Criminal and family law may seem like completely different areas of law. However, there are areas where family and criminal law intersect. Emergency protection orders are one of the places where these two areas of law work closely together. With emergency protection orders, Alberta’s family and criminal lawyers overlap as EPOs often come with criminal charges.
What Is An Emergency Protection Order (EPO)?
In Alberta, the legal system created Emergency Protection Orders (EPOs) as a legal tool to protect families or common-law relationships experiencing family violence. If you are eligible for an EPO, it can prevent your abusive family member from entering your home. The order also bars the respondent from places that you commonly go to. The EPO will also stop the family member from contacting or associating with you directly or indirectly.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be given exclusive possession of your home. You will be given possession even if your name is not currently on the lease or deed. Additionally, you could be granted temporary possession of items such as credit cards, passports, pets, cars and health care cards.
Perhaps the most important part of getting an emergency protection order is that police can seize the abusive member from your home. They will also remove any weapons used or utilized to threaten you during acts of family violence.
Who Can Apply For An EPO?
You can apply for an emergency protection order if you have or are currently experiencing any of the following:
- Failure To Provide Shelter, Food, Or Medical Attention For The Purposes Of Intimidation That Causes Injury;
- Actions That Cause Damage To Property Or Personal Injury Including Intimidation & Acts Like Punching Walls or Breaking Furniture or Personal Items;
- Threats Causing Reasonable Fear Of Personal Injury Or Property Damage To Include Mental & Emotional Abuse In Some Cases;
- Forced Confinement;
- Stalking, Including Repeat Attempts Of Harassing Contact; or
- Sexual Contact Resulting From Use Of Or Threat Of Force
Emergency protection orders are only granted in emergency circumstances. That means that the situation must be quite urgent or severe for the court to consider an EPO. If your situation is not urgent or severe, consider applying for a restraining order or a Queen’s Bench Protection Order.
You can only apply for an EPO if a family member commits family violence. This includes anyone that:
- You Are Blood-Related To;
- You Are Or Were Married To;
- You Are Or Were In A Common-Law Relationship With;
- You Have Children With;
- You Live With Or Have Lived With That You Had An Intimate Relationship With; or
- You Have Legal Guardianship/Custody Over
EPOs cannot be granted in situations where a family member does not commit the violence. For example, a roommate you live with but are not dating or intimate with, commits an act of violence, you cannot obtain an EPO. You can instead press criminal charges.
How Do I Apply For An EPO in Alberta?
There are several different ways you can apply for an EPO. You, or your lawyer, can apply in person at your local courthouse, or Bail Hearing Office, during business hours. You can alternatively contact Legal Aid Alberta’s Emergency Protection Order Program, and they will arrange for you to meet with a lawyer to give you advice on the procedure. The lawyer can create an application on your behalf.
Additionally, you can contact the Victim Services Unit and find your nearest location here. You can also call the Family Violence Info Line at 310-1818, and they will refer you to a service that can help.
In an emergency, you can contact the local police, and they will make an application on your behalf. Police will also be able to help you press criminal charges and open a criminal case against your abuser. Once you have completed an application, a judge will consider it and decide whether to grant you an EPO.
What Happens If Someone Breaks An EPO?
If your abusive family member breaks an EPO, you can contact the police. You likely will have to present your EPO, and the officer can then decide whether or not to arrest and charge the abuser for breaching the order. If they are arrested and charged, they will have to appear in court and be tried by a prosecutor. When they are in court, they will face fines or receive a jail term if they plead guilty. Anyone that is charged with more than one breach immediately gets a jail sentence.
If you are currently facing charges of breaching an emergency protection order in Alberta, you need to have the right criminal defense. Contact us at Ross Lutz Barristers to see how we can help protect your freedom and rights.