For six months, one Salt Lake County man was banned from buttering his bread, cutting his steak or eating out anywhere that required utensils more heavy duty than chopsticks, forks or spoons.
He was banned from going anywhere near knives.
That meant no butter knives, no steak knives, no dinners out on the town if it meant entering restaurants full of that kind of cutlery. It upended his life, his lawyer told 3rd District Court Commissioner Michelle Bloomquist earlier this month.
Because the man, who we will not name for the purposes of this blog post, had threatened his wife with a knife more than six months prior.
In a protective order leveled against him, in addition to staying away from his wife, he was ordered to stay away from knives — of every kind.
"It’s a very unusual restriction for it to ban him from owning or being around all knives," said Stewart Ralphs, the executive director for the Legal Aid Society of Utah.
Ralphs, whose attorneys represented the man’s now-ex wife in this case, said the intent of a protective order is always to protect the victim. But these documents, too, can be abused.
Sometimes, the person who is being ordered to stay away from certain weapons will also be banned from everyday items that may be necessary to their lives, jobs or eating habits.
When this man made a motion to alter the protective order — to allow him kitchenware and restaurant visits — the legal aid attorney declined to fight him on it.
Seemed reasonable enough, she thought. Who wouldn’t want this man to own a butter knife?
She fought the motion on her own, and eventually lost.
"After a period of time, it probably is too restrictive on the [man’s] right to carry on a normal life not to be able to use knives," Ralphs said. "The reality is that if a weapon is used in a domestic violence incident, it’s not inappropriate for them to restrict him from it. But it comes down to the protective order being specific. You might want to tell someone that they can’t have a carving knife or whatever may have been used in the violence, but you should probably allow them to continue on having regular dinnerware."
Striking the balance between protecting a victim and allowing the person being restricted to live their life is a fine line to walk, Ralphs said.
One might even say it’s as difficult as balancing on the edge of a knife.
What’s the most bizarre case of protective orders gone wild that you’ve heard or seen? Leave your stories below in the comments.
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