The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed a woman’s conviction for violating a restraining order on Wednesday, holding that, since she thought her husband had dismissed the order, she could not be found in contempt. The woman, whose estranged husband had obtained a restraining order against her, agreed to see him after he said that he was at the courthouse dismissing the order. The husband, however, did not dismiss the order and, when the couple was subsequently stopped for a traffic violation, the woman was arrested and charged with contempt. At trial, the woman argued that she should not be held in contempt for violating the restraining order because she believed her husband had dismissed it. The trial court believed her but found her in contempt anyway. The court held that, since the order had not been dismissed, she was responsible for violating it.
The court of appeals reversed that decision, holding that a person “who acts based on a good faith belief that a judicial order has been dismissed” cannot be held in contempt for violating the order. This ruling could have a dramatic effect on contempt cases in Oregon because many people accused of violating restraining orders mistakenly believe that the orders have been withdrawn or dismissed.