What is an Emergency Protection Order (EPO)?

By Last Updated: July 26, 2022

An emergency protection order (EPO) is a short-term, temporary order designed to protect Canadians from family violence. An EPO may be obtained by the victim of violence without the input of the accused, or without the accused being present. An EPO will typically be set in place after there is a complaint of domestic assault for the purpose of protecting the complainant from further violence. The person who is being restrained by the EPO, that is the person who committed the assault or the violence, will become what is called a ‘respondent’ to the EPO.

How An Emergency Protection Order Works:

An emergency protection order is a legally binding order that is generated by the Court, and that may do any of the following:

  1. Prohibit you from going near your home, the complainant’s workplace, or other places that the complainant frequents.
  2. Prohibit you from communicating with or otherwise associating with the complainant.
  3. Prohibit you from communicating with your family, either directly or indirectly.
  4. Provide the complainant with exclusive possession of your family home, even if his or her name is not on the lease or title.
  5. Give the police authority to remove you from your family home.
  6. Give the policy authority to seize any weapons that have been used for family violence or that have been threatened to be used for family violence.

After an emergency protection order has been granted, you will be legally required to comply with the conditions stipulated in the order for the entire time the order remains in effect. A failure to comply can result in you being arrested and charged with another criminal offence for breaching the EPO. If you breach the conditions of an EPO, and you have been convicted of more than one breach already, you will likely be facing jail time in the event of another conviction.

Who Can Apply For An Emergency Protection Order:

An EPO will only be granted if the person who has caused the violence is a family member. In Alberta we consider family members to be anyone who:

  • Is related to you by blood, by marriage, or by adoption;
  • You are or were in a common law relationship with;
  • You live or lived with in an intimate relationship;
  • You have children with; and,
  • You have legal guardianship over.

How To Get An Emergency Protection Order Dropped:

If you are the respondent to an EPO, unfortunately there is nothing you or your lawyer can do to get it dropped or removed. Typically after an EPO is issued, a review will be set for two weeks from the date the order is set in place. At that point if the complainant would like the EPO to stay in place, all you and your lawyer can do is make an application to have the conditions of the EPO varied so that you can re-enter your house or see your kids, for example.

If at the review the complainant states that he or she would like the EPO to remain in place, the order is confirmed and it will remain in effect for one year. However, if the complainant changes his or her mind and says they no longer wish for the EPO to remain in place, it will be dropped.

If an EPO or bail conditions are currently in place that prohibit you from contacting the complainant, but the complainant has changed is or her mind and would like to speak to you, do not communicate with them. Even if the complainant has changed his or her mind about charging you with assault, or has changed his or her mind about having an EPO in place, it does not mean that the conditions by which you are bound are no longer in force.

Rather, it is a criminal  offence to violate any condition of your bail or EPO, so if a condition is that you refrain from having any contact with the person who accused you of domestic assault, you cannot talk to that person until the conditions are removed. You do have the option, however, of seeking court approval to change the conditions of your bail or EPO so that you can speak to the person for limited purposes.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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