What’s Wrong with the Protective Order Policy “Better Safe than Sorry”?

TALKING BACK to restraining orders

“I was wondering if you have a rebuttal to the argument that restraining orders should be granted based on little evidence, because it’s ‘[b]etter [to be] safe than sorry.’”

—Recent query

The question implicit in the epigraph is this: What’s wrong with the policy “better safe than sorry”?

The questioner refers to the judicial practice, long inculcated, of taking complaints of fear on faith and issuing protective orders “just in case.” Appreciate that these protective orders may be based on no substantial evidence and are effectively “mini-criminal statutes.” Their violation, real or alleged, leads to criminal prosecution. They are custom-tailored laws applied to individual citizens about whom the court knows nothing but is willing to presume the worst—and whether they’re violated or not, they may be accompanied by a host of privations like loss of access to home, family, property, and money (and even the…

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