Civil injunctions are court orders that either prohibit someone from committing a certain act or compel an action to safeguard the community. They are akin to protective or restraining orders and target individuals or groups, although the specific types available vary by location. Some types of civil injunctions address domestic or sexual violence by preventing one person from contacting another or prohibiting an alleged abuser from returning home. Other injunctions try to stop groups from breaking the law based on past behavior.
Certain civil injunctions seek to prevent domestic violence and protect victims from their abusers. The United Kingdom, for example, has non-molestation orders available that forbid one partner from badgering or threatening another partner or any children involved in the relationship. Related U.K. injunctions — occupation orders — specify who can and cannot live in a household following abuse allegations in an attempt to curb domestic violence. U.S. law also provides for domestic violence civil injunctions that bar contact or cohabitation after abuse has occurred.
U.S. law additionally allows for a civil injunction to prevent sexual violence. Such an order is issued when situations do not meet domestic violence parameters, but threats to personal and public safety still exist. An injunction may be issued in cases of sexual battery or sexual abuse involving a minor. An injunction may also be ordered if one person is stalking another in a a former dating relationship or even a non-relationship that may not rise to the level of a domestic abuse.
Other types of civil injunctions control the actions of groups. In California, for example, prosecutors have used civil injunctions to curb gang-related crime. The orders may prohibit known gang members from associating with each other in public or from committing even a minor offense, such as littering, under threat of arrest. Such injunction orders may specify that otherwise legal behavior, such as congregating in a park, is not permissible because the prohibition helps thwart turf wars that fuel gang violence.
Civil injunctions also have been used when non-criminal groups threaten to break the law based on past behavior. For example, the U.S. government has obtained injunctions against the activist organization Greenpeace. The orders, which cover all U.S. members of the organization, sought to stop Greenpeace from breaking the law at protests at military bases, something that regularly occurred before the injunctions.
The penalties for breaking a civil injunction vary by jurisdiction. Offenders may face arrest or automatic jail time for violating an order. Other sanction may include fines or warnings against future infractions.