TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDERS: A PRIMER

Maria Navarro was granted a temporary restraining order last January in Los Angeles. It forbade her husband from getting within 100 yards of her residence. Late Sunday, she referred to the order in a call to the emergency 911 line, telling sheriff's operators that her ex-husband had threatened to invade her birthday party.

Here's a transcript of that call:

Station: 911. What's your emergency? Navarro: Uh, I was just ... I have a restraining order on my husband and he just threaten me, I'm coming over here with a .35, uh, some kind of gun, and shooting everybody out ... I'm having a party and it's my birthday and uh ... Station: Who did he shoot at? Navarro: No, he didn't shoot at nobody but he's threatened of coming over here and uh ... Station: But he hasn't come over there? Navarro: Pardon me? Station: He hasn't come over there? Navarro: No, he hasn't. Station: But he's just threatening to do so? Navarro: Yes, and I'm sure he will. Station: OK, well, the only thing to do is just call us if he comes over there ... I mean, what can we do? We can't have a unit sit there and wait and see if he comes over. Navarro: Oh, my God. Station: So if he comes over don't let him in. Then call us. Navarro: OK. Thank you. Though the order apparently expired in late January, it would not have been useful in averting the deadly assault, authorities familiar with the workings of such orders said.

The Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order that Navarro filed was one of two types of temporary restraining orders obtained in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Generally filed by battered wives, it is designed to keep hostile family members from attacking relatives.

While this type requires no filing fee, the second type, the Civil Harassment Restraining Order, costs $114. It is designed to stop harassment by businesses and non-relatives.

In both cases, people seeking the orders are simply required to file forms with the court. There are no hearings on the matter. They take effect after being sanctioned by a judge.

Violators of either form of order can be fined or jailed for contempt of court.

"The temporary restraining order (provides) guidelines of what someone can and cannot do," said Deputy Detta Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "It's like any other court document. It's incumbent upon the people named in it to honor it."

But ensuring that the documents are honored presents a major challenge for law enforcement agents.

"There's nothing to prevent a person from violating the order," said Los Angeles Police Officer Bill Frio, who trains LAPD officers in handling domestic disputes and the oft-attendant restraining orders.

"It only has teeth when the officers get there. But that's true of any law."

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