Domestic violence is defined as attempting to cause or causing bodily injury to a family or household member or placing a family or household member in fear of imminent physical harm. Continued harassment can be domestic violence if it causes substantial emotional distress.
What should I do if I am the victim of domestic violence?
If you are the victim of domestic violence you should go immediately to a safe place and call 911. If you do not have a safe place to go, you should go to a public place or a shelter. If you have been hurt, go to the hospital or your doctor. Medical records can be important in court cases. They can also help you get a protective order. Give all the information about your injuries and who hurt you that you feel safe to give. You can seek a restraining order through the civil court system. If you need to file criminal charges, the police can assist you. How do I get a civil restraining order? You must first file a Complaint (lawsuit) requesting a Domestic Violence Protective Order. This is also called a restraining order. If you are filing a complaint at night or on the weekend, you must do it through the magistrate’s office. If it is during regular business hours, you must file it with the clerk of court. If the magistrate or judge determines that you are entitled to a restraining order it will be entered at that time. Your abuser will not be present during this hearing. However, your abuser has the opportunity to defend him or herself in a hearing ten (10) days later. If, after hearing all the evidence at this later hearing, the judge determines that a protective order is necessary, one will be issued. The order is then valid for one year, at which time you can request to have the order extended.
How are domestic violence protective orders enforced?
If the protective order is violated, you can file for contempt of court. When there has not been a hearing on enforcement, the statute allows law enforcement personnel to arrest and confine an individual if the officer has probable cause to believe “that the person has violated a court order excluding the person from the residence or household occupied by a victim of domestic violence” or that the person has violated an order “directing the person to refrain from harassing or interfering with the victim.”
Although the officer may verify the order’s existence through “communication with appropriate authorities,” it is better and far easier for you to have your own copy of the order to show the officer. Even with this in hand, however, the officer may be unwilling to use the power vested in him by the order and may instead only intervene when the violation of the order is witnessed by him, reported by an uninvolved eyewitness, or when the effect of the violation is readily apparent, through injury to person or property. A person who knowingly violates a valid protective order shall also be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Can I bring criminal charges against my attacker?
Yes, and you should. The criminal court system has some procedures that the civil system does not have like probation and violent offender programs. These procedures can be very effective in dealing with abusers.
What if I have been falsely accused of domestic violence?
Unfortunately some people take advantage of the criminal and civil court system by filing false and untrue allegations of abuse. If you have you been falsely accused of domestic violence, we can help you defend the false allegations and prevent these allegations from tarnishing your record.