Restraining Order

Quashing a CPO Petition in D.C.

Jamison KoehlerD.C. Superior Court, Domestic Violence

There are two basic requirements for filing a civil protection order (CPO) in Washington, D.C.  First, you need to establish that D.C. Superior Court has jurisdiction to hear the case.  Second, you need to make a prima facie showing (that is, provide proof “at first look”) that the target of the petition has committed a criminal offense.

An initial hearing will occasionally be scheduled even in the absence of these two requirements. In that case, the proper approach for the respondent in a CPO matter is to file a motion in advance of the hearing to quash the petition. Such a petition asks the court to annul the petition and to cancel the hearing.  

“Jurisdiction” is defined as a court’s power to decide a case or to issue an order.  

In the context of a CPO, D.C. Superior Court only has jurisdiction to hear the case if the petition can show either (1) that he/she lives, works or attends school in the District or (2) that one or more of the criminal offenses in question occurred in D.C.  D.C. Code § 16-1006.  

Qualification as a “complaint of criminal conduct” does not require a decision by either of the two prosecuting bodies in the District, the Office of the Attorney General or the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  D.C. Code § 16-1002.

Commonly cited criminal offenses include assault, threats, stalking, harassment, destruction of property and unlawful entry.  

Jurisdiction in a CPO case also requires a showing of an “intra-family offense.”

An “intra-family offense” is defined as an offense against an intimate partner, a family member, or a household member.  D.C. Code 16-1001(8).

An “intimate partner” is defined as a person (1) to whom the offender is or was married, (2) with whom the offender is or was in a domestic partnership, (3) with whom the offender has a child in common, or (4) with whom the offender is, was, or is seeking to be in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship.  D.C. Code § 16-1001(6A).

A ”family member” means a person (1) to whom the offender is related by blood, adoption, legal custody, married, or domestic partnership or (2) who is the child of an intimate partner.  D.C. Code § 16-1001(5A).

“Household member” is defined as a person with whom, in the past year, the offender (1) shares or has shared a mutual residence and (2) has maintained a close relationship, beyond mere acquaintances.  D.C. Code § 16-1001(5A).