Once the judge grants you the OP, the OP needs to be
"served". Usually, service means the sheriff's police will give the
respondent the OP and tell him what the Order means. Service is a very
important step in making the OP effective. Sometimes, if the abuser is in
court when you get the OP, the deputies in the courtroom or the
respondent's lawyer will serve him with the OP.
If the respondent is not in court when you get your
OP, the sheriff will attempt to serve the respondent with the OP at his
work or wherever he lives. The sheriff will try to serve the respondent
within 72 hours. The sheriff does not attempt service on the weekends, so
if you get an OP on Friday, the respondent may not receive it until Monday
or Tuesday. The OP will also be entered into a police computer system
called LEADS. This computer system will allow police to verify the
existence and contents of your OP at any time.
In most circumstances, the OP cannot be enforced
until the respondent is served with a copy of it by the sheriff or another
law enforcement officer. Once the respondent has been served with the OP
by the sheriff or has "actual knowledge" of the OP, he can be held
accountable for violating it.
"ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE" means that an attorney,
judge, or police officer has told the respondent there is an OP against
him, but the sheriffs have not given him the papers yet. You telling him
what the OP says does not count as "actual knowledge." Once he has been
served with the OP, the abuser can be punished for disobeying it, even if
he never reads it.
If the respondent physically abuses you or threatens
you, even if he has not been served with the OP, you can still take action
against him. Many times, the abuser's actions are crimes even if you did
not have the OP. For example, if the abuser hits you before he gets served
with the OP, he may have committed the crime of domestic battery. You can
file criminal charges if there are any incidents of abuse or harassment
before the respondent has been served, but it will not be a violation of
The best way to
find out if the respondent has been served is to call the courthouse where
you received the OP. Calling the respondent, his friends or family, may
invite contact and jeopardize your safety. The following are telephone
numbers and the appropriate office to call when you need to know if the
respondent has been served.