18 U.S.C. § 2262 - Interstate Violation of a Protective Order
Every state in the union has laws for the issuing and enforcing of protective orders—especially when it comes to domestic violence. However, when someone crosses state or international boundaries for the purpose of violating a protective order that has been issued against them, it becomes a federal crime.
Title 18 U.S.C. 2262 makes it a crime to cross state or foreign boundaries or Indian country boundaries to violate a valid protective order. It also makes it a crime to force or lure the victim across a state or foreign border for the purpose of violating such a protective order.
Doing either is a serious federal offense, and depending on the crime's severity, you could face anywhere from 5 years to life in prison if you're convicted under this law.
18 U.S.C. 2262 says, “anyone who travels, or causes another person to travel, in interstate or foreign commerce, or enters or leaves Indian country, or the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, with intent to engage in conduct that violates a protection order that prohibits violence, threats, or harassment against, contact or communication with, another person…that would violate such a portion of a protection order…shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).”
Subsection (b) says that anyone that violates this statute will be fined and imprisoned, which are discussed in detail below. We will review this law in more detail below.
18 U.S.C. 2262 Explained
State and local protective orders may cover a wide range of behaviors, but 18 U.S.C 2262 is primarily concerned with "the portion of a protection order that prohibits or provides protection against violence, threats, or harassment against, contact or communication with, or physical proximity to, another person..."
The law also applies to any protections afforded to pets, support animals, or horses of the protected person. The idea behind this law is to bridge the protection gap between states, within Indian territory, and within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States so that local protective orders can be enforced universally.
It is also intended to keep offenders from trying to avoid accountability within one state by crossing the boundary to another. To convict you of a crime under 18 U.S.C. 2262, federal prosecutors must establish the following:
- That you crossed an interstate or foreign boundary, or Indian country boundary, for the purpose of willfully violating a protective order and doing harm to the protected person in some way; OR
- That by force or deception, you brought the person protected by the order across one of these boundaries for the purpose of willfully violating the protective order; AND
- That you actually committed an act against that person that violated the protective order.
Many federal laws consider an intent to break the law the same as actually breaking it. However, note that in this case, the federal law only applies if a protective order is violated.
In other words, you won't be convicted of this crime if you cross a state line with the intent to violate the protective order but don't take action against the protected person.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Gina obtains a protective order against her ex-husband, Bill, in their home state of Georgia. Gina then moves to North Carolina to get away from him.
When he discovers where she lives, Bill travels to North Carolina to "punish" her for leaving town. Bill can be charged under 18 U.S.C. 2262.
EXAMPLE 2: Lisa has a protective order against her boyfriend, Tim, prohibiting any contact with her.
To try and skirt the protective order, Tim hires his friend Gerry to convince Lisa to travel to the next state under false pretenses.
Tim is waiting for her across the state line and meets them. Tim can be charged with a federal crime for bringing his intended victim across the state line by fraud for the purpose of violating the protective order.
What Are the Related Offenses?
Under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 110A, domestic violence, and staking, several other federal statutes are related to 18 U.S.C. 2262, including the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 2261 interstate domestic violence. It's a crime to travel in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner;
- 18 U.S.C. 2261A stalking. This statute prohibits traveling for harassing or intimidating another person or placing them under surveillance that places them in fear of bodily injury or death;
- 18 U.S.C. 2261B defines enhanced penalties for stalkers of children;
- 18 U.S.C. 2263 defines the pretrial release of a defendant;
- 18 U.S.C. 2264 defines any restitution to the victim;
- 18 U.S.C. 2265 full faith and credit given to protection orders;
- 18 U.S.C. 2265A defines repeat offenders after a staking offense;
- 18 U.S.C. 2266 provides definitions, such as a “bodily injury.”
What Are the Penalties for Violations?
In most states, violating a protective order can result in criminal contempt charges with a relatively minor penalty unless the victim is harmed.
Federal violations of protective orders have much more severe penalties. If you're convicted of an interstate violation of a protective order, you could face the following:
- For general violations, including violations against protected animals, are up to five years in federal prison;
- For violations that result in serious bodily injury to the victim, the penalties include up to 20 years in prison;
- For violations involving using a dangerous weapon, the penalties are up to 20 years in prison;
- For violations that result in the victim's death, the penalty includes a sentence of up to life in prison.
What Are the Legal Defenses?
Despite the severity of this crime, there are several defense strategies a skilled federal criminal defense attorney can employ to fight these charges. These are talked about in detail below.
Perhaps we can argue that you did not cross the border intending to violate a protective order. In other words, maybe you crossed a state line but didn't intend to approach the alleged victim then. Perhaps you were provoked to do so at a later time.
Prosecutors must show willful intent, so if your attorney can cast doubt on that intent, you may be cleared of the charge or just charged with a violation at the state or local level.
Perhaps we can argue that you did not commit an act against the protected person. Even if you crossed a state line with intent to violate the protective order, prosecutors must still prove that you took action against the victim. If they can't, you can't be convicted of this crime.
If you have been accused of violating 18 U.S.C. 2262 or a related law regarding protective orders, domestic violence, or stalking, then contact our law firm to examine the details and legal options.
Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, CA. You can contact us for a case evaluation via phone or contact form.