Last week, our criminal lawyers in Frankston covered Interventions Orders (IVOs for short) and the role they play in family violence cases.

In that particular blog, we covered the basics such as how IVOs work. However, there was one critical area we missed: specifically, what happens if someone breaches an IVO.

And that’s exactly what our family violence lawyers will be covering today.

But first, a quick recap on IVOs

IVOs exist to provide individuals, their family members and property with protection in cases of family violence, as well as other situations where intimidation and violence are possible.

While they’re commonly used to prevent the respondent from getting close to the applicant (hence why they’re called “restraining orders” in America), they can also be used to:

  • Stop certain behaviours or actions
  • Cease or limit contact
  • Return property
  • Adhere to custody agreements
  • Turn in weapons

These orders can apply not just to the applicant themselves, but also to their family members and property as well.

In addition to cases where physical violence is present, these Orders can also be issued to address cases involving verbal and emotional abuse.

Now, time for the part that you’re here to learn about…

What happens if you breach an Intervention Order?

While IVOs are civil Orders (meaning it’s not a criminal charge), breaching the conditions of an Order is a criminal offence which can result in criminal penalties.

During the application process for a Family Violence Intervention Order, copies of the documents are sent to the respondent’s local police station, ensuring that the information is on-file and allowing them to respond to potential breaches.

There are a number of Acts that cover the usage of IVOs in Victoria, as well as the potential consequences for a breach:

In addition to making violations of IVOs a criminal offence, these Acts also set out the penalties an individual might face for failing to comply with the conditions of an Order.

In the event of a breach, the protected persons are within their rights to report the incident to police, who may decide to charge the respondent with one of the following offences:

  • Contravention of notice intending to cause harm or fear for safety
  • Contravention of order intending to cause harm or fear for safety
  • Persistent contravention of notices and orders

This can result in a number of criminal penalties, such as:

  • Diversion
  • Good behaviour bonds
  • Fines
  • CCOs (Community Corrective Orders)
  • Gaol

What do these involve?

Cautions and warnings

In the event of a minor breach, police may not lay charges, instead choosing to simply issue an official caution or warning.

Unlike all of the other penalties listed here, receiving a warning will not result in a criminal record for the respondent.

While cautions and warnings can be issued, in our experience, these are rarely handed out – more often than not, most breaches will result in charges being laid.

Fines

Under Victorian law, breaches of Intervention Orders can be punished by fines of up to 240 penalty units ($37,310) for the worst cases.

If police can prove that the respondent has committed persistent breaches, they can charge them with the offence of Persistent Contravention of Notices and Orders.

To prove this, they’ll need to demonstrate that the respondent:

  1. Knowingly committed a breach
  2. Committed breaches on at least 2 occasions
  3. The breaches occurred within 28 days of the first offence

A successful prosecution can result in an even greater fine worth up to 600 penalty units ($93,273).

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Prison sentences

In more extreme circumstances, the courts may feel that the only way to protect the protected persons from breaches is to sentence the respondent to a prison sentence.

Victorian law allows for sentences of up to 2 years depending on the circumstances of the breach, as well as any aggravating factors (such as whether or not the respondent trespassed as part of the breach).

Once again, repeated breaches can be punished by a harsher prison sentence, with persistent breaches punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

What to do if you’ve been charged with violating of a Family Intervention Order

The legal system takes breaches very seriously, and will not hesitate to issue charges even in cases of accidental breaches.

Our criminal lawyers in Melbourne have dealt with many cases where a respondent has been charged with breaching an Intervention Order after:

  • The protected person contacted them
  • They were invited into the protected person’s address
  • Their employment caused them to inadvertently breach one of their conditions

Under Victorian law, the onus is on the respondent to ensure that they comply with the terms of their Intervention Order. Even in these circumstances, a respondent may still find themselves charged with a breach even if they didn’t intend to.

Fortunately, there are options. That’s why it’s so important to seek professional legal advice if you’ve been charged with the violation of an IVO.

How a criminal lawyer can help if you’ve been charged with breaching an Intervention Order

As with any criminal charge, the right legal advice and representation is crucial to ensuring that your case is heard properly, and that you get the best outcome possible given the circumstances.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the penalties for breaching an Intervention Order will be light – if the prosecution can prove that you did so knowingly or maliciously, you could be on the hook for quite a hefty penalty.

These matters need to be taken seriously, even if it was an accident on your part.

It starts from the moment you’re brought in for questioning – we’ve written before about how to prepare for police interviews, and the importance of good legal representation in ensuring that you don’t incriminate yourself.

What to do when you’re accused of breaching an Intervention Order

Intervention Orders are no joking matter – they’ve come a long way, with changes to Victoria’s laws around family violence meaning that these Orders have teeth, and that any breaches can be punished by strong criminal penalties.

As such, it’s imperative that you take these charges seriously – and that starts by engaging an experienced criminal lawyer in Dandenong to take your case for you.

Our legal specialises in a range of different areas of criminal law, including family violence and IVO breaches.

Whether you need help fighting charges of breaching an Intervention Order or seeking advice about the implications of being served one, our team can help.

And thanks to our involvement with Legal Aid Melbourne, you can access all of our services and expertise without the cost that normally goes into seeking out legal advice.

Find out how we can help you – get in touch with our team on (03) 9781 4900, or click here to request a consultation.