Connecticut Domestic Violence Restraining Order / Protective Order Hearings

Your first court date for your Connecticut domestic violence arrest is a whirlwind of interviews and assessments, coupled with a quick and confusing court appearance. Restraining order hearings are a major component of your first court date for your domestic violence arrest. These Connecticut restraining orders—technically called “criminal protective orders”—place varying levels of restrictions on your contact with your accuser in your Connecticut domestic violence arrest case. Unless you make a motion to the court to modify your Connecticut domestic violence protective / restraining order, these orders remain in effect for the entire duration of your Connecticut domestic violence case, which can drag on for over a year.

Additionally, a domestic violence criminal restraining order can often affect your ability to allow you back into your own home or restrict your contact with your children. As a result, we have tried to explain how to adequately prepare for your Connecticut domestic violence restraining order hearing and what to expect during your first day in court for your Connecticut domestic violence arrest.

Meeting With a Family Relations Officer

On your first court date for your Connecticut domestic violence arrest, you need to arrive at court no later than 930 a.m. and immediately report to the Office of Family Relations to meet with one of their officers. They will not be calling your case till later in the morning and you must first go see the Family Relations Officer prior to appearing before the judge. Remember—while this is an OPTIONAL interview, you still need to check in with the family relations officer. This officer works for the court and conducts a safety assessment that will be handed over to the judge at your restraining order hearing. Any concerning or incriminating statements you make during your Family Relations interview can and probably will make their way into your assessment report.

As a rule of thumb, you should not walk into a meeting with a Family Relations Officer without your attorney by your side. The Connecticut Family Relations Officer handling your case has quite a bit of influence in domestic violence restraining order / protective order proceedings and will base their recommendation on your interview, as well as the Office of the Victim Advocate’s interview with the victim(s) of your Connecticut domestic violence arrest. In light of this process, and although the final decision rests with the judge, your criminal lawyer can sometimes run interference and work out a compromise with the alleged victim or the victim’s attorney prior to the restraining order hearing on that first court date.

Types of Protective Orders

A judge will issue one of three types of Connecticut protective / restraining orders during a protective / restraining order hearing. The strictest order is the “Full No Contact” order which prohibits you from having any contact whatsoever with the alleged victim. Unless the judge gives you permission to do so, no physical, verbal, electronic or digital contact of any kind is permitted. So if you share a home or a child with the accuser, you will not be able to return home or talk to your spouse or partner. It is also possible that the order might extend to contact with the children you share with the accuser, even prohibiting you from seeing your children.

The next type of order that can be issued against you is a “Full” or “Residential Stay-Away” order. This order is a bit more lenient than the Full No Contact Order. You will still be able to have physical and written contact with the accuser, but you will not be able to enter the accuser’s workplace or residence, even if you share the residence with the accuser. The most lenient type of protective / restraining order that can be issued against you is the “Partial” or “Limited” protective order. This is the protective order you want your top Connecticut domestic violence criminal lawyer to get for you at that first court date for your Connecticut domestic violence arrest. The partial / limited protective order allows you to carry on just as you were doing before you were arrested, merely prohibiting you from “threatening, harassing or intimidating” the alleged victim.

Next Steps to Take

After you meet with the Family Relations Officer, you will have a couple of hours of downtime while the court officers huddle up and gather information about your case. These court officials will assemble documents for your court file that usually includes police reports from your arrests, witness statements, and recommendations from court social workers about the Connecticut criminal protective order that they are asking the court to issue against you. Then, around 12 noon, you will appear before the Connecticut domestic violence criminal court judge for your criminal protective order / restraining order hearing.

During your hearing, the court will hear testimony and argument from a number of parties, including but not limited to the court-appointed Victim Advocate (or the victim’s attorney), the Family Relations Officer, the Bail Commissioner, the State’s Attorney (also called the prosecutor), and of course, you or your lawyer. Everyone will argue their positions to the judge. In many cases, it is you against all of these other court officials. And with so many people advocating in support of a heavy-handed restraining / protective order, it is critical that you have a lawyer arguing against against any restraining / protective order that will detrimentally impact your personal relationships or professional livelihood. Remember that you have a right for a full evidentiary hearing to challenge the court’s decision. This is called a “Fernando A. Hearing” and you are entitled to hold such a hearing within a very short period of time after your first court date, where you can call witnesses and confront your accuser.

Contacting a Lawyer

With so little time to get organized and prepared before your first Connecticut domestic violence court date, and the criminal protective order / restraining order hearing that takes place at this hearing, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced domestic violence lawyer who can be available on such short notice. We have years of experience handling domestic violence arrests and restraining / protective order hearings all over the State of Connecticut. So if you are arrested for a Connecticut domestic violence crime in Connecticut, contact us today at (203) 276-9443.

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