18 U.S.C. § 2262 - Interstate Violation of a Protective Order
The overwhelming majority of domestic violence offenses are prosecuted under a state-level law in a state courtroom. Most people are unaware that federal domestic violence legislation exists.
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which acknowledges domestic violence as a national crime and assists overburdened state and local criminal justice systems.
Simply put, some federal crimes under VAWA can be filed when they are committed within the maritime or territorial lands of the United States or if the alleged offender crosses state or foreign lines to commit or attempts to commit a crime of violence against an intimate partner.
The most common related laws are 18 U.S.C. 2261 interstate domestic violence and 18 U.S.C. 2261A stalk or harass by mail or computer.
18 U.S.C. 2262 interstate violation of protection order imposes penalties for violating protective orders or trying to violate them while traveling in interstate commerce or foreign commerce while under the special jurisdiction of the United States.
Section 2262 says, “(1) Travel or conduct of the offender. A person who travels in interstate or foreign commerce, enters or leaves Indian country, or is present within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States with the intent to engage in conduct that violates 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 or the pet, service animal, emotional support animal, or horse of that person, or that would violate such a portion of a protection order in the jurisdiction in which the order was issued and subsequently engages in such conduct, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).”
Section 2262(b) prohibits causing another person to travel in interstate or foreign commerce by force, coercion, duress, or fraud that violates the protection order.
Violate Protective Order – Quick Facts
There are some essential quick facts about 18 U.S. Code 2262 interstate violation of protection order, including the following:
- All states have separate laws for issuing and enforcing protective orders related to domestic violence.
- When you cross state or international boundaries to violate a protective order, it can be charged as a federal crime.
- It is also a federal crime to force or lure the victim across state lines for the purpose of violating a protective order.
- The term “protection order” includes any injunction or restraining order issued by a civil or criminal court for the purpose of preventing violent or threatening acts or harassment against, sexual violence, or contact or communication with, or physical proximity to, another person.
- The term “spouse or intimate partner” includes a spouse or former spouse of the abuser, a person who shares a child in common, someone who cohabits or has cohabited as a spouse, or someone who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the abuser.
- If convicted, you could face five years to life in a federal prison.
- This statute primarily covers the portion of a protection order prohibiting violence, threats, or harassment against the protected person.
- This federal statute also applies to pets, support animals, or horses of the protected person.
- The goal of this law is to bridge the protection gap between states and within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
- Another goal of this law is to keep offenders from trying to avoid accountability within one state by crossing the boundary to another.
- If you cross a state line intending to violate the protective order but don't actually act against the protected person, you can't be convicted of violating this federal law.
What Must Be Proven for a Conviction?
To convict you of violating 18 U.S.C. 2262, federal prosecutors must prove several crucial factors known as the “elements of the crime,” including the following:
- You willfully crossed an interstate or foreign boundary, or Indian country, for the purpose of violating a protective order;
- You had the intent to harm the protected person in some way; or
- Using force or deception, you brought the person protected across a state boundary to violate the protective order; and
- You committed an act against them that violated the protective order.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 110A domestic violence and staking has several federal laws related to 18 U.S.C. 2262 Interstate violation of protection order, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 2261 interstate domestic violence - this law makes it a crime to travel in interstate or foreign commerce intending to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner;
- 18 U.S.C. 2261A stalking – prohibits traveling to harass or intimidate someone or placing them under surveillance that could put them in fear of bodily injury or death;
- 18 U.S.C. 2261B - enhanced penalty for stalkers of children;
- 18 U.S.C. 2263 - pretrial release of defendant;
- 18 U.S.C. 2264 - restitution to the victim;
- 18 U.S.C. 2265 - full faith and credit given to protection orders;
- 18 U.S.C. 2265A - repeat offenders after a staking offense;
- 18 U.S.C. 2266 - definitions for terms in this statute.
What Are the Penalties for Violations?
Federal violations of protective orders carry harsh penalties if convicted, such as the following:
- General violations include up to five years in federal prison;
- Violations with serious bodily injury to the victim carry up to 20 years;
- Violations using a dangerous weapon carry up to 20 years in prison.
- Violations that result in the victim's death carry up to life in prison.
What Are the Legal Defenses?
If you were accused of violating section 2262 interstate violation of protection order, our federal criminal defense lawyers could use different strategies for the best possible outcome, as discussed below.
Maybe we can argue that you did not cross the border intending to violate a protective order. Perhaps you crossed a state line without intent to approach the protected person but were later provoked.
Federal prosecutors must prove willful intent. Perhaps we can cast doubt on intent and avoid a federal conviction. Maybe we can transfer the case to a state court with lighter penalties.
Maybe we can argue that you did not commit an act against the protected person. As noted, if you crossed a state line intending to violate the protective order, it still must be proven that you took action against the victim.
Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation by phone or through the contact form. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.