Make sure your order is entered into the CLETS database: CLETS is an acronym for California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (“CLETS”). It is a statewide protective-order database that is searchable by law enforcement agencies. The forms you’ll need to complete for getting a restraining order are available at http://www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm. There are different forms for each type of restraining order proceeding, designated by letters like CH–, DV–, EA–, SV–, and WV. One of the required forms is a completed Confidential CLETS Information Form (CLETS-001). (Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 1.51.)
If the judge grants your restraining order, the information on the completed CLETS form will be entered into CLETS. When you receive your restraining order, check with court staff to determine whether you should walk the completed CLETS form to the clerk for database entry or whether the court will handle it for you. Just as officers can look up driving records during traffic stops, officers also can look up restraining order records when called to the scene of a domestic violence incident (provided the CLETS form made it into the database). During a domestic violence incident, if you notify the officer that a restraining order has been issued, that officer will be able to call dispatch to run a search on the CLETS database to pull the records for validation. Violation of a restraining order is a crime, separate and apart from whatever conduct prompted the police to respond, and in California should always result in an arrest being made.
To summarize, once you receive a domestic violence restraining order from the judge, give a copy of your restraining order to the local police, and keep a copy with you at all times. If there is a violation, call the police, file a police report, and report the violation to the court. The restrained party can be arrested, put in jail, and fined.
What is a non-CLETS order, and should I agree to it? Between the issuance of the TRO, and the hearing date, the restrained person (or their lawyer) may suggest that the parties compromise and ask the court to enter a “non-CLETS” order instead of a standard restraining order. The restrained party may believe that a non-CLETS order is less likely to appear on employment background checks because it never made it into the law enforcement database.
Protected parties should be aware that there is no formal provision in California law that specifically permits non-CLETS orders to be entered in domestic violence restraining order cases, and increasingly, courts across the states are refusing to approve or make non-CLETS orders in these cases. Why? There are two good reasons.
First, California Family Code § 6380(a) can be read to prohibit non-CLETS orders in domestic violence restraining order cases (and in all types of cases listed in § 6380(b)). When challenged, California appellate courts are critical of the lower courts that issued the non-CLETS order for which there was “no authority” (albeit all appellate opinions are not citable; ordered not published). The appellate court usually says something like the nonCLETS order should be “set aside” or is “appropriate for remand” so that the judge can “utilize the proper Judicial Council form....” On the other hand, we can infer from the existence of these cases that, on occasion, lower courts still do issue non-CLETS orders. If our research revealed eight appellate cases referencing them, then there are an unknown number where the nonCLETS order was issued and never challenged. Whether you consider this proposal is highly tactical. A non-CLETS order is not for everyone. It is probably only relevant in a very narrow set of circumstances (a compromise between two sophisticated parties represented by counsel, borderline facts, compassion for the perpetrator, and a reliable back stop if perpetrator breaches promise). Even then, if you do agree to such a compromise, your agreement should recognize that the judge may refuse to enter a non-CLETS order, and the parties should have a plan for how to proceed in that eventuality.
Second, judges don’t like non-CLETS orders because they don’t want to give victims a false sense of security. A non-CLETS order is probably not going to be enforced by law enforcement (because it never made it into the database). The victim would instead need to go back to court to enforce the order.
In general, getting the standard CLETS order is probably your best option. (Note: If the parties have other matters pending in family court, like a dissolution or a custody matter is also pending, the parties may propose to stipulate to a non-CLETS order under those case numbers.)
We have this conversation here because there is a lot of confusion, even among attorneys, about what a non-CLETS order means. The non-CLETS proposal comes up often in digital abuse cases. The restrained person (or their lawyer) asks for “one last chance,” or says “I can’t have this on my record.” If this is the request, and the victim is open to considering it, then a settlement agreement may be sufficient to address the needs of the parties. We discuss this option below.