DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CIVIL AND CRIMINAL CASES
Civil vs. Criminal—What’s the Difference?
The State of New Hampshire has several laws to help prevent domestic violence and hold
perpetrators accountable for their actions. The laws fall into two categories, civil and criminal.
Domestic violence protective order cases are civil court actions when a “plaintiff” asks for
protection from the “defendant.” A criminal court action is brought by “the state” (police
department, county attorney, Attorney General’s Office) against someone who is believed to have
committed a crime. Technically, a crime is committed against the state, rather than against an
individual. Civil and criminal actions may be filed out of the same incident and do not need to be
Domestic Violence Protective Orders (Civil)
Protective orders are designed to help victims who are in present and immediate danger of abuse
from a spouse, former spouse, dating partner, ex-dating partner, or a family or household member.
They offer some of the following protections:
Stop the defendant from contacting and abusing the plaintiff and family members.
Keep the defendant away from where the plaintiff lives or works.
Stop the defendant from taking or destroying any property the plaintiff owns or jointly
owns with the defendant.
Stop the defendant from having or buying guns or other weapons.
Give the plaintiff temporary custody of the children.
Bail Orders (Criminal)
If the state charges someone with a domestic violence-related crime, bail will be imposed. The court
puts bail orders in place as a way to make sure someone who has been arrested will appear in court
to answer to the charges brought by the state and to protect public safety. Bail orders also put
conditions on an alleged abuser’s behavior during the time the case is waiting to be heard in court.
Bail conditions may include the following:
Stop the defendant from having contact