Can a Restraining Order Affect Your Security Clearance?
As somebody who has held a Top Secret security clearance before, and who was worried about my own record when I got my background check five years ago, I became very familiar with the U.S. government’s security clearance adjudication system. In my case, I was worried about my past use of marijuana.
Because I’m an attorney and know how to interpret judicial rulings, I figure I can help a lot of people in the same boat I was, for a whole range of issues. This blog post is about restraining orders, also known in some states as orders of protection or protective orders. Specifically, this blog post is for people who have had restraining orders issued against them in the past and are now applying for a federal government security clearance. For people who have filed restraining orders against other people, I have a separate blog post here.
Read below for a summary of my findings.
DOHA Security Clearance Adjudications
How can we find out how restraining orders affect security clearance applications? By looking at security clearance adjudication decisions at the website of the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA). These are rulings made by administrative judges in cases where the background investigators weren’t sure what to do, and in cases where rejected applicants have appealed their decisions. All of these cases, though in the public record, are anonymous.
I combed through all of these decisions from the past five years to learn how restraining/protective orders are handled. I found that every year, there are a handful of cases where restraining orders are mentioned as a factor in the decision. They are all for male applicants who have had restraining orders filed against them. Some of these people end up being denied clearance and others have it granted, depending on whether the situation seems to be resolved, and how bad their conduct was.
Final Answer: It Depends.
Like all other issues that can affect security clearance applications, there is no binary rule about restraining orders. I saw several denials of clearance and several approvals. It simply depends on whether the event is firmly in the past and how bad the conduct was.
For example, an applicant who has had a restraining order filed against them about 15 years prior by a romantic partner, and who has never had any similar issues since then, will probably be approved. An applicant who has had a protective order filed just six months before applying, tied to credible allegations of domestic violence, will likely be rejected.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that your case falls in between the two extreme examples above, so I’m doing more research on this so I can have more helpful data for you.
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