It is important to be aware that during the pendency of any criminal proceeding involving an alleged act of physical violence, the court may impose formal criminal protective orders against the defendant, forbidding him/her to have any contact whatsoever with the alleged victim and any other protected party named in the order. The court order is usually put into effect at the time of the defendant’s arraignment and will remain in place, in many cases, until the case is either dismissed or the defendant has completed probation. In domestic violence cases, this is commonly known as a “Level 2” protective order.
The orders will often require the defendant “to stay at least 100 yards away” from the protected party’s place of residence, employment, vehicle, child’s place of schooling, etc. The defendant can also be forced to move out of the home/apartment, if it is shared with the protected party or victim! Additionally, the defendant can also be prohibited from contacting the protected party through any third-party (except an attorney) or through any electronic means; telephone calls, texting, email, social media, etc.
If it is discovered that the defendant has contacted, or even attempted to contact, the protected party, additional charges may/will be filed by the local prosecutor. In such a situation, the bail/bond (that allowed the defendant to remain out of custody while the case is pending) can be revoked and/or increased. Therefore, the defendant risks going back into custody if he/she violates the protective order.
A “stay away” order is an informal type of criminal protective order that requires a defendant to merely stay away from the defendant. It is usually imposed in cases where the defendant and victim are otherwise strangers and the likelihood of further interaction between the two is very unlikely.
A civil court may also impose a civil harassment or domestic violence restraining order, upon application by the alleged victim. The burden in obtaining such a court order is not overly difficult and often imposes the same prohibitions against the restrained party as are found in a protective order issued by the criminal court.
While these orders can be burdensome on the restrained party, there is a process for trying to make the orders more workable/manageable. First, if both parties are reconciling their differences and wish to have contact with each other, then the alleged victim can speak to the local prosecutor before, or at the arraignment (and with the court, too!), and share his/her desire to be able to have contact with the other party (defendant). In this instance, the court can issue a “Level 1” protective order that allows the defendant to have “peaceful contact” with the protected party (and maybe, to continue living in the same home, if that is the existing arrangement).
If the attempt to have a Level 1 fails initially because the judge is worried that it’s “too early” in the proceedings to do so, the parties can try again at a later court date. In the meantime, the restrained party can attend domestic violence counselling (if he/she is willing) to improve the chances that the court will grant the request. Certainly, it helps to also have an attorney present to advocate this request on behalf of not only the client, but the protected party as well.