“Why Would Someone Get a False Restraining Order?”

Posted on July 9, 2013


This question pops up a lot.

Simply rephrasing it can dispel some of the wonderment: “What would someone have to gain by falsely accusing someone else of conduct society condemns?”

Satisfaction of a spiteful impulse might come to mind.

I remember looking at a book once by a guy named Hayduke. It was chock full of ingenious vengeance schemes—pretty much all of them criminal or bordering on it. Lying on a restraining order to sate a hurtful yen, while technically criminal, is never treated as such and may well succeed in criminalizing the target of that yen.

Common allegations on restraining orders are harassment, stalking, danger, and violence. Any of these—and especially the last—can doom a person’s employment or professional aspirations, tear relationships apart, and gnaw at and vex the innocently accused indefinitely (to his or her physical and psychological erosion). Allegations like this from a domestic partner can deprive the same victim of assets and access to loved ones. The use of fraudulent restraining orders to gain the upper hand in child custody battles is pretty much cliché.

And restraining orders don’t just vanish from public record when the expire. In some regions, there are even restraining order registries to make finding out who’s had a restraining order sworn out against him or her conveniently (and alluringly) accessible by the public. The political push is toward making such registries universal.

It’s possible that the question, “Why would someone get a false restraining order?” is prompted by a disbelief that a person could be so unethical. Such a disbelief betrays the questioner’s naivety.

People frame people for crimes or commit crimes to hurt others every day. Abusing restraining orders is just more fail-safe. Perjury (lying in court or on a sworn statement) is never prosecuted, and restraining orders are generally free for the asking. You get the state to exercise your malice for you, it costs you nothing, and everyone extends you their sympathies.

The worst that happens when someone lies to obtain a restraining order is that it’s overturned on appeal. And even if it’s quashed, the recipient of the fraudulent restraining order will have been put through hell (and possibly cost several thousands of dollars in attorney fees). In fact succeeding in having a restraining order vacated (canceled) doesn’t necessarily mean it disappears from public record. Even if a fraud loses, s/he wins.

Clearly then the answer to the question, “Why would someone get a false restraining order?” is “Why not?”

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