What are Military Protective Orders?
A Military Protective Order (MPO) is an order against an active duty service member issued by their unit commander to protect a related family member from abuse or danger, and functions similar to a restraining or civilian protective order. Usually, victims in need of a MPO are civilian domestic violence victims who’s spouse is a member of the Armed Forces. The purpose of the order is to protect victims until they can seek further protection in the civilian court system by requiring that a service member maintain certain distance from the victim and prohibiting the service member from contacting the victim in any way.
Specific MPO protections include:
- Limited or no communication between family members or members of a household including face-to-face conversations, telephone, writing, email, social media, or third-party communication.
- Staying away from family home and certain family-centric locations, whether it is on or off the base
Requirements to move back into government housing or barracks
- Requiring that the service member do or not do certain activities
- Mandatory counseling
- Surrendering government weapons
- Pet protection
Who is eligible to get an MPO?
Not everyone is eligible to get an MPO. An MPO can only be issued against a service member who is the victim’s spouse or ex-spouse, current or former intimate partner who the victim have lived with, or someone with whom the victim has a child in common. An MPO cannot be issued against any non-romantic partners such as a friend or colleague.
Additionally, only an abuse victim, abuse advocate, installation law enforcement, or Family Advocacy Program Technician can request an MPO from a commander. If you have a friend or colleague who you think might be in need of an MPO, you cannot request it for them if you do not fit in one of the categories listed above.
How are Military Protect Orders Issued and Terminated?
The unit commander issues the an MPO under 10 US Code § 1567(a). The code states that “[a] military protective order issued by a military commander shall remain in effect until such time as the military commander terminates the order or issues a replacement order.”
It does not cost any money to file for or get an MPO.
This Code also means that if a service member transfers to a new command, the order terminates. The Department of Defense policy is that the commander who issued the original MPO recommend that the new commander issue one as well, but this is a gray area that can be brought up in defense if an MPO is violated in between the termination of the old MPO and the issuance of the new MPO. Generally, service members are advised to comply with the MPO during the transfer.
How Long do Military Protective Orders Last?
MPOs are generally short-term and can be as short as ten days. They can also be indefinite, depending on the circumstances and needs of the requesting party. Generally, the MPO will include an estimated expiration date, but at any time the commanding officer may review and rescind or extend the it. Even if there is an expiration date, it is effective until command cancels it.
Where is a Military Protective Order Enforced?
Once a commander issues an MPO, the service member needs to be notified within 24 hours. If the service member is residing off-post during the time that the order is in effect, the military must also notify civilian authorities.
An MPO is only enforceable on the military base or installation and only while the service member is attached to the command that issued the order. When the service member transfers to new command, the order will no longer be valid. This is a situation where the victim or their advocate needs to contact the new commander and ask for a new MPO.
How does a Commander make the Decision to Order a Military Protective Order?
The MPOs are issued on a case-by-case basis and rely entirely on the facts and context of the case. Considerations include whether there are:
- Civilian court orders that may have been ordered
- Direct and indirect contact that has been made
- Distance requirements that a service member is required to keep
- Previous orders that have required the service member to move out of the military quarters
- Past orders to dispose of any firearms.
What is the Appeals Process for a Military Protective Order?
It is important to note that there does not need to be a hearing for MPOs to be issued, and therefore the victim does not need to testify, appear before a judge, or be in the same room as their abuser. The reason they are quick and not immediately open to negotiate because the purpose of the order is to immediately protect the person who is at risk.
Commanders will usually grant MPOs if it is recommended by a Family Advocate Program as a part of the safety and risk assessment, but if a request for an MPO is denied there are still civil protections that the victim can take. Since there is not hearing process to grant an MPO, there is no appeals process if the commander denies the MPO. The victim can, however, continue to tell the commander about the abuse and inform them of continuing issues with the service member.
What happens is a Military Protective Order is Violated?
Violations of MPOs can be charged under Article 90 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 90 is the willful disobeying of a superior commissioned officer, and states that “Any person subject to this chapter who willfully disobeys a lawful command of that person’s superior commissioned officer shall be punished— (1) if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct; and (2) if the offense is committed at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.”
A violator can also be charged under Article 92, failure to obey order or regulation, since the MPO is a lawful order and a service member is expected to follow it.
Violations can occur both where the service member approaches the victim and in certain cases where the victim approaches the service member. This may sound strange, but this is because the orders are issued typically upon a request by the victim or the victim’s lawyer, but a commander may also impose protective orders for women who don’t need or want protective orders. This is common in divorces where the spouse does not want to cut off communication with the service member and can lead to tensions on both sides.
If a service member violates the MPO, the threatened party can call the police (911 if off the installation, or call military police if they are on the installation). While the police are not able to enforce the MPO, they can arrest a person for any crime that is committed.
Contact – Cannon & Associates: Oklahoma Military Justice Advocates
Experience matters whether you are subject to a MPO or seeking an MPO in Oklahoma. It is important to know the Oklahoma lawyer you hire is dedicated to your cause and versed in all aspects of military law in Oklahoma. Cannon & Associates is dedicated to Fierce Advocacy and will fight for your rights. Going through the trauma of domestic violence or having an MPO issued against you may lead to tough consequences, but Cannon & Associates is here to support and guide you through all of your options, from beginning to end.