Hiring A Lawyer For a Domestic Violence Case in Connecticut
If you are arrested in Connecticut for a domestic violence crime then you should consider hiring a top Connecticut domestic violence lawyer. While it is certainly your right to appear in court on your own, you should understand the advantages of having a criminal lawyer guide you through a very hectic first court appearance. There are a number of moving parts involved in a Connecticut domestic violence first court appearance.
A lawyer will help you understand the steps you need to take through the process, act as a liaison among the individuals who will try to interview you about your Connecticut domestic violence arrest, and will counsel you on the important decisions and choices you will need to make on that first court date. One time-sensitive issue to keep in mind is that your first court date will take place on the next business morning after your arrest, so you will have very little time to find an attorney.
Going to Court
You will be required to be inside the criminal courtroom on your court date. All courts in Connecticut open at 10 a.m. Domestic violence arrests first report to Courtroom 1B in Stamford, Courtroom C in Norwalk, Courtroom A in Bridgeport, and Courtroom B on the second floor in Danbury Connecticut.
You will immediately be asked to leave the courtroom to meet with a Family Relations Officer, who will interview you about the incident that led to your arrest. This officer works as an agent of the judge. It is their job to conduct a brief risk assessment of your family and home situations and provide the judge with a recommendation on whether it is safe for you to return home.
Should you discuss any details about your case with this Family Relations Officer? Should you even meet with them at all?
This is a key question lawyers constantly wrestle with in defending Connecticut domestic violence arrests. Factors to be considered are the nature and substance of the allegations (violence, threats of violence, accusations of drug / alcohol abuse), prior domestic violence history (if any), your ability to get through a family relations interview without getting upset, if you are an overly emotional person, and whether there is a pending divorce action. One thing is for certain, however, if you do not sit for the interview, the family relations officer will only have the police reports to guide them in their assessment, and that usually is not helpful to you.
Finally, Connecticut Family Relations Officers work for the court—not you—and are in no way obligated to keep your statements confidential. They can disclose anything you say to them to the police, judge, of DCF, so you should be very careful about what you say to them, especially if you are facing serious domestic violence arrest charges. This is why you should be accompanied in this interview by a Connecticut domestic violence attorney at your first court date.
The Restraining / Protective Order Hearing
Also at your first court date, the arraignment court judge will conduct a protective / criminal restraining order hearing that will determine the conditions of release during your case and decide what kind of protective order will be issued against you. You see, almost every pending Connecticut domestic violence criminal case will have a restraining order / protective order imposed on the defendant.
At this hearing, the court will consider the Family Relations Officer’s recommendations, the recommendation of the Bail Commissioner, and the position of the victim and his or her attorney. The court will also hear arguments from you or your lawyer – which can be dangerous if you are standing up there alone. The last thing you want to do is make statements on the record in open court that will incriminate you. Statements made by your attorney, however, cannot be considered admissions and cannot be used against you at your trial.
Next, the judge will issue a protective / restraining order, which will fall into one of three types of orders: 1) the most restrictive being a “full no contact order” which prohibits you from going to the home of the alleged victim (even if it is your own home!) and prevents you from having any kind of contact with the protected person; 2) a “residential stay away order” which allows contact but prohibits you from entering the alleged victim’s residence or place of employment; or 3) a “partial” or “limited” order, the least restrictive, which prohibits you from threatening, harassing or assaulting the alleged victim.
After your first domestic violence criminal court date, called the “arraignment,” you will need to start thinking about fighting your Connecticut domestic violence arrest.
It is not advisable to enter a plea of guilty without first speaking with an attorney. Entering a guilty plea for your Connecticut domestic violence arrest can result in prison time, probation, fines and/or limitations on your visitation with your children. A lawyer can assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and objectively evaluate the possible outcomes of your plea options,