When a court enters an Order of Protection (against domestic violence, repeat violence, …) a common provision is that the respondent/defendant is prohibited from having any contact with the petitioner/plaintiff. “No contact” includes meetings, phone calls, text messages, faxes, email, etc. Included in this prohibition is also having someone contact the petitioner/plaintiff on behalf of the respondent/defendant. For example, it is a violation of the Order of Protection to have a friend tell your former girlfriend that you love her when that girlfriend has an Order of Protection against you.
Recently there have been a few cases where a defendant/respondent has possibly violated the “no contact” provision of the Order of Protection by use of social media.
In August, 2105, a Pennsylvania man was arrested for violating that state’s version of an Order of Protection after the victim complained to police that her former boyfriend had “liked” 22 photos and videos on Facebook. Since he “liked” the photos, Facebook generated a notification that informed her of his actions. The man was arrested after the police were informed by the local district attorney that his actions constituted a violation. He was arraigned and released on $5,000 bail.
Recently a New York court held that a woman violated a protection order that prohibited her from having contact with her sister-in-law. The violation occurred when a notification was generated after she “tagged” her sister-in-law in a Facebook post. Contact through Facebook was not specifically prohibited, but the judge held that Facebook communication was included in the definition of prohibited “electronic communication.” The woman was charged with second degree criminal contempt which could lead to a year long jail term.
The lesson to learn: If an Order of Protection has been placed on you, avoid any potential contact with the person who obtained the Order. It seems that courts will use an expansive interpretation of what is considered to be impermissible contact.