Enforcing your Personal Protection Order (PPO) is important to your safety. Some people will obey the terms of a PPO. Others will see if they can get away with violating some of the PPO terms. Some people don’t care about the PPO or whether they could get in trouble for violating it.
You shouldn't agree to behavior that violates your PPO, like letting the abuser in your home if your PPO prohibits it. The abuser can be arrested for behavior that violates your PPO, even if you agreed to it. If you want to change or end your PPO before it expires, you must go back to court and ask the judge to change or end it. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Motion to Modify, Extend, or Terminate a Personal Protection Order (PPO) tool to do this.
The police are usually the first to enforce a PPO. They may arrest someone who appears to have violated a PPO. A judge (usually the judge who signed the PPO) then hears the facts and decides whether that person violated the PPO. If the judge decides that person is guilty, the judge can:
- Sentence them to jail time
- Impose a fine
A PPO might not be the best option for you right now if you don’t think you are ready to involve the police if your PPO is violated. It might be helpful to talk about this and other safety options with someone from your local domestic violence agency. To find contact information for your local domestic violence agency, you can use the Guide to Legal Help. Or you can click on Community Services, select your county, and click "Personal Safety" under the heading "Filter by Legal Issue."
When Is My PPO Enforceable?
Your PPO is enforceable anywhere in Michigan as soon as it is signed by a judge. This is true even though it has not yet been served on the abuser. Once your order has been served, it can be enforced anywhere else in the United States.
What Should I Do If the Abuser Violates My PPO?
If the abuser violates your PPO, you can call 911 or the local police immediately. When the police arrive, show them your PPO and your copy of the Proof of Service (if you have one). If you don't have copies, the police will look them up on the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN). If you haven't had the abuser served with the PPO, the police should either:
- Give the abuser a copy of your PPO or
- Tell the abuser about your PPO
When the police do either of these things, the abuser is served.
What Will the Police Do?
If the Abuser Has Been Served with the PPO
The police can make an immediate arrest if:
- They confirm you have a PPO;
- They confirm the abuser was served; and
- They have reasonable cause to believe the abuser violated the PPO.
The police do not need to get an arrest warrant.
If the Abuser Has Not Been Served with the PPO
If the abuser has not yet been served with the PPO, the police can either give the abuser a copy of the PPO or tell the abuser about the PPO. Once the police inform the abuser about the PPO, they must give the abuser a chance to obey it. If the abuser does not immediately obey the PPO, the police may make an immediate arrest without a warrant.
If the Police Arrest the Abuser, What Happens Next?
As long as the abuser is at least 18, they will be taken to court within 24 hours of arrest to answer to a charge of contempt of court for violating the PPO. The arraignment will be in front of a family court judge of the circuit court. If a circuit court judge is not available within 24 hours of the arrest, the abuser will be taken before a different judge or magistrate, who will set bond and order them to appear for arraignment before the family court judge.
At the arraignment, the abuser will be advised of the contempt charge. The abuser is entitled to a court-appointed lawyer if the judge determines they may sentence them to jail. If the abuser denies violating the PPO, the judge will schedule a hearing on the contempt charge. The judge will also set bond, unless they decide that you will not be safe if the abuser is released before the hearing.
Hearing on Contempt Charge
If the judge schedules a hearing, the prosecuting attorney will be notified. The prosecuting attorney represents the government in criminal court cases. They will prosecute the contempt charge unless:
You get your own attorney to prosecute the contempt charge;
The prosecuting attorney decides the PPO was not violated; OR
The prosecuting attorney decides that it would not be in the interests of justice to prosecute.
At the hearing, both sides will be able to present witnesses and other evidence. Each side will be able to cross-examine the other’s witnesses. This means each party or their lawyer will get to ask questions in court of a witness who has testified for the opposing party. The questions on cross-examination are limited to the subjects covered in the direct examination of the witness. A judge will hear and decide the case. There won't be a jury.
- Willfully disregarded or disobeyed the PPO and
- Clearly and unequivocally violated the order
The violation must be on purpose, not an accidental violation.
If the judge finds the abuser guilty of violating the PPO, the judge will decide on the sentence. For each violation, the abuser could be ordered to go to jail for up to 93 days and pay a fine of up to $500.
In addition to being charged with contempt of court, the abuser may face other criminal charges. For example, if the abuser violated the PPO by hitting you, they could face assault and battery or domestic assault charges in addition to contempt charges.
What If the Abuser Was Not Arrested for the PPO Violation?
The police might not be able to arrest the abuser if the abuser is not at the scene when the police arrive. Sometimes, the police will not make an arrest because it doesn’t appear that the PPO was violated. If the police don't arrest the abuser, you can still try to have your PPO enforced. Contact the police station directly, and ask to speak to someone about why the abuser was not arrested. If you know where the abuser is, you can ask the police if they will try to find the abuser and make an arrest. You can also call the prosecutor’s office to explain what happened and ask for help enforcing your PPO.
If the police do not arrest the abuser, you can still file a motion to show cause asking the court to find the abuser in contempt of court for violating the PPO. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Motion to Enforce PPO after Violation to prepare the forms you need to do this.
You can contact your local domestic violence agency to ask for help with the process of enforcing your PPO. To find contact information for your local domestic violence agency, you can use the Guide to Legal Help. Or you can click on Community Services, select your county, and click "Personal Safety" under the heading "Filter by Legal Issue."
You might decide you want a lawyer to help you. If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.
How Does Enforcement Work If the Abuser Is a Minor?
PPO enforcement proceedings are different for minors and adults. If the abuser is under 18, you should still call 911 for a PPO violation. The police can still take the abuser into custody immediately if the PPO has been served. Once the abuser is brought to court, the process and the penalties will be different from those used with adults.
What If My PPO Is Violated Outside of Michigan?
If your PPO is violated outside of Michigan, the law of that state will control enforcement. For example, Michigan law allows the police to make a warrantless arrest for a PPO violation. The law in a different state may or may not allow warrantless arrest. If you are outside of Michigan and your PPO is violated, call 911 or the local police immediately. The police should be able to explain the enforcement process in that state to you. They may also refer you to a local domestic violence agency that can help you.
If I Have a PPO from Another State, Will It Be Enforced in Michigan?
Yes. In Michigan, the police can make a warrantless arrest of a person for violating a different state’s protection order. In making the arrest, an officer can rely on a copy of the other state’s order. The order must appear to be valid and still in force. It must contain all of the following:
The parties’ names
An issuance date that is before the date of the violation
Terms and conditions against the person violating the order
The name of the issuing court
A judge's signature