Being the subject of an AVO can take a significant toll on your life, adversely affecting your ability to maintain contact with your loved ones.
However, with the help of an experienced criminal lawyer, you can fight to have unfairly imposed AVOs dismissed so that you and your family can work towards moving forward.
What is an AVO?
An apprehended violence order (AVO) is a court order made against you which aims to protect a ‘person in need of protection’ (‘PINOP’) from violence, harassment, intimidation or stalking.
Although most AVOs serve a legitimate purpose, they are being increasingly used for improper reasons – for example, when one partner wants to get revenge on the other, or to strengthen family or civil law proceedings. In some cases, they have even been used to advance visa applications.
AVOs may be made by police when they are concerned about the welfare or safety of a PINOP, even if the PINOP does not want an AVO to be issued. These are known as ‘police AVOs.’ They are often issued following an assault or sexual assault against the PINOP.
Alternatively, AVOs may be made by the PINOP themselves – these are known as ‘private AVOs’.
There are two different types of AVOs:
Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO)
An ADVO is issued where there is an existing domestic or family relationship between yourself and the PINOP – for example:
- Where you are married, de-facto, or in an intimate relationship
- Where you live in the same house (for example, a parent and child)
- Where one person cares for the other (such as a nurse caring for an elderly or disabled patient)
- Where you are a relative of the PINOP
- Where you are part of the same Indigenous kinship system
Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO)
An APVO is issued where there is no domestic or family relationship between the parties; for example:
- Where the PINOP is a neighbour
- Where the PINOP is a work colleague
- Where the PINOP is a friend or acquaintance
How will an AVO affect me?
Because an AVO is not a criminal conviction, it will not appear on your criminal record. However, it can still have a significant impact on your personal and professional life.
An outstanding AVO will show up on a ‘background check’ conducted by many employees. In particular, it may impact your ability to work with children, as well as your ability to carry firearms.
Furthermore, an AVO can negatively impact your family and personal life, as it may prevent you from living with the person who applied for the AVO. This, in turn, can affect your ability to maintain a relationship with your children and extended family.
Even where you are allowed to continue living or associating with the person who has sought the AVO, it can place an enormous strain on your family relationships because you must constantly worry about whether your conduct could breach the AVO.
Because of these serious consequences, it’s strongly advised that you seek assistance from a highly experienced criminal lawyer who can advise you on the best course of action when it comes to defending your AVO.
Our lawyers have considerable experience defending AVOs and regularly appear in court in relation to these matters.
We will support you every step of the way – from helping you understand the conditions of the AVO to contesting the conditions in court if necessary.
What is the process for an AVO?
Generally, there will be several court dates to determine whether an AVO is successful.
At the first court date (known as a ‘mention’), the magistrate will ask you whether you consent to the AVO, or whether you want to defend it.
It is important to think carefully about whether you want to consent to the AVO or not. If you do consent, the person who is seeking the AVO will be asked what orders (or conditions) of the AVO they wish to impose.
It is important to note the conditions of the AVO – if you do not stick to them, you will breach the AVO, which may get you into more trouble. If you do not agree to any of the conditions, you should tell the court. Once the AVO has been made, it will be effective immediately.
You may consent to the AVO with or without admissions. If you consent to the AVO with admissions, you will be admitting to the conduct that was alleged by the person seeking the AVO.
If you consent to the AVO without admissions, you will allow the court to make the AVO, however you will not be admitting to the conduct alleged by the other person.
If you do not wish to consent to the AVO, you can request a hearing to determine whether the AVO is necessary. The court may make ‘interim orders’ until the hearing date – this is a sort of ‘temporary’ AVO until the matter can be heard.
Generally, if you request a hearing, you will have to come back to court several times as each party will be ordered to serve statements upon each other.
On the hearing date, the magistrate will read the statements and each party can give evidence and be cross-examined. Although you may represent yourself in an AVO hearing, cross-examination can be a complex and difficult task, so you should consider getting a lawyer with a proven track record of defending AVOs.
Once the magistrate has heard all the evidence, they will make an order either granting the AVO, or dismissing it.
If either party does not turn up to the AVO hearing, the court may still hear the matter and determine whether an AVO is necessary.
They may also adjourn the matter so that it can be heard at a later date when both parties are present. Alternatively, they may issue a warrant for your arrest, or for the arrest of the person who applied for the AVO. The court may also make an ‘interim order,’ which is a temporary order until the matter can be heard at a later date.
If you do not agree with the magistrate’s decision, you may appeal the matter to the District Court.
How can I defend an AVO?
In most situations, to finalise an AVO, the applicant or PINOP needs to prove three things on the balance of probabilities (more than 50%):
- That the PINOP has reasonable grounds to fear that the other person will stalk or intimidate them, or commit a ‘violence offence’ against them
- The fear is reasonable in the circumstances
- The conduct that is feared justifies the issuance of an AVO
However, in certain situations, it is not necessary to prove the first criteria (that the PINOP has reasonable grounds to believe that the other person will stalk or intimidate them, or commit a ‘violence offence’ against them). Generally, this condition will not need to be proved where the PINOP is:
- A child under the age of 16
- A person with below average intelligence
- Someone who has been subjected to ‘personal violence’ (i.e. domestic violence) that is likely to recur, and the order is necessary to prevent the recurrence
If the applicant is unable to prove the necessary criteria on the balance of probabilities, the court will not grant an AVO. A good lawyer will therefore attempt to present evidence to the court that will preclude any of the above criteria from being made out. For example:
- By presenting evidence to prove that the applicant does not fear that the other person will stalk or intimidate them, or commit a ‘violence offence’ against them: For example, where the applicant continues to contact you after applying for an AVO. This may be achieved by collecting phone records, records of online conversations, and witness statements.
- By showing that the applicant does not have any reasonable grounds to fear you: Often, this can be done by showing that there were no grounds for the AVO to be made – for example, showing CCTV footage of the incident which triggered the application for the AVO, or through other evidence, such as phone records, records of online conversations, and witness statements.
- By showing that the feared conduct is not serious enough to justify the making of an AVO: This can be achieved by showing that the conduct complained about is trivial in nature and does not require an AVO.
Contravene (Breach) AVO
If you do not stick to any of the conditions of your AVO, you may face harsh penalties.
For example, if the conditions of your AVO are to not contact the protected person in any way, you will be in breach of the AVO if you attempt to call them, communicate online with them, or see them in person.
To be found guilty of breaching an AVO, the prosecution must prove that you:
- Breached a condition or restriction of an AVO
- That you committed the breach knowingly (i.e. the breach was not accidental)
The maximum penalty for breaching an AVO is 2 years imprisonment and/or a $5,500 fine, so if you have been charged with contravening an AVO, it is important to speak to a lawyer who has experience representing clients in these matters.
A good lawyer will be able to advise whether you have a defence to the charges which could explain or justify your behaviour. If you raise a defence and it is accepted, you will be found ‘not guilty’ of breaching the AVO.
Examples of defences include:
- Where you did not realise or know that you were contravening the AVO
- Where you were not served with an AVO, or where you were not in court when the AVO was made
- Where you breached the AVO to attend mediation or to comply with a property recovery order
- Where you contravened the AVO to protect yourself, another person (such as your children), or your property (self-defence)
- Where you were coerced or threatened into breaching the AVO (for example, where the person who sought the AVO threatens to harm you if you do not agree to see them) – this is known as duress
- Where you had to breach the AVO to prevent serious injury or danger (necessity)
If you breach your AVO, your matter will be dealt with by the Local Court. If you plead or are found guilty of the charges, the magistrate has the power to impose a penalty. The penalties that could apply include:
- Section 10 Dismissal
- Conditional Release Order
- Community Correction Order
- Intensive Correction Order
Ultimately, the type of penalty that you will receive will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case and the nature of the breach.
Our specialist criminal lawyers frequently represent clients in ‘contravene AVO’ matters and fight hard in every case to protect our clients’ rights by presenting all evidence in a compelling manner to bolster their case.
In many cases, our lawyers have been able to assist people in avoiding lengthy gaol sentences by persuading the magistrate to deal with ‘contravene AVO’ matters leniently, despite the law saying that someone who contravenes an AVO by using physical violence should go to gaol.
We consistently achieve these outstanding results in AVO cases – so you can rest assured that your freedom is in safe hands.
Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?
Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with.
Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:
- Proven Track Record of Exceptional ResultsSydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases. Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial. Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.
- Highest Level of Client SatisfactionWe have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia. Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities. We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.
- Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law FirmWe have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running. The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.
- Fixed FeesWe want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004. We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.
- Free First AppointmentFor those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers. We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.
- Specialist Lawyer GuaranteeWe guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court. This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.
- All NSW CourtsFrom Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases. And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.
- Accredited Specialists
Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists. All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005. An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field. Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.
- Results-Focused Law FirmOur team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet. The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’. Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.
- Team of Lawyers Behind YouOur clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide. Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes. A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.
- Familiar with Magistrates and JudgesEach of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state. Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.
- ConvenienceWe have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:
- the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
- Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
- Parramatta, near the justice precinct.
We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD and Liverpool locations, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.
For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.
If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Success Stories
- Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm Charge and AVO Dropped
- Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm Charge and AVO Thrown Out of Court
- All Allegations of Assault (Domestic Violence) Withdrawn and Dismissed
- Assault Charge and Apprehended Domestic Violence Order Dropped
- Not Guilty of Assault, Stalk/Intimidate, Damage Property, AVO and Costs Ordered Against Police
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