The sexual assault protection order or SAPO is a motion filed against an offender if you have been a victim of a sexual offense perpetrated by that offender. The judge signs this document to warn the alleged offender

  • To stay away from the victim’s home
  • To keep clear of the victim’s place of work
  • To avoid contact with the victim
  • Of serious consequences

A SAPO is meant to protect you alone, meaning that it does not cover any act of sexual assault committed against your relatives, spouse or other family members. It also does not order the alleged offender to seek help or treatment (if the case is deemed a mental one) or to give up weapons. It does not require the offender to pay any money.

What Is Considered Sexual Assault?

By law, sexual assault is defined as:

  • Non-consensual (meaning lack of freely given agreement) sexual touching of the genitals, anus, or breasts – either directly or through clothing.
  • However slight, non-consensual sexual penetration of the genitals or anus by another body part of another, including the mouth or the use of objects.
  • Forced display of the genitals, anus, or breasts to sexually arouse another.

If you experience any of these, in any variation whatsoever, then you should start thinking of protection orders.

When You Should File for A SAPO

You should seriously consider filing for a SAPO:

  • if you were sexually assaulted by this person
  • if this person physically injured you
  • if this individual attempted to injure you in some way physically
  • if you are afraid this person will cause you bodily injury based on threats made by him/her

And if the person is not considered or recognized as:

  • a spouse or ex
  • a person you are living with or currently dating
  • a person you once lived with or were in a relationship with
  • a family member or relative
  • a child belonging to you
  • a legal guardian of your children

Otherwise, they are other protection orders like the Harassment Order, Vulnerable Adult Protection Order, Stalking Protection order, and the Domestic Abuse Protection Order that you might consider. To make the best decision, however, you should involve a lawyer with experience.

Any victim from age 16 or older may petition the court to obtain a SAPO without parents or guardians’ help. Victims under age 16 will require a parent or guardian to petition on their behalf. If the victim is a vulnerable adult or any other adult who, due to age or disability, cannot file on their own, then another adult can petition on their behalf.

Types of SAPO

There are two main types of SAPO: the temporary SAPO and the full SAPO.

A temporary SAPO is given before a court hearing. The alleged offender might or might not be aware that such a SAPO is in place. Usually, courts will only grant you a temporary SAPO if they believe that you are in danger. The offender is also notified. It is effective for 14 days before the court hearing.

A full SAPO is given after the court hearing. That way, both you and the offender would have been allowed to present your cases. It lasts for about 2 years, and you can renew to make it last longer if you feel it is necessary to do so. A judge can also issue a full SAPO if the alleged offender was served the temporary SAPO and court hearing notice but did not appear before the court.

You don’t need a lawyer to petition for a SAPO but you should get one especially if the alleged offender has an attorney.

Chad Foster is a trusted family law and divorce lawyer serving Snohomish and King counties with an office in Bothell. Contact us today to discuss your legal issue.

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