasionally sought based on false or exaggerated accusations. An attorney can marshal evidence and testimony to fight fraudulent claims.

Conclusion: Will a Restraining Order Affect Military Careers

Dealing with a restraining order as a military member can severely impact your career and service. Seeking counsel from an experienced defense attorney is critical if you are facing allegations.

A knowledgeable family law attorney well-versed in restraining orders and military law can advise you on your rights and carefully examine the claims to build the best defense. Early legal intervention is key - your lawyer can file motions, investigate the allegations, and take swift action during the critical window before a hearing.

In some cases, a civil protective order compromise may be negotiated instead of a restraining order, avoiding career fallout. An attorney may also get provisions added or removed from an order to reduce consequences to your military duties.

Unfortunately, false restraining order allegations do occur. An attorney can marshal evidence and testimony to fight fraudulent claims against military personnel. Having skilled legal representation protects you and allows you to avoid a tarnished military record.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about how restraining orders affect military members:

Can I be discharged from the military for a restraining order?

Answer: Civilian restraining order alone does not directly trigger military discharge. However, the misconduct behind it (e.g. domestic violence conviction) or consequences (e.g. firearm prohibition) may ultimately end your military service.

What happens if I get a restraining order against my military spouse/partner?

Answer: You can obtain a civilian restraining order against a military member. It will restrict their contact with you like any civilian. They can face discipline under UCMJ if they violate it. You may also request a military protective order from their commander for added protection.

Can I own guns if I have a restraining order against me?

Answer: In most cases no - restraining order respondents are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms. There are limited exceptions for military members to bear weapons for official duties unless explicitly prohibited by the order or commander.

Can I still live on a military base if I have a restraining order?

Answer: If the protected person also lives on base, then typically no. The restraining order would require you to vacate shared military housing and find alternative approved residences off base.

What happens if I get arrested for violating a restraining order?

Answer: You will face criminal charges for contempt of court in civilian court and discipline for failure to obey orders under UCMJ. Penalties may include fines, confinement, rank reduction, punitive discharge, and federal domestic violence convictions.

Will a restraining order show up on my military record?

Answer: Restraining orders themselves do not appear in military personnel files. However, related documentation like civilian protection orders, military protective orders, investigation reports, and disciplinary actions will be included in your military records.