What is a Sexual Assault Protection Order (SAPO)?
A Sexual Assault Protection Order (SAPO), is a restraining order issued by a judge that makes it a crime for a sexual perpetrator to have contact with the victim of sexual assault or abuse.
A Sexual Assault Protection order is a civil order which must be requested by the victim by filing a petition in court. After receiving a SAPO petition from a victim or their attorney, the court may either issue an emergency SAPO right away or can set a future court hearing. In a hearing, the named perpetrator has a chance to testify in court before a SAPO is ordered. SAPOs are issued in the following durations: one-year, five-year, or a permanent order can be issued.
Who Qualifies for a SAPO?
Any person 16 years of age or older, regardless of gender or citizenship, who is in the State of Washington when any sexual assault or sexual abuse occurred, can file a petition for a SAPO. It is important to note that any victim of sexual assault/abuse may petition for a SAPO, even if the incident(s) that form the basis for the SAPO were never reported to law enforcement authorities or if the perpetrator was never arrested or prosecuted.
What are the Steps in the SAPO Process?
When you want to seek a SAPO, it is important to meet with one of our attorneys who can guide you through this process. Your attorney can start by drafting a written petition and filing for the SAPO in a Washington State District or Superior Court. A victim can file a petition for a SAPO in either the court where they reside, or where the perpetrator resides. If a victim resides outside of Washington State, the petition must be filed in a court where the perpetrator resides.
What Must Go Into the Petition for a SAPO?
The petition must contain an allegation of sexual assault or sexual abuse and it must clearly identify the name of the perpetrator. It needs to be as detailed as possible so that the Court will have ample information upon which to grant an emergency SAPO. Because SAPO petitions often contain sensitive personal details and information that a victim may feel uneasy about putting into a public document, your attorney can ask to have the court to seal (or close off) the petition and protect your address, contact information and the factual statement in the petition from public disclosure.
Do I Have to Go to Court?
Yes, a victim must attend court in all cases where a SAPO is issued. This is true even if an emergency SAPO is issued. A victim has to testify in court about the facts and circumstances which form the basis for the SAPO. Likewise, the perpetrator (called the respondent in court) must be served with the petition and the court date. Respondents must be given notice and opportunity to appear on their own behalf in court. On the court date, if you appear and the respondent does not, you may win a default order. This could be a one-year, a five-year, or a permanent SAPO against the respondent.
In a SAPO case, the court will conduct a hearing if the perpetrator appears in court. During the hearing, both parties will testify. After testimony, the court will decide whether to issue or keep the protection order in place, or dismiss it. This is why it is important to contact an experienced attorney to help with the SAPO process.
Can You Help Me Get a SAPO?
Absolutely, yes. At Lustick, Kaiman & Madrone, our attorneys have decades of experience in obtaining SAPOs and are very knowledgeable of the process. If you are the victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse, you can meet confidentially with one of our attorneys. Our teams is knowledgeable and will guide you through the process. Our attorneys are passionate about victim advocacy, and we will build the best case possible to reach your desired results.
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