If you or someone in your household has been involved in a domestic violence incident, you may find yourself suddenly navigating the world of protective orders in Connecticut. Find out what you need to know if a protective order is entered against you, and what you can do to modify it.
If you have been charged with a family violence crime, such as assault, stalking, or kidnapping of a member of your family or household, a criminal protective order is going to happen. And it will happen quickly. Connecticut law requires all domestic violence defendants to appear in court the next business day after they are arrested for an arraignment and protective order hearing. At that hearing, the judge will consider the risk he or she thinks you pose to your alleged victim and other family members and then issue a protective order designed to minimize that risk.
Unfortunately, far too many Connecticut domestic violence arraignments happen before defendants have hired an experienced family violence defense attorney. Instead, they stand alone before a judge to defend themselves against a protective order that could remove them from their homes and cut them off from their children for months, or even years.
At the end of your arraignment and protective order hearing in criminal court or civil restraining order evidentiary hearing (if the petitioner proves their case), the judge will enter an order restricting your behavior around the alleged victim. These restraining order conditions come in three levels of severity:
A limited restraining order allows the defendant and alleged victim to have full contact and continue living together, but prohibits threatening or harassing conduct. It may seem like these orders just reinforce existing laws, but violating a partial protective order can compound your problems by adding a felony protective order violation charge to whatever criminal matters you already face.
Under a residential stay-away order, you are prohibited from going to the home or workplace of the alleged victim, but you may still have contact with them in public places or through voice or text messages. This level is undoubtedly inconvenient for the defendant. However, it does allow contact for parenting exchanges and lets you stay connected to your family while the case is still going on.
In the most severe cases, the judge will enter a full no-contact order. This prevents you from having any contact with the protected persons -- usually the alleged victim and his or her children -- for any reason, in any circumstances. Under a full no-contact order, if you bump into the person in the grocery store and do not immediately leave, you could be charged with violating the protective order.
Restraining orders can last months, or even years. Your alleged victim cannot remove a restraining order. Only a judge can modify or get an order of protection dismissed.
The surest way to get a protective order dropped is to beat the criminal domestic violence charges it is based on. If the prosecutor drops the charges (by entering a nolle), or they are dismissed after a not-guilty verdict, then the protective order will end along with your criminal case.
Domestic violence protective orders continue until your criminal case is concluded. However, sometimes the same protective order conditions will continue as terms of your probation or parole after a family violence conviction. Once those periods expire, the protective order will be dropped.
Either the alleged victim or the defendant can petition the court to modify the protective order after a “cooling off” period has passed, changing it to a less severe version or even withdrawing it entirely. A petition to modify criminal protective order will be heard relatively quickly. In some areas of Connecticut, these hearings are scheduled within two weeks. During that time, you and your domestic violence attorney should work to gather witnesses, negotiate with prosecutors, and make a good impression on the Office of Family Relations, to help push the judge toward granting your request.
The financial and practical challenges that protective orders put on families mean that it can be hard to wait for a case to conclude or an order to expire before going back to living together. But doing that puts you at risk of new criminal charges. Domestic violence restraining order violations happen far too often, and put well-meaning Connecticut residents at risk for Class D felony convictions, just because they are trying to get back to life as normal.
Don’t take that risk. If you are facing family violence charges or need to modify a protective order, talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At the Lebedevitch Law Firm, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, criminal defense attorney Stephen Lebedevitch knows how Connecticut protective orders can interfere with your life, your marriage, and your children. He will stand beside you at the initial protective order hearing, work to get your family violence charges dismissed, and advocate on your behalf to modify the restraining order and get your life back. Contact us for a free consultation to talk to Stephen today.